Think of your garden as an outdoor room, with leafy walls and a
protective canopy of trees and structures. You can either fill the room
with plants to confer a sense of enclosure, or restrict the planting to
key areas to create an airy open space. Take a hint from these design ideas to discover how specific planting techniques can help give your garden the look and feel you are seeking.
Creating a Room
To create an intimate area for dining or relaxing, use trellis covered
with climbers or a hedge or bamboo screen to enclose the space. In a
small garden you could wrap a seating area with tall airy perennials and
annuals, but this will only give shelter during the summer months.
Low plants allow more light to penetrate and can extend the views
through a garden, but they may also expose the boundaries, which will
make the area look smaller. To create the illusion of a larger space,
plant tall shrubs and trees to disguise fences and walls, and site a low
hedge toward the end of the garden with a doorway cut into it or a path
weaving around it so that the garden appears to continue beyond it.
Walls of Flowers and Foliage
The walls around a garden provide useful vertical spaces for flowers and
foliage and help to create a three-dimensional design.
Think of the surfaces as you would those in the house, and paper them with climbers, including ivy, roses, clematis, and jasmine. Introduce screens within the garden to create different areas, such as a kitchen and lounge. The screens can be decorated and will create microclimates, providing conditions for a greater range of plants. Use a mixed hedge to make a wall of decorative flowers, foliage, and berries. You might also consider integrating a seating area into a garden wall, and lining it with colorful, fragrant blooms.
Making an Entrance
Make dramatic entrances to your garden rooms with decorative doorways. Train a pair of trees, such as hornbeams—which have flexible stems and tolerate clipping—to form an archway over a gate. Period and formal gardens suit a simple doorway, such as an arch, cut into a closely clipped yew or boxwood hedge.
Contemporary designs require something a little different. One idea is
to flank the entrance with lines of grasslike Libertia set against rusty
steel panels, or try a metal arch with an evergreen Trachelospermum
with its scented white summer flowers, trained over it.
Planting in Restricted Spaces
Pack your courtyard, balcony, or roof terrace with plants in pots fixed
to walls or suspended in baskets. Green roofs will also increase your
planting space and make great wildlife habitats, or call in an expert to
install one of the living “green wall” planting systems now becoming
available. Consider these ideas for planting in small garden spaces:
- Space savers: Planting in tiny spaces requires a little ingenuity. As well as using climbers to cover the walls, dress them up with pots and window boxes filled with seasonal flowers and foliage. You could also train an espaliered tree on wires fixed to a wall or fence, and use the space in front for some well-behaved flowering perennials or small shrubs. Pencil-thin conifers also take up very little ground space and make great accent plants in pots or borders.
- Light ideas: The weight of plants and pots can pose problems on balconies and roof terraces, so select light metal containers or polycarbonate and plastic types. Faux terra-cotta, lead, and stone pots are very realistic and, once planted, it is difficult to distinguish them from the real thing. Trees grown on dwarf rootstocks will add height to a tiny garden, while grasses, bulbs, and perennials offer year-round interest. You can even plant a box hedge in a long, deep container to create a slim green screen.
- Green roofs: There is a variety of green roof systems to choose from, but check the
load-bearing capacity of your roof before investing in one. You can
choose between easy-care succulents or more sophisticated grass and
flower plans if your roof will take the weight of the deeper soil
required. As well as looking fantastic, green roofs also provide
excellent habitats for birds and insects, help to insulate your
property, reduce flash flooding by absorbing rainwater, and minimize
noise pollution in homes near airports and highways.