Small garden planting ideas…plants for narrow or small gardens


Hi there, it’s Alexandra from the
Middle-sized Garden Youtube channel and blog and today I’m talking about
planting for small gardens with garden designer Posy Gentles and we’re going
to look at her garden, which is a long thin narrow garden. It’s only 20 feet
wide and 100 feet long and the planting in it so successfully blurs the
boundaries that when you’re actually in it
you don’t really realize it’s a small garden, you don’t think about what size
it is and you certainly don’t see that it’s a narrow garden, so I put a plan up
here so you can actually see what it’s like. The back of the house is
flat-fronted and there’s a small kitchen extension which sticks out so she has an
L shape around the house and this has two terraces divided
by a large border and a path then immediately beyond the terrace outside
the kitchen is a large border which goes right across the garden and is only
punctuated by the garden path that goes down the garden. So she’s got a really
large planting area and it means that when you look out the windows from the
house you can see wonderful color and shape and style. And the most important
thing about planting a long narrow garden is to remember that you need to
go across it as much as you can and not down the sides.
If Posy had planted the same amount of plants but had put them down along the
sides of the garden, it would look much more narrow, and you’d be more
aware of its size and its shape. When it came to planting these borders Posy
started with shrubs for structure which you need to do. But if you have a large
garden and large borders you can put any kind of shrub in there, but in a smaller
garden you need to look at shrubs that are either vertical or low because you
can see over them or round them. So she has two distinctive narrow yews. They’re Taxus baccata ‘David’ and she has some round box balls and these give punctuation and
shape. Then when it comes to flowers Posy believes that it is a bit different for
smaller gardens than it is for larger ones – although she also believes that any
rule can be broken and it’s your garden so if you want to do it differently do
it differently! There are three kinds of flowers
that she particularly chooses for her small narrow garden and the first one is
once again to use verticals. The ground of your garden is not the only part of
it. You’ve got the air and the more you plant upwards, the larger your garden
effectively is. Vertical plants are plants like sanguisorbas and persicaries, foxgloves and anything that goes upwards in a spire. The second kind of planting
that Posy likes to use is what she calls soft focus plants and which I
think plants that are almost like a transparent gauze over the garden.
They’re delicate feathery plants that you can see over and through. They’re
plants like fennel and Nigella that have lovely spiky spidery leaves and flowers
and they just scatter across the garden like a fine gauze. The third kind of
flowers that Posy likes to use in small gardens are what she calls’ glitter’. A big
block of color from a large drift of perennials looks gorgeous in a
larger garden, but he could just make a smaller garden look smaller because it
blocks off the eye. Posy likes to use plants with small flowers – lots and lots
of little small flowers – that dot around the garden like glitter- things like
gypsophila for example.Think about plants that have lots of small heads
like some geraniums and they can be bright colors if that’s what you like,
pastel colors – Posy has a lot of pastel colors – or white. The next area we come
to is the lawn. And she’s got a round lawn which once again offsets
the long thin sides of the garden walls. It is hard to maintain a lawn in a small
garden because you have people walking over it and it can be affected by shade
but Posy used an eco-friendly grass which has a high proportion of clover in
it and this is more hard-wearing and she doesn’t need to cut it so much – and she
wouldn’t be able to get stripes in it, of course, but then she doesn’t really need
them – it’s a round lawn in the middle of a small garden. She has three trees in
the middle of this lawn and these provide wonderful privacy from a row of
neighboring houses opposite and if you want to know more about trees for
privacy there are links in the description below. She plants around this
lawn with beautiful signature plants like Cornus ‘Norman Haddon’ and hydrangeas and other plants that are quite happy with a bit
of shade – and there are a huge number of plants that are very happy with a bit of
shade – and then at the other side of the lawn the path starts again, and this
particular path is a seashell path which is environmentally friendly because it
uses a byproduct of the seafood industry and it also slowly decomposes so it’s
not like leaving a path that will still be there in a hundred years time. In this back area Posy has got a few vegetables and many people would use this as the
vegetable garden but she also uses it for planting flowers. And another element
that a small garden needs is some really big statement plants so Posy has chosen
echiums which tower up into the air 15 feet and are beloved by pollinators and
cardoons which are great statuesque architectural plants with huge gray
felty leaves. There are two other kinds of plants which Posy thinks works well
in small gardens and one of those are plants with movement – grasses and bamboos,
for example – that sway gently in the wind and once again you can see through them – you
can see that there is more garden behind even though you don’t know quite exactly
how far it might go. She also thinks that variegated leaves work well in small
gardens because they add light. These white and green or cream and green
striped and patterned leaves shine out of a dark corner and just add light to
borders. Trees are very important in any small garden – Posy’s garden has about
five trees and as you can see they don’t make the garden look smaller, they use
the vertical space and they’re great for climbers to go up into. When it comes to
pots Posy has decided this year to go for leaf contrast and architectural
shape, rather than flowers. On the Middle sized Garden blog I’ve done a post on
Posy’s garden and this grouping of pots is the favorite pin that people pin
from the post. Most of Posy’s furniture has come from junk shops or it’s been
handed down and she’s painted it in colors that harmonize
with the garden and that’s a lovely way of making your furniture look as if it
really was a bit special. There are links in the description below
to Posy Gentles Garden Design and some of the other resources i’ve mentioned in
this video and do hit ‘like’ if you’ve enjoyed this because then i’ll know
you’d like to hear more advice on planting, particularly for small gardens
and if you’d like tips, ideas and inspiration for your garden then do
subscribe to the Middlesized Garden Youtube channel and thank you for
watching, good bye!

24 thoughts on “Small garden planting ideas…plants for narrow or small gardens

  1. Gorgeous design. I love every inch of her space.
    I know that wide short gardens are less common, but I’d love to learn about similar approaches for them: What makes you NOT feel like sitting right in front of their far border and helps them appear more spacious?

  2. Hello Alexandra, It must be inspiring to have a cup of tea sitting amongst the beautiful flowers in this garden. So beautiful. Thank you for sharing. 🥰👍🥰 Take care and God Bless, Chris-Raleigh NC

  3. Such great tips! I didn’t plant gypsophila this year, but still have seeds. Will definately add some glitter next year with covenant garden.

  4. All those little rooms with windows to the other rooms are delightful. Great idea to break up the space and I adore the purple chairs and table in one of those rooms. Such a relaxing yet exciting space.

  5. I adore this garden- every inch of it! Thank you!!
    What are the hot pink spiral flowers in the beginning of the video? 2:02

  6. What a Beautiful garden, had you not mentioned the size I'd never guess it was that small. The meandering path practically disappears, Love that too, I think that helps make the garden look bigger as well. Thanks for sharing…and using the measure of feet.

  7. Lots of good ideas here (which I will happily call upon), so well illustrated in Posy's beautiful garden. I particularly like the flowers-as-glitter concept, and I believe this to be useful in not only a small narrow garden, but medium and large gardens. I find the effect of tiny flowers sprinkled through plants – and the overall garden – both subtle and enchanting, whereas large flowers can sometimes be distracting and overwhelming. The trees in this garden also play a critical role and are very cleverly positioned to provide structure and screening. Thanks for this most interesting video, Alexandra.

  8. Some great tips here Alexandra. I've just taken down my cardoon which was looking a bit tired. I wonder if you'll be coming to the Malvern Autumn show ? Would be good to meet you, I'll be there on Sunday.

  9. Excellent video – lots of valuable info in this. Enjoyed this really well presented episode Alexandra. You’re really hitting your straps…

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