Article by Patricia Moore 

The connection to the outdoors is important, either as a source of relaxation or because gardening really is in our DNA. Clever landscape design and custom solutions are critical in achieving this.

And small can be beautiful, as a growing number of urban gardeners are discovering. The key is clever planning. Making the most of smaller urban spaces is an exciting new focus for landscape architects, says Nichola Vague of Zones Landscaping Specialists. “The challenge is to fit in all the elements and uses of a larger garden without making the space appear cluttered.”

Backyard or front, patio, courtyard or apartment deck – privacy is the first thing to consider. And while walls or screens obviously draw attention to the lack of size, they’re also the perfect backdrop for climbers and espaliered trees. 

A theme that ties an outdoor living area in with the indoors, helps create a sense of space. This may be done through the use of colour or planting – a small space can quickly become a subtropical paradise. Consider built-in seating and planters but keep the ‘clutter’ to a minimum. While garden art, water features, ornaments and furniture all have their place, simplicity is important where the area is limited in size. It is also important to choose and stick to a simple palette of materials and repeat these throughout, says Nichola.

“Often small gardens can end up dominated by hard landscape surfaces. In this case it becomes even more important to make a bold contrast with foliage and planting to help soften the space.”

Keep the colour range to a minimum in smaller spaces and consider the amount of sun the area receives. Teaming cool greens with flowering plants in white or shades of blue, will create a restful environment whereas bolder brights – yellows, reds and oranges – will give the space a truly tropical atmosphere. And give the lawnmower away. Rather than a patch of grass that needs regular maintenance, consider concrete pavers, tiles, timber decking on different levels or pebbled walkways.

Lack of space need not preclude growing edibles. Lush pots of salad greens and culinary herbs are always popular and, providing the area is sunny, espaliered fruit trees can be grown against walls and fences and vegetables placed among other plantings or raised beds or containers. 

Edibles are also well suited to living walls or vertical gardens where upright panels of plants using soil or hydroponics are an eco-friendly screen that can also provide a solution to noise problems in an urban environment.

The finishing touch to any urban oasis is the choice of lighting. Aim for a warm, welcoming ambience and create focal points, rather than trying to light up the whole area. The corner with your favourite chair may be one such point, an outdoor dining setting, or a particularly interesting plant specimen may be others – again keep it simple. Save the twinkling fairy lights for special occasions.

You might be interested in reading: An urban garden design in a New York townhouse.
 

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*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.