Garden Planning for Town Gardens

The town garden in the strictest sense is usually so small as to be barely a garden at all. It can be a depressing sight, particularly with older properties where the previous occupiers had no interest in trying to make a garden in such a restricted and confined area. If ever there was an exception to the old saying of not being able to make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear, it is with town gardens. Properly planned, they can be real gems.

Probably the best approach with these gardens is to treat them as another room to your house, which is what they really are — a room without a roof. But having said that, the choice of style, layout and planting must be an entirely individual matter.

The functions of your garden, because of the smallness, must be given priority. You might, for instance, want to turn the whole site over to a special interest. You may wish it to serve as a play area for children as well as providing some of the basic pleasures of gardening; or perhaps you would like an entirely paved garden with a backcloth of climbers, highlighted with container-grown plants.

There are many things to be taken into account as you weigh up the design and, as with larger gardens, you will be well advised in working to a plan.

Every inch of space will count, so take your time and use it well. First and foremost, take a look out of the windows and make a note of the eyesores which are in existence now, and bear in mind also those you may be adding, like the garden shed.

Mark them in on your plan and then try to work out ways of screening them. There are many ways of doing this, even in confined areas. Climbers over lightweight trellises, or trained over plastic netting are most appropriate, depending on the circumstances. Something more sturdy may be called for to hide, for instance, the entrance to an outside toilet. A narrow strip of tall ranch-fencing could be used, again with a suitable climber trained over it.

The importance of colour in a small area cannot be stressed strongly enough. A mass of dark shades will be boring and unattractive. You will need as many colour highlights and contrasts as you can manage to fit in. This ruling can also be applied to fixtures as well as the growing things. A dark wall usually cries out for treatment. You are certain to be using it for training climbers, or even cordon fruit, and for a good part of the year those plants are going to be just one colour — a greeny brown that will be barely noticeable against the dark wall. So try to give the wall some colour — paint it with cement-based paint in one of the large range of pastel shades that are now available. Approach it with the same sort of feeling that you would choose the colour scheme for your sitting room, with wall colours to match the furniture.

As for the design itself, your layout is bound to be a fairly simple, basic one; perhaps simply a lawn surrounded by a steepish bank of plant life. Any fancy work with paths or arbours is usually out of the question, since features like this will tend to over-emphasise the smallness. Your paths should be confined to the basic fact of communication, without unnecessary curves or such like. It may help to introduce a feature that will act as a focal point, perhaps a sundial or bird-bath in the centre of the lawn, or a rock feature cutting in from one corner. But don’t do anything that will spoil the initial open area which is really quite necessary. And remember, too many special effects will ruin your artistry.

There is no reason why there should not be some pleasant curves in the lawn and in fact this will help to create the illusion of space and depth. Where possible, surprise elements and an air of mystery in some shady corner can be created.

A fair-sized sitting-out area either immediately outside the house or perhaps in a secluded corner is usually called for, and perhaps a covered construction can be added too, with climbing plants. Take note of any wind tunnels that may exist: these are usually more prevalent in small sites than in larger gardens. Terracing and introduction of steps and raised beds may also be necessary on changing levels and these will all give additional scope for colourful planting.

For the remainder of the garden, the choice is yours. Use your imagination and let simplicity, colour and function be your guides.

Three final points of advice on town gardens. There is a tendency with older property for the rear garden to be cluttered with pretty terrible buildings of one kind or another. Try to get rid of them if you can and then have more space for gardening. Secondly, soil can often be poor in these confined spaces. It may well require a few loads of peat, manure or other luxuries before you start your planting. And thirdly, try not to make your garden too permanent. Consider a basic plan, but with features — like ornaments, statues, container-grown conifers and plants — that can be changed around every so often for relieving the monotony slightly.

05. September 2011 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Garden Landscapes | Tags: , | Comments Off on Garden Planning for Town Gardens

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