The blog post below is from my former blog Sweet Home and Garden Chicago. I had a typical small city garden and specialized in designing them as well for other clients. I was contacted recently by Joe Lampl of the PBS show Growing a Greener World to ask if he could use this article for a presentation he was giving in Canada. Being the generous person I am of course I said yes :-)
I used to be a member of the Garden Designers Roundtable before moving to North Carolina. You can follow the many talented members and their great articles at http://www.GDRT.wordpress.com
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.
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 .
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.
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/