How To Make A City Garden In A Small Space

Garden with curved paths and benches

Want to make a, easily maintainable city garden? Just follow this plan, as illustrated above.

  • Select your space. The heart of a medieval city is ideal (the more souls that can overlook the garden, the better), but almost any space will suffice.
  • Create one or more organic shaped beds in the centre and another around the perimeter, leaving room for a sinuous, scrollable path (experts advise laying out the path first).
  • Edge the beds in a stone coloured material, selecting a darker tile to define the perimeter border.
  • Scatter shrubs, small, decorative conifers, grasses and herbaceous plants that can tolerate some neglect in the central beds. Keep it on the minimal side – you don’t want to crowd things.
  • Artfully place decent-sized rocks in small groups or piles.
  • Mulch with crushed slate.
  • Add curved, benches that will invite passers-by to linger. Chocolate coloured metal ones will match those tiles around the outer borders.
  • Fix trellises to the walls and encourage vines to soften them, creating the effect of a glade within a city (if you lack walls, add a fence or baffle first).
  • If the same vines can be pruned low to provide ground cover for the perimeter beds, so much the better. If not, plant something green to do the job.
  • Pave, staying true to the neutral, natural theme.
  • In winter, tie the grasses up into neat bundles by wrapping a few of the long outer strands around the clump.
  • Sit back and enjoy.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Temporary Plants

A leafy plant with purple and silver striped leaves

When I first started gardening, it was in a garden that was so big, it seemed to eat up plants. The broad expanses of clay soil, hospitable enough with plenty of leaf mould and grit dug in, were insatiable. Had this been a boarding house for plants, a jaunty ‘Vacancies’ sign would have been permanently on display.

I could order a whole box of bare roots, at considerable cost, but they seemed to melt away in the garden’s expanse. Three would go here, and three more there; a choice plant by the gate so you were bound to appreciate it; a few more in the main borders and underneath the canopies of trees, but the box was soon, sadly, emptied and the garden seemed virtually as open as it had been before.

Luckily I like propagating – splitting plants, growing from seed – so that was OK. But I developed the habit of not liking annuals. Annuals were a waste. Mere temporary fixes. Their gap of land would still be a gap in a year’s time – in five years or twenty – if ‘real’ plants were not put there instead.  Continue reading

Pedestrian Walkway At The Missouri Botanical Garden

Covered path at the Missouri Botanical Garden

I rarely take people pictures. It makes me feel sneaky (when I try to take pictures unobserved) or shy (when I’m spotted). I’d be hard pressed to estimate how long I’ve spent in gardens waiting for people to clear away from my shot and how often I’ve captured a random back or stray bottom by mistake when looking too excitedly at a flower to thoroughly check the periphery.  Continue reading

Creative Combination Planting At Chihuly’s Garden And Glass, Seattle

Chihuly Garden And Glass In Seattle

We travelled to Seattle last May to see this unusual garden at its peak, when the perennials were in bloom. The underplanting feels as if an artist has laid out the plants by magic, with the sweep of a brush.

Combination planting

Underplanting is the idea of planting a garden in layers, with shrubs growing beneath trees, and shorter perennials and bulbs underneath them. The designer  thinks about the height and spread of each plant, their colours and textures, then combines them in the most pleasing way. I’ve seen many attempts but rarely seen the effect better realised.  Continue reading

Bodnant Gardens, Wales, In Spring Haute Couture

Pink blossom

This year it’s too easy for gardens to be on trend, the Pantone colour of the year being Greenery. Well… yes, I’ll go with that, but if Pantone’s colour trend experts think greenery is the colour for 2017, perhaps they should get out more. Hardly a passing trend, greenery should be named the colour of the millennium (in the hope it might, by some miracle, be the millennium to come, not the one we’ve recently left behind).

Field of daffodils

Bodnant Gardens, where these pictures were taken, had acknowledged the colour of the year with a knowing wink, but decided greenery was just the start. It was a great start – no one could deny that – but the surrounding countryside had got greenery off to a T too. So much so that after finally leaving the North Wales Expressway (an optimistic name on a very sunny Sunday) I found myself winding towards the National Trust garden along Llanrwst Road thinking “This land is such a bright green, it’s almost too much. How will the camera lens cope with this? Are my sunglasses not on?” (they were).  Continue reading

Weekly photo challenge: Atop

Garden silhouette

In the valleys of North West England, blue skies are elusive. When one does deign to grace us, it inevitably arrives with an entourage of fluffy clouds. So, for me, an unbroken expanse of blue sky is always something of a miracle.

That may be what motivated me to try a few experimental shots of trees and their canopies as dusk was falling at the wonderful San Diego Botanic Garden. If only this was a technique I could practice back at home! If there’s such a thing as blue sky envy, I’ve got it.

Sunset at San Diego Botanic Garden

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