June 21, 2010

GARDEN DESIGNERS ROUND TABLE : SMALL SPACES

                                
First word of advice :  If you have a small garden you need a small dog.  Just kidding. But do keep dogs out as they and gardens do not mix.  Unless its Jojo,  my mini-Schnauzer and garden companion.  I've taught her the difference between a flower and a weed and she is ever so mindful of them. Plus, she keeps the rabbits, possums and racoons away.  Well, most of the time.  She missed a bunny the other day that ate my asters down to the ground. 


For June's Rountable posting I am using my small city garden as an example to show the unity, creativity and texture I try to bring to each of  my designs. There are endless possibilities in designing a small space and while there are no set rules there are guidelines that will help you avoid the pitfalls along the way.  



It's a very short walk from the public sidewalk to my front porch so making the entrance to my century-old American Foursquare as inviting as possible was my first goal.   A container with seasonal color flanks the stairs and a  Japanese maple, ' Autumn Moon ', brightens the small corner planting bed on the right.  Every inch of space is packed with long-blooming perennials and annuals that provide color, texture and interesting foliage.  And BTW,  I've planted everything in my garden myself, including the trees, so it is truly my creation.



A path swings around to the back garden entrance and a  beautiful pink climbing rose graces the fence.  You can see how little space there is between houses.  My  neighbor's large bold-leafed Oakleaf hydrangea draped on the fence shares its  blossoms .

I had a client that planted thousands of dollars of annuals in her garden each year just for the wow factor.  It looked like Disney World !  I could fill my garden with mostly annuals for instant glamour but being an avid gardener I enjoy seeing perennials that I love come into bloom.   April and May is for tulips and daffodils, June is for roses and lilies, July for Phlox and Blackeyed Susans, August for Sedum and Asters, September for Mums, etc.  .  But how the garden looks when it's not in bloom is key to a good design and in a small space every plant must do its job.  Plants with interesting texture or form, colorful foliage that's effective even when not in bloom, evergreen shrubs that give year round interest, and colorful annuals will make your small space garden a delight.  Mine is so tightly packed with my favorites that a weed finds it difficult to enter and eliminates the need to mulch.

Below is the layout of my front garden made to go along with my last will and testament  which may give you an inkling of how I feel about  it.  And this is just the front.  My somewhat larger rear garden is my real paradise.





I encounter a lot of weekend warriors searching for ideas to use for their own small urban gardens and have enjoyed helping many of them at Gethsemane, Chicago's best garden center .  My advice to them is do your research before buying a single plant. Know how much sun/shade you have, your soil, the size of your plot, preferred style -formal or informal, plant likes or dislikes, etc. and how much maintenance you're willing to do.  Allocate a budget and try to stick to it.  Be prepared to put in a lot of sweat equity as well. 

In today's economy more  homeowners are doing their  landscapes themselves, whereas they would've hired a designer before the recession hit.  For these brave souls I say go for it but remember that a great garden starts with thoughtful planning.   Read gardening books and check out the many garden websites offering advice.  Take a stroll and seek out gardens that please you.

 Get in touch with the designer inside and turn that small space into your pride and joy.   The secret to a good garden is not how big or small it is but how you use it.



In his garden every man may be his own artist
without apology or explanation.
Each within his green enclosure is a creator
and no two shall reach the same conclusion ;
 nor shall we, any more than other creative workers
 be ever wholly satisfied with our accomplishment.
Ever a season ahead of us floats the vision
 of perfection and herein lies its perennial charm.

-Louise Bebe Wilder


For more on small space garden design visit these members of the Roundtable:


Jenny Peterson at http://www.jpetersongardendesign.com/
Laura Livengood Schaub at http://www.interleafings.blogspot.com/
Lesley/Robert at http://www.hegartywebberpartnership.wordpress.com/
Shirley Bovshow at http://www.shirleybovshow.com/
Susan Morrison at http://www.garden-chick.typepad.com/
Susan Schlenger athttp://blog.landscape-design-advice.com/
Tara Dillard at http://www.taradillard.blogspot.com/























  



14 comments:

  1. Enjoyed your images and thoughts on small garden design, Carolyn. I still remember how many people managed to cram themselves into your small garden at Spring Fling Chicago--amazing!

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  2. Great ideas for a small garden Carolyn. It's nice to be able to use our neighbor's garden as part of our background.

    Eileen

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  3. I could take another post on your, USE OF COLOR IN THE SMALL LANDSCAPE.

    Fabulous.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

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  4. Fun to visit your garden, Carolyn. Love your advise on choosing plants with with fabulous foliage and form.

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  5. Oh, I am in love with that Japanese Maple!! Your front garden is just beautiful in the way that only a garden that has been allowed to get established can be. Wow, that maple. An eye for plant placement is one of the garden designer's most important skills, especially in a small space. Yours is impeccable, thanks for showing us!

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  6. Beautiful post, Carolyn. I love the beds with foliage only - you really have an eye for subtle color and contrast. Just so darn beautiful....

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  7. Your front yard is so beautiful! I especially love the softness of the Autumn Moon. I think you're right about a garden looking lovely in the non-blooming seasons really tests the true beauty. Yours definitely passes that test!

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  8. It must be great fun to be a part of a roundtable! :-) I enjoy our little garden club - that is growing!

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  9. Love your use of texture and the colour green - a really good lesson in how a good design should be carefully thought out right from the start.
    Love Jojo too!
    All the best, Lesley and Robert

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  10. There is lots of wonderful advice here Carolyn. Having seen your beautiful garden in person last year, it's clear you know how to make the best possible use of small garden spaces.

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  11. Thank you all for your pithy comments.

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  12. Just to echo what Lesley has said above: the amount of interest you have created with so little use of colour is a real lesson to us all. You have texture and HOW!
    Congratulations and best wishes
    Robert

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  13. You have a great eye, Carolyn. A delightful/informative post for those with limited space. (Pop over for a hint of Bourbon Salmon :)

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  14. My husband wishes we had the challenges of a small garden. The challenges of unlimited space, like ours, are not always appreciated. I know - the first challenge is to figure out how to limit and define a 'house lot' in the midst of our 60 acres of woodland and overgrown pasture.

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