Designs and Ideas for Small Gardens
Differing levels quite often occur, even with modern developments where the builders — for their own convenience — try to get the ground level and graded. Gentle slopes upward or downward are commonplace, and there may be one particular part of the garden that has an incline or change in level.
If you have a slope — use it. It is a bonus to be exploited.
If you are faced with an entirely flat garden, it could well be helped by creating a change in the levels — and one of the most effective ways is a sunken garden.
Certainly, it will mean some hard work. But that’s all part of the enjoyment of gardening. Sunken gardens can be used at both the back or front of the house. Again, a separate plan of this is advisable.
The base of the sunken garden is most likely to be in crazy paving, reached by a single set of steps from the main level of the garden. The wall could be in the form of a rockery, and it should slope outward from the top.
Use the topfrom your excavations to fill in around the stones, for planting up. Plant the surrounding area in the same way that you would a rockery or heather garden. The effect can be magnificent.
Heather in Design
Let us look briefly at the varied uses of heather in designing your garden.
Some gardens are prone to acid pockets in the soil and this will certainly affect the way you plan. Heathers can be used to beat this problem, since they will flourish in this type of soil.
In fact, a heath garden can be made on lime or acid soil where nothing else will grow. They are also effective for steep banks or undulating slopes and it is in these situations that they look and grow more naturally.
The shape of the heath garden should be as informal as possible and planting done in bold, irregular groups with the smaller varieties on the edge. Once established they give little trouble.
There is a need to seek out waterlogged areas of your garden. If you find one don’t despair. It can soon be turned to your advantage, with a bog garden, where you can grow many strange and beautiful flowers.
It can be a fascinating addition to your scheme, perhaps sited at a point where its discovery by visitors is a pleasant surprise. Any low-lying place where water collects on the surface naturally is suitable for growing plants that may not thrive elsewhere.
In many cases very little special construction is required although you may have to introduce some clay to hold the moisture. Alternatively, where an entirely stagnant water situation exists, you may have to dig down about 2 feet to provide some bottom drainage, which can be achieved by putting in a layer of old bricks or porous rocks.
If your bog garden is in the shade, all the better, for moisture will be saved. But shade is not vital provided the plant roots are in damp ground. There is a wide range of suitable plants for this situation, like macleaya, lysichiton, macrocarpa. Aruncus and bamboos.
In designing your gardens, the planting of tall subjects or the erection of various fences and buildings must be treated with care so that you can control shade and the casting of shadows.
But do not try to eliminate shade altogether. We are too prone to over-emphasise the sunny aspects of the garden and neglect the advantages of shady or sheltered spots. For shade in the garden has an important part to play, particularly in the summer when heat may need tempering. Many gardeners tend to overlook this and consequently have suffered plant losses.
Many of our flowering shrubs and plants prefer shade rather than the full sun. And they will need shade at the hottest time of year to prevent scorching of foliage and flowers.
In your planning, therefore, consider well the habit, form and height of the various subjects you wish to plant, graduating them evenly from front to back, placing in the open those which like the sun and underplanting in shaded areas those that thrive better in these cooler, moist situations.
The use of shade itself can be taken into account when you are weighing up the possibilities for adding depth to your garden. And of course it can also be used admirably for your sitting-out areas.
Children in the Garden
A family with young children will want, initially, a garden to play in rather than to look at, so the design can be a progressive one to allow for additions, re-styling and planting when the children get older.
They will want at first a good paved area at the back of the house to play on when the lawn is wet.
They will want a fair-sized lawn to set up their wickets and goal posts. So the outlook and view from the house will naturally be an open one, probably throughout the garden.
But the creation of vistas can still be obtained in this garden, as can attractive beds, special features like the rockery, raised flower beds and a good range of trees and shrubs. Pools of any sort where young children are to play are generally rather risky.
Beds of tender plants will need to be kept well away from the lawn, and the trees and shrubs you choose should be fairly sturdy.
The beds can still be carved out to give your lawn an attractive shape. It is best to use heathers or low sturdy shrubs as afor close planting to the lawn. You can even walk on heathers without doing much damage. Later, when the children appreciate the garden more, the heathers can be moved and replaced with more colourful subjects if required.