Urban Landscape Design
Andrew Franz Architect, Photo by Albert Vecerka
If you live in a city, then you understand the challenges of urban landscape design. Living in an area with high population density doesn't mean you can't grow and maintain lush plant life in your personal space. At the most basic level, plants need sunshine and water. Your landscape plan for an urban space should be designed around the availability of these elements.
Looking for a place to play in the dirt? Stoops, balconies, decks, porches and rooftops are great places to try your hand at container gardening. A starter project might include planting mint or violets in small pots to see how they fare during spring and summer. (Unless you're a sun belt resident, remember that most plants must be brought indoors for the late fall and winter months.)
A great new trend in urban landscape design is wall gardening. These vertical planters can range from hooks that hold window boxes of flowers to elaborate patchworks of "living wall" planters filled with ornamental herbs and small plants. Some wall planters have a built-in irrigation mechanism; others need to be watered manually. Either way, wall gardens need room to drain. If you live in a multi-level building, consider the neighbors below you and where the water from your wall garden will drain.
If you have access to a private rooftop or a space within a shared roof garden, start your urban landscape planning there. With direct access to sunlight and rain, your plants are more likely to thrive. Elongated plastic planters are perfect for rooftop gardens; be sure they're vented for draining.
If you do have a patch of earth to call your own, you can plant a small lawn with a small raised bed for seasonal gardening. Maintain a tiny row of ornamental grasses or plant hearty pansies in the fall, and replace them with carrot seeds in very early spring. Late-summer cucumbers and tomatoes are also an option if your space gets 6 our more hours of full sun per day (emphasis on full sun, i.e. no shade). All-day shade works well for salad greens! Arugula, kale, watercress and spinach are fans of shadows and thrive in cool, damp weather (but watch out for frost).
Pencil hollies are thin trees that can be trimmed to any height. Planted individually in large pots, they make great accent pieces for porches and patios. Planted together in the ground, a handful of hollies can make a perfect mini privacy fence for an urban yard.