With all its concrete and hard edges, creating an urban oasis can seem a daunting prospect when you’re living in the city.
The rewards for achieving your vision are enormous – your ‘green lung’ can provide flowers, fresh fruit and veg, and serve as a therapeutic retreat or a cosmopolitan destination for entertaining with friends and family. You can even enjoy shade, blossom and autumn colour provided by beautiful trees for small gardens.
Even the tiniest spots can be transformed into an outdoor continuation of your indoor space, especially if you have grow houseplants that can be moved outdoors in summer.
More small garden advice:
Make the most of your city garden with these tips for urban gardening.
If you’re tight on space but still want to sit outside, a folding bistro table and chairs take up little space and can be packed away when not in use. They come in many styles to complement your garden and are usually relatively cheap.
Looking to screen off overlooking windows? Why not erect a pergola to increase privacy, creating a cosy, private seating area? You can also grow climbers up it – whether scented or those that produce fruit – and decorate it fairy lights or festoon bulbs. Check out six of the best garden lighting ideas.
You can also plant a tree to provide privacy in your garden. It’s often better to plant it in the middle of the garden, as opposed to on the boundary – check where you think it would work best. Read our feature on the best trees for privacy.
Accent colours on walls work just as well outside as inside your home. Blues help to make a space feel bigger, while brighter colours can act as stunning backdrops for plants. Either way, some colour will help bring year-round energy to walls, fences, sheds or trellis.
A large plant in a small space can add real impact. It can create a certain mood, whether exotic, calming or eye-catching. Palms, Japanese maples, bamboos, fatsias or elders all have interesting foliage – there are lots of shrubs and trees for small gardens.
If don’t have a garden, check out some of our favourite plants for balconies.
Take advantage of your microclimate
Microclimates are created by a number of factors. Large, non-reflective buildings, roads and pavements absorb heat over the course of the day and release it slowly during the night. Wind can also be deflected off high buildings, further allowing for higher temperatures. Gardeners can take advantage of this by growing tropical plants like bananas, aroids, ginger and bromeliads.
Bring the soothing effect of water into a garden. Water features come in all shapes and sizes, and many require minimal wiring and a pump, while others are solar-powered or fitted with LED lights. Place on pebbles for a natural scene. They’re a relaxing addition to a night garden, too.
Colour can also be added to small features, like the window and frame of a shed, a bench and even pots. Choose a shade that adds sparkle – perhaps pick up on plant colour, or borrow from the house or surrounding features.
A paved parking area need not be sterile. Plant hardy ground cover (with improved drainage) in the central area inbetween the tyre tracks, and have grasses or low-growing hardy shrubs on either side of the tyre tracks. Keep in mind that new driveways have to be permeable by law.
Wheelie bins are a necessity, but that doesn’t mean they have to look drab. Pretty up the area with a frame around them, giving space for planting on top. Alpines and sedums are hardy and low-maintenance, while annuals add colour. You could also try small herbs like chamomile and thyme.
Plots in pots
Even if you have little available ground space, you can still grow edibles. Generous-sized pots and planters are ideal for herbs, tomatoes, beans, salad and potatoes. Position near the back door for easy picking and maintenance. Find out how to plant up a quick-growing salad container. Dwarf fruit trees will remain naturally compact and can be grown in pots.
Don’t just plant at ground level. Make use of walls, fences and trellises to help wrap a garden in green. Climbers and rambling roses are obvious choices, but use vertical hanging pockets for bedding or herbaceous plants.