“In his garden every man may be his own artist without apology or explanation. Each within his green enclosure is a creator, and no two shall reach the same conclusion; nor shall we, any more than other creative workers, be ever wholly satisfied with our accomplishment. Ever a season ahead of us floats the vision of perfection and herein lies its perennial charm.” – Louise Beebe Wilder
Wise words indeed … no two gardens are ever the same!
We are all unique with different needs and visions of what our ideal garden will look like. What a “small” garden means to one person may be vast space to another. Our perspective of space is often relative to our previous experiences. If we have lived on an acre and move to a quarter acre block, we may think we now only have a ‘small’ garden to maintain! If we have only ever had an indoor plant and now have a courtyard, our new garden is full of possibilities.
Gardening in Small Spaces – An interesting history…
- Historically, gardening in small spaces goes way back to the Egyptians who used earthenware pots to highlight symmetry within a garden design, define and separate garden spaces and grow rare plants.
- The Romans embraced container gardening with great passion, developing many new techniques for making terracotta pots, inventing topiary and greenhouses and were big on garden art.
- Many of the techniques used in small gardens today are borrowed from ideas the Romans developed. They painted courtyard walls with trompe-l’oeil trees and flowers to make the space look larger; filled them with fountains, statues, pottery urns, artifacts and vases; and grew a wide range of culinary, fragrant and medicinal plants.
So, where to start … Need a little inspiration?
With so many options, you may be wondering where to begin!
“The old rule applies: Keep It Simple!“
Decide on a theme or idea that appeals to you and then develop it. Many people just start with a pot or container until they gain confidence. Regardless of your budget, there are plenty of options for achieving your goals with tips on ways to get flavour, beauty and fragrance into your garden – indoors and out.
Here are some inspiring ideas to get you started.
It really doesn’t get any simpler than adding some fresh sprouts into your diet – you don’t even have to leave the kitchen bench or use a pot or soil! Soaking a tablespoon of seeds in water and rinsing them daily will have you sprouting in just a few days! Or try microgreens – an equally easy ‘garden’.
You don’t have to leave the house either to grow some delicious mushrooms. A mushroom kit will provide you with several harvests of fungicide free mushies! It’s incredibly exciting cutting your first flush of home grown mushrooms.
A terracotta pot filled with fragrant culinary herbs for the kitchen will provide you with tasty garnishes, herb teas and fresh ingredients for meals.
- Many herbs are multi-functional – they can be used to add flavour to meals, have medicinal value, provide attractive flowers (which in turn attract beneficial insects and pollinators) and can be brewed for pleasant and medicinal herb teas. Chives, basil, sage, coriander and rosemary have attractive flowers that when dried, provide a harvest of free seeds for your next planting.
- Plant chives and parsley as an edible ‘ornamental’ border around a small garden bed – they look sensational planted en mass and repetition is another easy design principle to implement.
- Aloe Vera is a well regarded medicinal herb that is attractive in form and shape and makes a beautiful feature plant. It does well in pots and produces ‘pups’ or baby plants as it matures so you get more plants for free!
Add some garden art that reflects your personality or style. If you have children let them create their own stepping stones, planter box or pot, paint a garden sign or add some quirky touches with a collection of different pieces.
Perhaps you have a collection of rustic tools, musical chimes, a bird bath or feeder or even some handmade pottery items you no longer use indoors but could add character to the outdoors? Take another look around your garage and home and think about what items could be relocated to an outdoor position to give a fresh new look.
Regardless of your space and budget, part of the enjoyment of creating a special garden is adding to it over time. Search around to find things you like – unusual ornaments, keep an eye out for plants, pots and materials that match your theme or help add character to your garden.
Flowers add so much to any garden space and starting with a punnet of annuals in a pot is an easy addition to any small garden space. There are flowers that even grow well indoors. Theming your garden space with a particular colour also works well. If you are buying flowering plants, why not coordinate species that have a similar colour?
Blue and white is a classic combination that look sensational together. Cheery yellows also go well with blue. With a little extra thought to plant selection, you can flowering colour all year round.
Or try experimenting with a hanging basket to save space and add colour at eye level.
Limited space can still be put to great use with some clever design tricks like making the most of vertical space growing opportunities. Some design features that can maximise use of vertical and horizontal growing space are trellises, tepees, fences, ladders, stakes, espalier techniques to train plants to grow flat against a support, pergolas and arbors. Not only are these functionally effective, but tend to be more low maintenance and enhance your garden space visually.
Recycling old containers and finding new ways to re-use them in the garden is a popular and sustainable gardening practice. Think about the functionality of an object and how it can be utilised in a new way. There are many examples and photos on this blog to help inspire you.
Recycle centres, council clean up days and garage sales are all great places to find old containers to re-purpose. Here are a few more examples:
When an old wheelbarrow rusts out or gets a few holes, rather than ending up in landfill, re-use it as an edible planter box. It adds loads of character and can still provide functionality as a mobile garden. Just wheel it to where the sun is!
Almost anything can, with a little imagination be turned into a place to grow something in your own backyard.
Raised no-dig garden beds not only save your back, but are practical, low cost and attractive. No dig beds are highly productive growing spaces and have many advantages.
They come in different shapes, materials and sizes. Here a wooden tub makes both a feature and a practical growing space.
Try adding a feature plant, ornament or container to your garden as a focal point.
Improving indoor air quality by helping to remove some of the VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and toxic fumes from appliances, furniture and building materials is easy and cheap - just include some indoor plants. Research shows they dramatically improve our health and well being – both in our homes and work places.
Well, I hope these ideas have inspired you to get started in your next garden project! Feel free to share your stories and ideas or leave a comment, no matter how brief!
Want more Design Ideas? Check out Ten Tips for Creating Beautiful Gardens, Clever Design Ideas, Micro Gardening and Container Ideas. For children’s garden design ideas, get some inspiration in themes for kids’ gardens or check out some amazing photos of containers other gardeners are growing their gardens in.
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© Copyright Anne Gibson, The Micro Gardener 2011-2013 – http://www.themicrogardener.com. All rights reserved.