Growing in a small space may feel daunting but I love all the exciting opportunities it offers up to cultivate a very particular set of plants which will thrive in this environment and support wildlife. Gardeners developing plots of this nature often select small plants which are dotted around the outside edges of the plot. This is fine but it misses the opportunity to blur the boundaries with larger plants and make the space feel bigger by partially dividing it up. By applying my top tips for small spaces below you’ll be able to maximise the display and longevity of your compact plot without compromising its beauty.
Choose plants which provide at least two to three seasons of interest such as the shrub Nandina domestica. Plants of this nature, which display flowers, berries and autumn colour, are the backbone of a small plot. It is also worth considering grasses such as miscanthus which have a small footprint, late summer flowers, autumn colour foliage and a good structure through winter.
Tall and skinny
Pick plants with a small footprint but plenty of height for the outside edges of the garden. Perennials such as Helianthus salicifolius and Erigeron annuus fit the bill as they take little more than the space of a bin lid at ground level but will reach up to 2m tall each season. You might also opt to grow an annual climber such as Ipomoea purpurea (morning glory) through the perennials for added interest.
Lift the canopies
To make the most of the space in a small garden it's worth canopy lifting trees and shrubs. In other words, removing their lower branches up to 1.8m or so. This process has many benefits on a compact plot. It creates more growing space, allows more light to penetrate through to the ground, creates views and generates clear, clean stems which can support a range of floriferous annual climbers.
Growing plants in combination
Successional planting is a great way of getting the maximum display out of a small space. It’s essentially about combining plants which grow together but perform at different times. A good example for small gardens would be to underplant an early flowering perennial such as aquilegia with Mirabilis jalapa. As the aquilegia fades in early summer the mirabilis emerges underneath it, ultimately smoothing the aquilegia and providing flowers until the frosts.
Blur the edges
Flanking the boundaries of small plots with sociable climbers is the ideal way to blur the edges of the garden and borrow the landscape beyond. And by growing sociable climbers you’ll have the added benefit of extended seasons of interest as each interwoven climber takes it turn to flower. Roses and clematis make for a good sociable pair as do Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris and eccremocarpus.
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