How to Design a Garden if…it’s a city garden

How to Design a City Garden.

More and more people are living in urban areas so what do you need to consider when designing a city garden.

This is a common problem, you look out of your window or back door and all you can see are other buildings and fences. How do you create a garden that feel like you are in your own little oasis when all around you are windows and walls?

 

There are a number of options available to you as well as some basic principles to follow and some decisions you need to make.

 

Take this small town garden, we have added a path and patio and 2 small planting areas, but not much else yet. The existing hedge can easily take up too much room, so does need to be kept in check.

 

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The Design:

 

You need to maximise the available space you have, so choose plants that are taller but thin, especially around the area you want to sit.

 

Avoid anything spiky (no matter how ‘architectural’ it may look) in pots or  borders to avoid being impaled!

Keep to a simple design and avoid irregular shaped borders.

It is better to have 1 large impressive border in a small garden than lots of narrow or small borders.

Light or Privacy?

 

This is always the paradox with small urban gardens, to create a more private space, you need to plant tall – this however cuts down the available sunshine and increases the amount of shade. You need to decide what is more important for you.

 

If you choose privacy, then you can create a tall oasis of ‘jungle’ plants. Use lots of different foliage shapes and textures and only use 1 or 2 flower colours (with one being white).

 

urban-garden-giant-planting

If you prefer to maximise the available light, then you have more of a choice with the planting styles, bold and bright colours will capture your attention more than a pastel palette holding your vision inside your garden.

urban-garden-planted-design

 

However choose plants that will move in a breeze and also those with plenty of scent. Our eyes are conditioned to notice movement, as such swaying plants are more interesting to look at than boring shrubs. Secondly as you are enclosed, the perfume from scented plants will stay in your garden for longer, so you can enjoy it more!

 

Lawns/Patios/Paths:

 

We all love a lawn, but in a small garden you really need to ask whether you can grow a good lawn and if not whether you really should have one at all.

 

Lawns need sunshine to grow lush and thick. The smaller the lawn, the greater the proportionate wear and tear, so you quickly develop muddy patches and threadbare bits. Plus, you need a mower and sheds take up a lot of space in a small garden.

Paths and Patios must be low maintenance, so choose the right medium for the right place.

 

  • In shady spots, you will get green algae growing, which is slippery and ankle-breakingly slippery on decking.
  • Light coloured paving will go green too in the shade.
  • Decorative stone paths (not pea shingle) are impossibly difficult to rake clear of leaves.
  • Pine needles are even worse to try to rake or remove, so have a sweepable path or patio if you get needle drop.
  • Decorative concrete setts / block paving have lots of joins – so lots of places for seeds to germinate, so a putting an ornamental grasses garden upwind of your patio…you know you will have work to do!

 

shingle paths

Messy Trees & Untidy Plants:

 

If you read lots of garden magazines you will get lots of tips for plants and trees for small gardens, many will advocate the virtues of fruit bearing trees as these trees have ‘something going on’ all year round and that is great.

But no one shows you the picture of the red or purple bird poop droppings everywhere or the rotten fruit that has fallen on the ground attracting wasps nor do they mention that the fruit drop stains the patio.

We think these things are actually important, the boss’ garden at home is surrounded by birch trees – ‘ooh how wonderful’, according to garden design books.

Birch trees cast a light dappled shade, are not too overpowering, have pretty bark but also drop thousands of leaves, bucket loads of the tiniest seeds that invariably blow into your wine glass as well as dropping armfuls of twiggy branches – ALL YEAR!

 

Here are our top plant design tips for small urban gardens!

  • ‘Good for Naturalising’ plants are not good in a small urban garden.
  • ‘Vigourous’ – is a word to avoid on any plant label.
  • Spreads via underground roots/suckers – maybe only plant this in a large sturdy pot.
  • ‘Self Seeds’ you have a choice, don’t buy it or cut the seeds heads off before they are ripe.
  • Evergreen – this is good!
  • Scented…this is good too
  • Avoid anything prickly – it will be a pain in the proverbials
  • Climbers, these can easily become a tangled mess. Climbers will grow toward the light, so if your garden is quite shady, you will eventually only see the woody stems as the plant heads up to the sunshine and puts it’s flowers up there.

 

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Take a look at the range of designs we have created for small garden places

See also:

Garden Design for Beginners

How to Design a Garden if:….

You need to start from scratch

It’s all weeds

The garden is really narrow

The garden is really boring – what can I do?

I still have no idea where to begin

Small you can hardly ‘swing a cat!’

Creating a Low Maintenance Garden…

Part 1

Part 2

Paths

Hedges

Borders

Pots

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