Plotting Your Space

For many people, modern-living involves making do with limited outdoor space. Whether you have a postage-stamp-sized back yard in deep shade, an exposed roof-top garden, or an apartment balcony, here are some ideas and tips to help you make the most of your site.

Before you head out to buy plants and materials, it’s wise to set a budget and have an idea of what you would like to achieve. Local climate will affect what plants you can grow, as will sun exposure and shade. The overall dimensions of the plot will determine what you can actually do with the site and it’s important to consider the eventual sizes and invasiveness of the plants you are planting.

Design Your Space

Whether using plants in containers or in the ground, remember the ‘less is more’ mantra applies as it does in other design disciplines. Try to avoid too much variety and opt instead for a few carefully selected plants that combine well with each other and their surroundings to provide a succession of interest throughout the year.  

Providing there is enough space, arrange plantings in tiers with taller plants at the back of the bed and smaller ones at the front. Positioning the structural and specimen plants first will help determine where the intermediate and low growing plants should go. Using layers of different forms, textures and colors of foliage will add complexity to the planting scheme and help make the space appear bigger.

In small sites, it pays to maximize on vertical space and light by extending the garden upwards. Utilize wall-mounted and free-standing structures for climbing plants such as Wisteria, clematis and grape vines, and for masonry walls choose self-adhering climbers like Virginia creeper.

Train non-climbing wall plants onto supports. Some fruit trees, such as apples, peaches and figs respond well to being trained into espalier and fan shapes against walls. For awkward spaces, grow annual climbers such as morning glory and climbing beans on bamboo canes or other supports in the ground or in containers.

Capitalize on high-rise planting potential with hanging baskets and wall-mounted containers or turn the roof of the shed or rabbit hutch into usable green-space. Providing the structures are level and have been properly prepared for such use, you will be able to grow a whole host of plants suited to container gardening. 

Container Gardening

Container gardening is a versatile way to grow your favorite plants where space is at a premium. They can make for an almost instant garden and can be moved around and reorganized when needed. 

Plant larger containers with a small selection of different varieties; choose plants that look good together and try to achieve a balanced planting by using plants of different heights, forms, textures, and colors. Alternatively, arrange pots on tiered shelving. This is great for elevating smaller pots that would otherwise be hidden.

Some quick tricks can make a small space look and feel a lot bigger. Conceal or obscure boundaries with plantings and position arches or ‘door ways’ to suggest that more lies beyond. A mirror placed at one end of the garden instantly makes the space feel less claustrophobic. Play around with false-perspectives using purpose built trellising or install other landscaping.