By Alia Babapulle
Any small garden has to be worked hard to look good all year, and so does the gardener have to work hard. This could be the only private outside area to relax in and, with the current trend in modern design, gardens are increasingly seen through large glass doors or picture windows.
It is rare for a garden in a town not to be over-viewed by other properties, which raises issues of how to create some privacy. Here, landscaping should be constructed from materials that can take shade, although stone or wood naturally turn green with algae in areas of low light and can look quite pretty. With a careful selection, maintenance of the scheme can be minimised.
Many trees and shrubs have invasive roots that can make even the best-laid paving uneven, so one should define the extent of hard landscaping in the garden to work with the surrounding planting. Some shrubs with juicy fruit can, and do, permanently stain natural stone. Laurel in particular with its blue-black fruit causes violent purple results on paving. Dense shrub planting under something like this would be a good idea and will look attractive.
Small town gardens often have very limited access for importing materials and plants. Don’t plan a lawn in a small garden: unless you have space outside for the mower, it is not a good idea. This also applies to materials arriving to actually build the garden.
My one important thing, which is the first I think of, is where is light and where is shade. I look at the garden at different hours of the day and get a far better idea of what goes where and why. Then I start to plan it. You should do the same. Another must is good soil and drainage. If this doesn’t work, you will have problems. Prepare carefully and then plant, not the other way round.
Although it sounds very much doom and gloom for small gardens, actually they are great fun to do and the most pleasing to see growing and still looking good after years of use. Again, the success is in the planning. Just take time, and define areas for privacy, spaces for hard and soft landscaping, integral storage and a space for outside cooking if you have enough room.
Think hard about the planting – what you want to achieve – and it all should come together as a well-designed whole and give years of pleasure as it grows and matures. If you build a good rapport with a reputable garden centre, so much the better. Have fun!