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Creating Grand Gardens in Small Spaces

By on July 08, 2010

As some may have gathered, my last few blog posts have answered questions brought about on the Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply Facebook. In continuing with this theme, todays post is in response to a follower wanting more ideas for people who are looking to create a small garden, or already have one. After some research, I have compiled a list of good ideas about this very topic.

The bulk of my information comes from a book we have in our very own library, “Garden Design Made Easy,” by Tim Newbury. This book is full of excellent information, not only for beginner gardeners, but also for the experts. First, for those of you who are planning on planting a small garden, here is a quick and helpful checklist you might want to go through to ensure success with your project.

Assess the future garden site’s physical attributes: sun exposure, soil, nearby features, etc, then answer these questions about the site you have chosen.

* How many hours a day will your garden receive: full sun, partial sun/shade, mostly shade, and dense shade?

*What is the time of day that your garden will receive full sun exposure?

*What kinds of things will the garden be exposed to? Wind, foot traffic, pets, wildlife, road salt, etc.?

*What type is your soil? Sandy, sandy loam, loam, clay loam, clay, silty loam, silt? (Loam is soil with roughly equal proportions of sand, silt, and clay.)

*What is your soils PH? Acidic- <7.0, Neutral- 7.0, Alkaline- >7.0

*What is your access to a water source? Natural, hose/sprinkler, irrigation system?

*Are there any competing plants and/or trees?

*What is nearby to the garden? Buildings, foundations, walkways, driveways, roads, utility boxes/poles/wires, drain pipes, etc.?

*What is the color and style of your house?

*Are there existing gardens?

After answering these questions, you will better be prepared in knowing what to plant and where to plant it in order to give your garden the best chance for survival and ability to flourish. Here are reasons, taken directly from Newbury’s book for why this is such an important checklist.


The direction in which a garden, or par of a garden, faces will affect not only the plants that can be grown there successfully but also the location of other garden features that may rely on sun or shade to be effective.


The type of soil in your garden will have a direct bearing on the plants that can be successfully grown in it. The texture can vary from very sandy and light to having a high proportion of clay, which makes it sticky when wet and hard when dry. In most situations, the best approach is always to try to select plants that will suit the existing soil rather than to try and change the soil conditions to suit a particular type of plant.


Gardens that are exposed to strong winds can often be uncomfortable places for plants as well as for people. Apart from not growing as rapidly as they might in a sheltered spot, plants can also be badly damaged by wind, particularly if it is cold and dry.

Also in this section of his book, Newbury gives fantastic advice about making the most of what you already have to work with, stating that wherever it is possible, we should look at our gardens with the idea of turning already existing features to our advantage. Here are some tips on how to do so:


*Steps and low retaining walls can be used to provide interesting changes of level, allowing the use of lots of trailing or climbing plants to cascade over.

*Create a rockery or a scree garden on a sunny bank

*A stream or waterfall can run into a pond lower down a natural slope.


*A bog garden is ideal for moisture-loving ornamental plants.

*A natural pond and wet area is the perfect habitat for wild plants and other forms of pond life.


*A paved area for sunbathing could be built next to a refreshing pool or fountain.

*Slightly tender or unusual plants will grow against a sunny wall or fence, sheltered form the cold wind.

*A pergola or other structure will create shade beneath.


*A sitting area or shady arbour will provide escape from the heat of the sun in summer.

*A bed or border can be created for plants that do not like direct sunlight or excessive heat—for example, astilbes, rodgersias and hostas.

*Use the space as a garden utility area for a shed or compost heap.

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