I always expected to have a large yard in which to grow flowers, vegetables and herbs. I envisioned a small lawn and designing designated spaces for planting. There would be a kitchen garden near the door with herbs for cooking, a cutting garden in a sunny area so the house would have fresh flowers, a rose garden with fragrant David Austin old roses, and perennials throughout serving as the garden anchors and offering winter interest.
It was a nice daydream.
Living for more than 35 years in a Fairfax County townhouse, I’ve had very limited planting space. Yet I still have a garden filled with herbs, some vegetables, and lots of perennials and flowers. It’s become a lush garden, and it remains a work in progress. The garden is filled with hanging planters, plant towers, containers and trellises.
In creating a garden in small spaces, you must have good design and be creative. Each spring, I plant annuals for seasonal color. I use containers and choose plants wisely. I might put an evergreen in a flower pot and then add annuals to it in the summer. I plant herbs with flowers both in the garden and in containers. I use walls, fences and trellises for perennial vines that soften the town house, add interest, and give bursts of color in spring and summer.
I’m always on the lookout for unusual ways to plant. I recently saw an adorable dog house with its roof planted in creeping fig (Ficus pumila). I immediately planted one to cover a bench where no one sits. The fig spread quickly. A favorite vine is a native passion vine (Passiflora caerulea) that rewards me with yummy yellow fruit every fall, and the late summer flowers are spectacular. A wall shared with a neighbor is covered with Boston Ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata). This is not a true ivy. It has shiny green leaves in the spring that turn magnificent shades of red and pink in the fall.
I’m a big fan of gardener, author and photographer Derek Fell, who has an award-winning garden of flowers, fruits, and vegetables. One of his many books, Vertical Gardening: Grow Up, Not Out, for More Vegetables and Flowers in Much Less Space, offers recommendations for the best climbers for space-saving, and I have successfully followed his suggestions.
You can garden anywhere. Be creative. Try things. My grandfather gardened on a fire escape in New York City in the 1930s. There are many space-saving solutions – in shutters between slats, between pavers, in a frame, on a chair, in the middle of a table as a living centerpiece. Use imagination, and plan your spring garden.
Author Gioia Caiola Forman is a Green Spring Gardens Master Gardener and a board member of the Friends of Green Spring.
Green Spring Master Gardeners host their annual Eco-Savvy Symposium promoting sustainable and ecologically sound gardening on Saturday, February 17, 2018, at Green Spring Gardens. Author Derek Fell and Thomas Schneider, Executive Director of Rooftop Roots, will be among the speakers. For more information or registration call 703-642-5173.