Garden? What garden? It is all very well, you might think, for those with neat little walled yards, but what about those with a drafty side entrance, a dark light-well, or only a window ledge—spaces that could never be called a garden, nor thought of as an outside room?
Garden them in the traditional sense you cannot, but improve them you certainly may. Because many such areas are initially unattractive, they are neglected and allowed to become dark, dank, or damp, particularly if they are below ground level. It may be that a flight of dingy basement steps is your only outside space.
Rather than letting them detract from your surroundings, turn them into an asset—a pleasure to walk through and look at from inside or from the street.
There are many different ways of enlivening unattractive places. Planting is one of them, but it shouldn’t be the first option to spring to mind. Consider a lick of paint—use a vibrant color, paint a pattern or even a trompe l’oeil. Improve the flooring and the lighting, too.
Left-over spaces that appear small on a plan are often contained by overpoweringly high walls. Consider a way of “bringing the ceiling down.” Arbor beams may darken the space, but stretched ropes or wires are lighter, and you can run a foliaged climber over them, thereby creating a congenial space, albeit small, into which to escape outside for an evening drink.
Doorstep and Window Gardens
The decorative potential of doors and windows that link us with the outside world often remains unrealized. A few pots on a window ledge and a colored window frame can act as a visual extension to your room by breaking down the barriers between in and out. If you live on a top floor, use your window to frame a treetop view—if you don’t have a garden, borrow one.
The technique for dealing with odd spaces successfully is not one of cut-price gardening; rather, it is one of theater, where props, illusion, light and color can be used to create a lively place.