Small Gardens / Garden Rejuvenations

Small Gardens

Gardens sizes across the United States are shrinking.  Yet, even a small space can be designed to be cozy and inviting. With the right screening, it can be turned into a private oasis.  Several design approaches may be fitting, such as an Asian style, a formal method, or a more relaxed layout. Enclosed courtyard gardens take full advantage of small spaces. Japanese and Chinese Gardens masterfully give the illusion of larger spaces in a restricted setting, and induce a contemplative Zen quality. With any small-space garden, you deliberately choose and weave the strongest, most pertinent elements of a particular style into your design.

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In a small garden, beautiful detail can be closely appreciated: Variegated Creeping Stonecrop and Veronica 'Crater Lake Blue' in early June

In a small garden, beautiful detail can be closely appreciated: Variegated Creeping Stonecrop and Veronica ‘Crater Lake Blue’ in early June

DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS: It is essential to exercise at least a certain amount of restraint, and decide on linking elements that give your small garden a common thread or theme. Focus on quality rather than quantity to create a superior garden paradise. Every element can be seen up close and detail is important. Many features can have dual purpose, such as boulders doubling as extra seats, or a sitting wall around a patio. Small gardens can be elegant, romantic, contemporary, contemplative, formal or naturalistic. The right style will be determined by the space, the architecture of the home, and your personal taste. Choices are abundant, but once you have decided on a theme, carry it through!

WATER: A fountain or other water feature brings refreshing life to your garden, and can buffer outside noise. Boulders and river rock can be arranged to form a dry streambed, suggesting a stream or river. It will temporarily retain water run-off and can improve drainage in a particular garden area. Outdoor lighting adds ambiance and security.

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Detached fountains, like this tiered copper beauty in the owner’s garden, are portable, and can be easily drained and stored for the winter

Detached fountains, like this tiered copper beauty in the owner’s garden, are portable, and can be easily drained and stored for the winter

CONTAINERS add color and height, increase planting space and bring plants closer to eye-level. They highlight entrances and make the most of even the smallest nook. Containers can also enhance balconies, decks or rooftops, where they become the focal point. In courtyards, they accentuate and can link interior and exterior. Containers come in many colors, materials and shapes. You can use vibrant colors to create a bright, showy focal point, or correspond their hue with your surroundings, for example house color. Using drip irrigation and moisture-holding soil mixes will ease maintenance needs. Choosing larger-sized containers and keeping them out of the most intense mid-afternoon sun during the summer makes for happier plants and owners.

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Containers frame the deck and patio, giving definition as well as adding  profuse color; owner's garden in August

Containers frame the deck and patio, giving definition as well as adding profuse color; owner’s garden in August

Rhamnus ‘Fine Line’ shrubs form the background for colorful annuals, such as Coleus, creating a perfect composition with the stylish containers

Rhamnus ‘Fine Line’ shrubs form the background for colorful annuals, such as Coleus, creating a perfect composition with the stylish containers

PLANTS for small gardens should be chosen deliberately, displaying good foliage and texture, and a long season of interest. Invasive or overly vigorous plants need to be avoided. While a vivid, joyful color scheme may be just perfect, often a more restrained color palette works best in a small space. With several high-performing plants repeated throughout the garden and gathered in groupings, the garden will appear more calming and connected. In response to smaller plot sizes, many compact and dwarf plant cultivars are now being offered. Columnar, dwarf conifers are particularly suited to introduce year-round structure to the garden.

Small Backyard Landscape in Hood River

The owner of this small backyard wished for a vegetable raised bed, patio, and several planting beds in a very small, sloping area.  Several levels and a sunken patio met the space challenges, with both the low patio wall and raised bed ledge doubling as seating.

 BEFORE PHOTOS
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The lower part of the garden, west-facing view, in April

The lower part of the garden, east-facing view, in April

The lower part of the garden, east-facing view, in April

The lower part of the garden, west-facing view, in April

 AFTER PHOTOS
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An L-shaped vegetable raised bed hugs the northeast corner of the lower backyard, with a tall trellis forming the backdrop and giving privacy, late May

An L-shaped vegetable raised bed hugs the northeast corner of the lower backyard, with a tall trellis forming the backdrop and giving privacy, late May

Only a month later, generous flagstone steps lead to the sunken paver patio and raised bed

Only a month later, generous flagstone steps lead to the sunken paver patio and raised bed

 

Garden Rejuvenations

Garden rejuvenations or renovations, also called makeovers, aim to update or embellish an existing landscape. They can be small or larger projects. You can create a completely new look in your garden, or beautify what you already have. You may choose one garden style or incorporate elements of several different styles.

Renovating a mature garden involves inventorying and editing of existing plants, and thorough organic soil amending. Activating and sustaining the soil life is of uppermost importance. Remember, a happy soil life translates into happy plants! Existing plants often require pruning or thinning, and may need to be relocated. A patio or other hardscape feature can be added or updated.

There is a wealth of new and exciting plant varieties and cultivars to explore. Old, proven favorites can have a place in your garden as well. In general, it is essential to identify a theme and enhance it with new plants or materials selected.

Colorful Driveway Planting 

 BEFORE PHOTO
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This existing border accompanying the driveway to the residence used to be planted with towering Arborvitae. They were removed and the soil slightly bermed and amended, early March.

This existing border accompanying the driveway to the residence used to be planted with towering Arborvitae. They were removed and the soil slightly bermed and amended, early March.

 AFTER PHOTOS
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In mid-May, Spiraea ‘Flaming Mound’ has mellowed from a bright red to a more chartreuse color

In mid-May, Spiraea ‘Flaming Mound’ has mellowed from a bright red to a more chartreuse color

Four years later, in early spring, natural moss rock edging and colorful, continuous plantings lead the eye to the parking area below

Four years later, in early spring, natural moss rock edging and colorful, continuous plantings lead the eye to the parking area below

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