Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Diary March 2007 - Small Garden

On February 3rd, in London Ontario, I had an epiphany – maybe I could live in a smaller house with a small garden! (Big change from previous diary entries, eh? See my April 2006 Diary)

How did this happen, you ask? Well, we were invited to my cousin’s for a family get-together. Ed and Allison recently moved from a standard family home with big garden and pool to a condominium bungalow. Well, it was gorgeous!! Beautifully decorated and spacious with large principal rooms (bigger than their previous house) and somehow room for 14 for dinner! (albeit in 2 separate rooms).
I loved the layout and compactness of their new home and the idea that a smaller house could have plenty of space after all.
But Allison loves gardening, just like I do. I asked her how she could stand giving up her large garden. She told me that she still had great plants and lovely spaces but the upkeep only took a few hours every weekend.
Hmmmmmm……….this started me thinking.
If we retired to a similar set-up and I couldn’t have a large garden anymore, what would be some of the guiding principles for a small garden? And what plants would I need (and like) to include?
Hardscaping would be more important than ever. A patio or deck would define sitting/eating areas. Pathways and walkways made of stone or gravel could direct the eye to garden focal points. Walls or fences could add much needed privacy but may need to be “disguised” with climbing plants and shrubbery.

Remember, there’s no room for clutter in a small garden so I’d have to hide the barbeque and garden equipment inside a small shed or behind a screen.

Can a small garden take big plants? Certainly! Here’s some advice from an article in Gardening Life magazine: “Don’t hesitate to use big show-stopper plants such as Brugmansia and canna lilies. They can act as dramatic focal points in a small space.”
The same article says “Prune shrubs, vines and small trees regularly to keep them in scale and prevent them from crowding other plants.” This may sound contradictory but it’s not really. Scale and proportion become ultimately important in small spaces. Some recommended trees and shrubs are Deutzia, Spiraea japonica ‘Anthony Waterer’, Syringa patula ‘Miss Kim’, Acer palmatum, ‘Bloodgood’ and Rhododendron.
Even though I agree with what’s just been said, I think a small garden may be a perfect showcase for small plants as well. On a recent garden tour, I saw the tiniest hosta ever! It was called Pandora’s Box…”A sport of H. 'Baby Bunting', it is the tiniest variegated hosta in existence, only 3 inches tall”.

Many of the articles I looked up about small gardens included a water feature. I think this would be lovely but they are extremely high maintenance.

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