Even tiny, a garden is a luxury, especially in the city! Less obvious to develop than a larger area, it can become a wonderful piece of Eden. In the heart of cities as in residential districts, backyards and small gardens, sometimes surrounded by concrete walls, are proving to be increasingly popular spaces. This is because they are full of life and pleasant to frequent, despite a difficult and ungrateful environment (minimal sunshine, poor air quality, sometimes degraded soils…).
Here are some tips for making smallness an asset, coping with a lack of space and perspective, using simple principles; wise planning of the space, careful staging of the outdoor decor, judicious choice of plants and materials … But also adequate maintenance and a few artifices intended to push the limits of these small spaces, creating the surprising illusion that they are more vast than it seems.
You will know all the tips to make a small urban garden and transform it into a really beautiful and relaxing space.
1. Clear the diagonal
In a square or rectangular garden, make a diagonal of the greatest possible length. This will create the impression that the garden is bigger than it really is, giving it more depth.
Materialize this axis on the ground by the layout of a pathway, for example, and do not encumber it with bulky plantings.
To close the perspective, you can place a decorative object in focus.
2. Divide the space
Compartmentalize the garden with hedges, shrub beds or claustras; these partitions delimit spaces with various floral arrangements, and different styles of decor to create a multi-appearance garden.
To escape the effect of confinement created by too much partitioning, favor low hedges, around 2-3 ft, which divide the space without enclosing it.
3. Vary the levels
The use of existing relief and the creation of levels (stone or log walls, plessis, etc.) enliven the garden and create an impression of space. Indeed, a high relief offers beautiful views of the entire garden and, perhaps, of the surrounding landscape.
Conversely, creating a lowered space about thirty centimeters from the original ground level creates a shelter offering total immersion in the privacy of the garden.
4. Hide your garden delimitation
Group the plants on the periphery of the garden, leaning them against fences or perimeter walls. Avoid well-trimmed hedges, which make the end of your garden obvious.
Arrange the plants according to their height and scope, placing the smallest in the foreground and the larger ones in the background. By concealing the border of the garden and by operating a gradual vegetal transition with its environment, your urban garden will appear larger.
5. Capture the surrounding landscape
Observe the surroundings of the garden, because they sometimes make it possible to detect, beyond the limits, remarkable landscapes or exceptional architectural elements (bell tower, building,…). It is therefore judicious to preserve visual escapes on this exterior landscape and to use it in the choice of plants.
6. Create strengths
The absence of the horizon and the presence of walls or buildings reinforce the impression of isolation and involve establishing very attractive points in the urban garden.
The smaller it is, the more important it is to select plants that combine several assets such as an original appearance, evergreen foliage or beautiful flowering. Added to this, the choice and installation of carefully staged decorative objects (outdoor furniture or decoration) will enrich the layout of your garden, grab attention and make people forget the smallness of the place.
7. Take care of the lighting
Extending the house, a small garden is, during the summer months, a real additional room whose atmosphere must be refined, starting with the lighting.
Illuminate and secure frequented areas such as the dining area or garden alleys. But don’t forget that flowerbeds, decorative objects or remarkable trees also deserve to be highlighted with the help of discreet spotlights recessed into the ground, for example.
Best Ground Spotlights for Urban Gardens:
8. Install vertical garden decoration
Trellises and cloisters are effective ways to dress a blind facade or the side of a balcony while facilitating the training of your climber plants. You can also use braided willow panels or any other natural fence.
More spectacular, wall paintings are also a good way to reduce the effect of confinement in your space. And why not attach a mirror to a wall? The illusion that the garden extends beyond its limits will be perfect.
9. Extend blooming season in your garden
Due to lack of space, the number of plants is often limited in a small garden. It is therefore important to choose species whose blooms follow one another throughout the year. Select varieties of shrubs, perennials and annual flowers, not to mention bulbs, blooming from spring to autumn, even in winter, in order to always have flowery and colorful plants in your urban garden.
10. Disguise a wall
Climbing plants with twigs up to several meters in length have the advantage of covering vertical surfaces without invading an extra space. For quick and temporary coverage, opt for fast growing annual climber plants, which have decorative foliage and summer flowering.
To permanently conceal a surface in poor condition, favor climbers with twining branches trained on a support. If the coating is solid or the wall has no cracks, use climbing plants with hooks.
11. Isolate yourself from noise
To overcome noise and protect yourself from noise pollution, opt for evergreen species (pruned Yew hedge, Laurustinus, Cherry laurel, Osmanthus, Portuguese laurel), the best plants suitable for creating a thick and efficient sound screen (minimum 2 to 3 ft).
Planted on the side of the noise source, this shrub curtain can be lined with a wooden or heather fence attached to the garden wall.
Innovative and not bulky, these planted shrubs fixed as a green wall compose very effective and decorative noise barriers.
12. Invite nature
The small size of an urban garden and the aesthetic attention paid to its layout do not preclude leaving less maintained and wilder areas.
By inviting the spontaneous flora – often propagated by the wind, insects or birds – to settle in certain corners, you will recompose natural environments. Distribute them in various places, taking into account the amount of sunshine or the nature of the soil in order to create dry or wet appearance, favorable to the reception of diverse fauna. Bees, butterflies and useful insects will then invest the garden, contributing to the natural fight against plant enemies, encouraging pollination and helping to maintain biodiversity.
13. Provide appropriate care
A small garden can be self-sufficient by managing its natural resources. Start by recycling waste (leaves, lawn clippings, small branches) which, after composting and depending on their degree of decomposition, produce an excellent mulch or potting soil, useful for covering or enriching the soil. Also, remember to collect rainwater to use it to water your urban garden plants.
Finally, the situation of small confined gardens requires adapting some extra caring, for example, hand weeding, gentle loosening of the soil or gentle pruning.
14. Improve the soil
During construction or renovation work, the soil of a small garden is heavily used for storing materials and storing rubble. This results in compaction and asphyxiation of the soil which must imperatively be improved before any planting.
Start by removing the rubble, then loosen the soil thoroughly without turning it over, with a double-handle spade. It is then necessary to add organic matter (compost, manure) regularly, in order to soften the texture of the soil and increase its humus content, to provide the plants with a nourishing substrate, the basis for a successful plantation.
15. Create garden alcoves
Use marscescent shrubs or evergreen with sufficient height to create a green canopy. Some of them, like the Cherry laurel or the Post oak, open out in a naturally flared way and allow, after removal of the low branches, to clear a sufficient space to offer a safe refuge under the foliage.
16. Deal with the shadow
In a small space, the cast shadow of buildings, perimeter walls and trees is unavoidable. It is therefore necessary to come to terms with this by selecting shadow-loving plants to put in you garden.
Start by identifying the path of the sun in all seasons to determine the areas with the most shade, in which the choice will be on shrubs (Hydrangea, Camellia, Rhododendron, Japanese Pieris …), bulbs and perennials (Astilbe, Wild Hyacinth, ferns, Coral Bells, Foamflower, Dead Nettle, …) that thrive in shade or partially shade spaces. There are even some species of shade-loving lawn, making it possible to create a successful and lasting decor.