In small gardens, it’s wise to grow plants that bloom from spring until autumn. Space is at a premium in small gardens, and the longer a plant looks good, the more valuable it is.
In a small space, if you include plants that only flower briefly, choose ones that still look attractive when the flowers fade – for example, plants that produce attractive seedheads to continue the season of interest. Geranium macrorrhizum may not be the longest flowering hardy geranium, but its bright spring flowers are followed by crimson cranesbill seedheads that sit neatly above the dome of aromatic, hairy leaves. Hydrangeas flower through summer into early autumn, but their dried seedheads will see you through winter.
Delphiniums and lupins can be encouraged to give a second show of flowers by cutting back the faded stems. Add well-rotted organic matter and blood, fish and bonemeal to enrich your soil. The ‘Chelsea chop’ is another way of prolonging flowering. Achilleas, campanulas, nepetas and phlox all respond to this treatment.
Try to ensure that some long-lasting flowers are positioned near your front door so you are welcomed home when you come home. If you’re home in the early evening, create a spot where you can sit and enjoy the evening fragrance of tobacco plants (Nicotiana) and roses such as ‘The Generous Gardener’ or ‘New Dawn’.
Some plants will never bloom for more than a few weeks, such as oriental poppies. But when the last of the tissue-paper flowers has faded, the ugly foliage can be scissored off at ground level so it doesn’t flop over other plants and rot in summer rains. Dahlias are quite late to start blooming, and they have a lot of growth to put on before they begin to flower. But, once they start, they don’t stop until the first frosts of autumn.
Any plant that flowers for five months of the year is well worth growing in a small garden. Sweet peas will do their best if their flowers are cut regularly.
Discover Alan’s pick of the best flowers for small gardens, below.
Flowers for small gardens – English roses
Bred by David Austin, there are plenty to choose from in a wide range of colours and fragrances. Go for varieties with disease-resistant foliage and deadhead to encourage more.
Height x spread: Up to 1.5m x 2.5-3.5m
Great in a raised bed with their exquisite fragrance and blue-grey, whiskery foliage. Renew from cuttings every year to keep plants youthful. ‘Doris’ is an old favourite.
H x S: Up to 40cm x 60cm
Flowers for small gardens – geranium
The magenta flowers with a black eye are reputedly difficult to place in the garden, but I’ve never found them to be so. These tall plants need support, but they’re worth it.
H x S: 120cm x 120cm
Erysimum ‘Bowles’s Mauve’
Flowers for small gardens – erynsimum
A perennial wall flower with lilac-purple flowers that are produced almost all the year round. Perfect for city plots.
H x S: 75cm x 60cm
Flowers for small gardens – erigeron
A delectable little daisy that seeds itself about delightfully. Brilliant in paving cracks or pushing up through gravel paths.
H x S: 30cm x 100cm
Flowers for small gardens – hemerocalis
The day lily is slug-proof, which is handy in the city. Each flower lasts only a day or two, but they will appear in reds, yellows or oranges all summer.
H x S: Up to 80cm x 120cm
Flowers for small gardens – astrantia
A useful plant for shady city plots, where its white, pink or crimson, starry flowerheads will bloom longer than many other woodlanders.
H x S: Up to 90cm x 35cm
Flowers for small gardens – lantana, coleus and impatiens pot display
You can’t go wrong with busy Lizzies in a city garden. This annual copes with a little shade and never stops flowering.
H x S: Up to 30cm x 35cm
Flowers for small gardens – osteospermum
A perennial in mild winters, but polished off by severe ones, it’s worth growing for white, yellow, red or pink daisies.
H x S: Up to 50cm x 70cm
Flowers for small gardens – penstemon
Self-supporting spires of elegant foxglove-like flowers carried on tall stems.
H x S: Up to 100cm x 50cm
Catmint flowers all summer long – if the city moggies let it. When it flops, cut back with shears for another flush of flowers.
H x S: 60cm x 50cm
Daphne ‘Eternal Fragrance’
Fragrant flowers produced on a semi-evergreen shrub through a prolonged season that is unusual in a daphne.
H x S: 90cm x 90cm