Maximize Plant Power in Your Garden

Learn how to use plants and flowers to create a unique garden space.
From: DK Books - Gardeners Guide
Private Outdoor Seating

Private Outdoor Seating

Photo by: DK - The Complete Gardener's Guide © 2011 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - The Complete Gardener's Guide , 2011 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Think of your garden as an outdoor room, with leafy walls and a protective canopy of trees and structures. You can either fill the room with plants to confer a sense of enclosure, or restrict the planting to key areas to create an airy open space. Take a hint from these design ideas to discover how specific planting techniques can help give your garden the look and feel you are seeking.

Creating a Room 

To create an intimate area for dining or relaxing, use trellis covered with climbers or a hedge or bamboo screen to enclose the space. In a small garden you could wrap a seating area with tall airy perennials and annuals, but this will only give shelter during the summer months. 

Low plants allow more light to penetrate and can extend the views through a garden, but they may also expose the boundaries, which will make the area look smaller. To create the illusion of a larger space, plant tall shrubs and trees to disguise fences and walls, and site a low hedge toward the end of the garden with a doorway cut into it or a path weaving around it so that the garden appears to continue beyond it. 

Climbing up the Walls

Climbing up the Walls

Photo by: DK - The Complete Gardener's Guide © 2011 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - The Complete Gardener's Guide , 2011 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Plants can help make a garden into an outdoor room with their leafy walls, structure and protective canopies. Intergrate a seating area into a garden wall and line with colorful, fragrant blooms.

Walls of Flowers and Foliage 

The walls around a garden provide useful vertical spaces for flowers and foliage and help to create a three-dimensional design. 

Think of the surfaces as you would those in the house, and paper them with climbers, including ivy, roses, clematis, and jasmine. Introduce screens within the garden to create different areas, such as a kitchen and lounge. The screens can be decorated and will create microclimates, providing conditions for a greater range of plants. Use a mixed hedge to make a wall of decorative flowers, foliage, and berries. You might also consider integrating a seating area into a garden wall, and lining it with colorful, fragrant blooms.

Making an Entrance

Make dramatic entrances to your garden rooms with decorative doorways. Train a pair of trees, such as hornbeams—which have flexible stems and tolerate clipping—to form an archway over a gate. Period and formal gardens suit a simple doorway, such as an arch, cut into a closely clipped yew or boxwood hedge.

Contemporary designs require something a little different. One idea is to flank the entrance with lines of grasslike Libertia set against rusty steel panels, or try a metal arch with an evergreen Trachelospermum with its scented white summer flowers, trained over it. 

Planting in Restricted Spaces

Pack your courtyard, balcony, or roof terrace with plants in pots fixed to walls or suspended in baskets. Green roofs will also increase your planting space and make great wildlife habitats, or call in an expert to install one of the living “green wall” planting systems now becoming available. Consider these ideas for planting in small garden spaces:

  • Space savers: Planting in tiny spaces requires a little ingenuity. As well as using climbers to cover the walls, dress them up with pots and window boxes filled with seasonal flowers and foliage. You could also train an espaliered tree on wires fixed to a wall or fence, and use the space in front for some well-behaved flowering perennials or small shrubs. Pencil-thin conifers also take up very little ground space and make great accent plants in pots or borders.
  • Light ideas: The weight of plants and pots can pose problems on balconies and roof terraces, so select light metal containers or polycarbonate and plastic types. Faux terra-cotta, lead, and stone pots are very realistic and, once planted, it is difficult to distinguish them from the real thing. Trees grown on dwarf rootstocks will add height to a tiny garden, while grasses, bulbs, and perennials offer year-round interest. You can even plant a box hedge in a long, deep container to create a slim green screen. 
  • Green roofs: There is a variety of green roof systems to choose from, but check the load-bearing capacity of your roof before investing in one. You can choose between easy-care succulents or more sophisticated grass and flower plans if your roof will take the weight of the deeper soil required. As well as looking fantastic, green roofs also provide excellent habitats for birds and insects, help to insulate your property, reduce flash flooding by absorbing rainwater, and minimize noise pollution in homes near airports and highways. 

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