A recent trip to Venice has given me renewed enthusiasm for small gardens, secret gardens and gardening for pleasure. With a little planning, courtyards, terraces and balconies can be gorgeous private garden retreats.
The design of small garden is crucial. The aim is to make the most of the limited space and maximise the sense of garden. That means adding lots of greenery high and low, without taking up wide spaces. Narrow layers of contrasting greenery will give the effect of a much bigger garden.
Despite a small size, the sense of garden starts right at the front gate. The bit between the footpath and the front fence often becomes a haven for weeds and dirt. Why not create a welcoming strip garden of small scale and tough plants?
Behind the front gate, increase the proportion of greenery to soften and cool the house. Add narrow trees and climbers for height, use small plants to fill in at the base. Use a pot or two, with generous mixed planting, to create a beautiful feature or highlight the front door.
And don’t forget the side access. Instead of heading straight to the back of the house, create a small vertical garden along the way. You can espalier Camellias for a dense green backdrop or train a climber or two to grow in the narrow space available. Every side window of your home could frame a garden view. It creates a sense of being surrounded by garden, even though the space may be limited.
A rear courtyard can be the main outdoor living room. It could be so inviting and elegant. With deciduous plants you can design sunny spots for winter and cool, shady seating for our long summers. Plan carefully for a seamless transition between the indoors and the garden. Linking these spaces will make both areas appear larger.
Just a few pots in a sunny spot will take a great mix of herbs and baby vegies. A small lime or lemon tree in a pot will keep perfectly well too. Good potting mix, slow release fertiliser and regular watering are the secret to keeping them happy and fruiting for years and years.
If you have small outdoor spaces, take another look to see where you can add more layers of greenery to create a secluded haven of your own.