Making the Most of the Space You Have: Tiny But Beautiful Gardens

Most people’s dream garden covers acres, with flowerbeds, parkland and untamed woods rolling off towards the horizon. In real life, sadly, this is possible only for a few, and the rest of us have to make do with a patch of roof, a tiny back yard or even a couple of flowerpots on a windowsill.

On the other hand, having a small garden can be a kind of blessing: you don’t need to buy an expensive lawn mower, spend hours every weekend just to keep it looking respectable or worry too much about water restrictions. As it happens, there are also a number of ways to make a small garden more productive and pleasant than most people will believe.

Vertical Gardening

When you can’t go sideways, go up. When considering techniques such as trellising, vertical gardening really is nothing new, but it has been receiving much more attention recently as detached houses become more difficult to afford.

All you really need is a wall that receives at least some sun, which in a small courtyard might mean three out of four. The most labor-intensive part of setting up your own hanging gardens is usually building a structure, perhaps using old wooden pallets, that can support the weight – wet soil weighs more than you think! To this, you can attach ordinary flowerpots, guttering or even plastic bottles, fill these with potting mixture and start planting.

Vertical gardens are much easier to maintain and harvest, especially if your back isn’t what it used to be. Since the plants and flowers are at eye level, these “green walls” also look much larger than they have any right to, and with proper care, they can produce an astonishing amount of flowers and vegetables. Decorative species to consider include giant lilyturf, geraniums and star jasmine; while cucumbers, strawberries, peas, green beans and herbs of every kind also do well in a vertical garden.

Keeping Plants Indoors

Either due to their living arrangements or the climate, some people simply can’t do much gardening outdoors. A few of them, missing being surrounded by a little bit of foliage when relaxing, have simply moved their gardens inside.

This need not imply being restricted to sticking a wilted ficus in the corner and a struggling fern on your desk. Some people go much further, even adding a purpose-built “green room” to their houses to relax and entertain guests in.

Humidity is an obvious factor to bear in mind. If your house is built of brick, moisture-resistant paint and polyethylene sheets may be all that’s needed to keep this at bay. If you’re dealing with drywall…well, the clue is in the name.

Light quality is also, generally speaking, a concern. A few species of plant might be able to survive even in a north-facing room, but setting up an indoor garden may require you to change the way you currently use your space and even knock a few new holes in the walls. Luckily, there is a workaround in the form of grow lights, which come in handy especially during winter months.

Using Vermicompost

If you have a limited amount of space and only a few plants, you really want to do all you can to make them as lush and productive as possible. This obviously means feeding them well, and one of the most effective ways of doing so is to apply the ejecta of earthworms to the soil. The way this works is not really by adding more NPK, but by improving the concentration of helpful soil bacteria around the roots, meaning that your plants will be better able to make use of nutrients and be more resistant to disease. Just look at these seedlings:

Vermicompost can be found at any gardening center with an organic inclination, or simply be created by composting kitchen scraps and garden clippings with the aid of some worms. If there is one single thing any gardener can do to increase the health of her plants, it is to scatter a teaspoon of vermicompost around the base of each.

There’s Nothing More Powerful Than Flower Power!

Before I settled down to write this article, I had one question: Where do flowers come from? Well, the answer is I can’t tell you! In fact, Darwin (who was a massive lover of flowers) couldn’t answer this question either. Instead, he just left it as a mystery and respected how powerful they are in the world as we know it.

If you think about it, they’re everywhere. From forests to fields, flowers dominate our world’s ecosystems. They’re responsible for the majority of calories humans eat. Foods like wheat, rice and fruit are all born due to flowers.

After Darwin Research Goes On

Not only are flowers massively diverse, they’re also one of the most successful species on our planet, and yes, after Darwin died their “roots” still left scientists baffled. However, fossils have been found that date these lovely plants anything from 66 to 100 million years ago!

That said, it appears the DNA is where all the answers are coming from. So, instead of looking to fossils the world of science has decided to strip back the DNA codes in order to understand why different flowers are formed.

Whilst doing this, they’ve discovered not when these plants first appeared but that their diversity is due to the recycling of genes. Much the same way in which limbs or eyes were formed (that’s a different story for a different article though)!

Enough With the Science!

I hear you. I’m not going to bang on about how flowers first appeared, or why. I want you to think about what a huge part they play in everyone’s lives. Sure, I’ve met people who have told me they won’t have cut flowers in the house because they think it’s like watching something die.

Each to their own, but I’ll bet that very same person has bought them in the past. Whether it be for a birthday, or funeral flowers will be part of their life. So much so they probably don’t even notice how much.

The Power of Flowers

For me it’s truly amazing just what power flowers have. They can make you feel uplifted or comforted, they can even bring a tear to your eye. You’ll often, see them at weddings, funerals, birthday parties and they’re sent to people as get-well gifts. The list is endless.

To understand the true power of flowers, you only need look at how much the industry is worth. In the 1950’s it was worth less than $3 Billion, in 2003 it was worth a little under $102 Billion globally! This works out at an annual growth of 6% year on year.

What Flowers Mean

I could go into why certain flowers have their meanings, but that would involve going all “science” on you again, so I’m just going to pick a few of my favorites so the next time you’re looking for a way to send a message you’ll know which one to “pick”. First on my list is the Bird of Paradise and not surprisingly this flower represents paradise itself, or joyfulness. Oh, and it’s also the 9th wedding anniversary flower.

Carnations are next. As you probably know, they come in all sorts of colors, but the one I would always choose is pink. This is because some believe they were created from the Virgin Mary’s tears. For that reason, they symbolize a mother’s undying love.

Finally, I have the lily, and these have various meanings depending on the type. However, if you know someone with a birthday in May, feel free to choose whoever sort you like. So, the next time you’re sending flowers spare a thought for what they truly mean.

Add a Splash of Color and Create a Winter Wonderland

Gardening has long been a passion of mine, and I especially love flowers. I don’t consider myself an expert rather, I treat this pastime as a hobby. So, when I recently moved to another State that has a climate I’m not used to, it posed a bit of a problem in the garden department.

Summers are much hotter, and winters are colder where I am now. In fact, snow in my part of the world isn’t uncommon for several months at a time. What is great however, is that my own little piece of green space is pretty much a blank canvas. This means I’ve been able to start from scratch and decided to pass on some of the information I’ve come across to you.

Hedge or Edge – What Will it Be?

One of the best plants I’ve discovered if you’re looking for some ground or border cover is the flowering quince. There does seem to be a bit of conflict on when this shrub actually flowers, so it can be any time from late winter to early spring. However, when it does, boy it certainly packs a punch! It has bright orange to reddish blooms, and as the plant matures the color deepens and becomes even more spectacular.

I’ve been told the Quince makes a great edge for your borders or will even grow into a natural hedge. It’s also a fantastic starter plant for those of you who have anything but green fingers. It’s hardy and will withstand being neglected as well as cold weather.

If you Want a Real Feel for Winter

Evergreens don’t give you much color in winter, except for green of course! So, if you’re someone who doesn’t mind seeing leaves fall to the ground during the fall, think about adding some Winterberry to your garden. The best way to describe this bush is it’s like a deciduous version of a holly bush.

Once the leaves have left this plant to add some much-needed nutrients to the soil, you’ll be left with bright red berries which are quite stunning when the snow starts to fall. Although, it’s worth remembering to plant both male and female types or you won’t get those berries. Oh, and you get the choice of spring or fall to plant them.

Not all Witches are Evil

Witch hazel is another favorite of mine, for two reasons. In summer the fragrance you get from this plant is something to die for, and in winter you’re treated to some of the most stunning looking flowers I’ve come across. They can be described as little blasts of red, orange and yellow rays of sunshine. Something that will definitely add a splash of color on those cold, grey days.

Beware though, this plant will need some planning when you’re deciding where to put it. It can grow to about 15 feet in height and almost the same in width, so it will need some space. That said, once it’s mature witch hazel is a true beauty when it’s in full bloom.

Christmas and Beyond

Ok, so there’s plenty of sparkle around during the festive season, but it doesn’t always reach your garden (unless you’re someone who doesn’t mind massive electric bills)! If you want to give guests something natural to marvel at, try a Christmas rose. These make excellent additions along pathways but do need spots that don’t get a lot of sun.

Plan to pop these in the soil during spring and you’ll be treated to lovely blooms from late December all the way through to early spring. The showy flowers will appear on stout stems that will always peek above snowfall (as long as it’s not 10 feet high)!

Closer to the Ground

January isn’t my favorite month of the year. Not only are all the festivities done with, the weather can be really difficult to take. Plus, I’m not rich enough to jet off somewhere warm. So, if you want something that reminds you spring will eventually arrive, scatter some snowdrop bulbs under larger shrubs and in rock gardens.

Blooming in late winter they make a lovely addition to any garden, and really help if you have ground to cover. Although, do make sure you have a machine that easily gets rid of excess snow or you might miss them. Another late winter bloomer is the sweet box. This also has little white blossoms that will compliment your snowdrops, plus it smells divine!

Have fun With Your Winter Wonderland

I haven’t included much in the way of evergreens such as conifers or boxwood hedges, it won’t do any harm to add some. They’ll add some much-needed green foliage, and depth to your little piece of plant heaven.

As you may have noticed, when planting the above flowers for the first time you don’t have to put your thermals on. Most of them can be added to the garden either in spring or the fall which means you won’t be out digging soil over in sub-zero temperatures!

As long as you make sure young shrubs and flowers are well looked after before the really poor weather hits, you’ll be treated to a rainbow of colors during winter. Even when the snow falls and you’re feeling down because it doesn’t seem like there’s anything to look forward to, all you need do is peek out of your window into the garden.

I can’t think of anything better at this time of year!