Get smart with small spaces

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Surprise: Hidden focal points or art in the garden create excitement in small spaces.

Spring is just around the corner. Now is the time to take a good look at small corners in your garden. Discover the increasing number of inventive ways to use small spaces to create pretty corners.

Learning how to garden in small spaces is also a good idea for people living in apartments, retirement villages or small townhouses.

As long as you keep your plants healthy by watering and fertilising them, you can create a glorious garden in a very small space.

Horticulturist and landscaper Jenny Simpson has a host of tips and ideas for gardening in small spaces this spring.

Vertical gardens

Think vertical this spring. Grow plants up pergolas, frames and obelisks and trellises to add height to your garden. Plant climbers, such as the indigenous black-eyed Susan (Thunbergia alata), or climbing roses such as Blossom Magic up sunny north-facing walls. Plant up all boundaries with climbers or hedging shrubs and clip back so that they take up less room.

Try viburnums, plumbago or Cape honeysuckle.

Use small pavers

Take advantage of optical illusions. In a small garden, the use of small paving stones or bricked paths will make the garden look much bigger than if your use large paving slabs.

Ideas for paths

Gravel or brick paths are better than grass paths, as plants can be allowed to scramble on to their edges. The direction of the path is important, as straight paths have to be wide in order to keep the balance of bed and path pleasing to the eye.

Paths that curve around a corner are better in small gardens, as they deceive the eye by making the garden appear larger. Leave out the odd brick in your path and replace with a low-growing ground cover such as peppermint, Gazania rigens or freesias.

Get scale right

Scale is very important in that nothing should appear over-dominant. To draw the eye into your garden, use focal points of small statuary, water features or a group of brightly coloured plants.

Plant shrubs that have small leaves and blooms in pale shades of lilac, pink or blue at the end of the vistas so that they appear further away and, therefore, make the garden appear larger.

Clever choice of plants

Choose plants that really work for their space in the garden, that is, plants that have attractive flowers and foliage over a long period. They could also have an extended period of interest such as berries or a second flowering.

Consider mixing plants together, such as a yellow-leafed elaeagnus with the brownish-purple flowers of Pennisetum setaceum Rubrum peeping through its green and yellow leaves. Tuck small bulbs such as lachenalias, narcissus, snowdrops and daffodils into corners near the front of borders in autumn where they will provide colourful flowers when deciduous plants are bare.

Edible plants can also blend in well with other plants in the border; just look for ornamental varieties such as red-leafed spinach and lime-green frilly leafed mustard lettuce.

Fruit trees that have dwarf rootstocks can be grown in small places.

Trees such as the weeping crab apples have miniature fruit daintily arranged on weeping stems.

Containers

Areas near walls or gates are often paved. Choose containers that enhance these areas and remember that three large containers are more effective that 15 small containers. In big pots in sunny areas, plant up an indigenous cabbage tree (Cussonia spicata or C zuluensis).

“Avoid the Highveld kiepersol (Cussonia paniculata) when planting in containers, as it becomes rootbound in containers. It thrives if planted into the ground,” says Linda de Luca from Random Harvest indigenous nursery, Honeydew.

Herbaceous perennials such as blue marguerite (Felicia amelloides) are attractive when four to five plants are placed in a pot.

This plant needs full sun, as it is inclined to get scraggy and the flowers don’t open in a shady area.

Avoid overwatering and, to keep it neat, deadhead and lightly prune it. A mixed planting can give the pleasing effect of a small piece of an English country garden. Use a colourful mix of, among others, lobelias, cinerarias, pelargoniums and Cape fuchsia (Phygelius spp).

Pruning

In a confined space, plants will not always be able to grow as they were meant to, so a certain amount of pruning may be necessary.

Deadhead regularly – this will not only save you pulling up unwanted seedlings, but will also keep your plants flowering for longer. to ensure that overcrowding does not take place. Pruning should be ongoing – it is a good idea to carry a pair of clippers with you when walking around your garden so that any obvious pruning candidate can be taken care of immediately. - Saturday Star

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