Moss and Green Landscape Garden Design and Maintenance
SMALL GARDENS CAN BE WONDERFUL, SO WHY NOT GO FOR YOUR OWN MINIATURE LANDSCAPE ON YOUR ROOF, PATIO OR BALCONY?
People choose balcony, patio, and courtyard gardening for lots of different reasons. Some are moving from a big family home to a smaller house, some don’t want the bother of maintaining a large property, and some choose to live in smaller apartments, which may be closer to the city. Whatever the reason, this doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the bliss of owning a garden, because no space is too small for a mini-garden. One plant in a pot is a garden. In fact, ever more gardening options are available in terms of containers, half-barrels, window boxes and troughs– the list is filled with possibilities.
Planning a Mini- Garden
When planning your mini garden there are a number of things to consider. In theory, containers overflowing with flowers, herbs, grasses and vegetables can transform balconies and porches into green and leafy retreats. In reality, the effect is often closer to "patio dotted with random plants," so you need to get organised. The first thing is to determine is what purpose this space will serve. Do you want to grow vegetables, entertain loved ones or meditate – try to pin down what you actually want from your garden.
If possible, take a chair and sit down, move it around and find the place that feels best - somewhere relaxing with good light. Wherever that is, place your seating such as a wicker chair, wooden bench, dining furniture, swing, etc. Do you want a formal or casual setting? What areas of interest do you want? Do you want to incorporate a particular theme?Original elements such as water, flowers, vegetables, mirrors, ponds, colour, etc. add the finishing touches to your mini garden. Finally, make a plan particularly if you are going to add elements such as slate, decking or feature walls.
Creating a Small Space Garden
Containers. I recommend white or light coloured pots for patio gardening, as darker colors absorb too much sun and transfer heat to the soil very rapidly. If you use dark containers, plants that are watered in the morning (which is the right time) will probably wilt from dehydration and have to be watered again in the late afternoon. Remember that wet soil weighs a lot so if you garden on a balcony weight restrictions may apply. Containers made from lighter weight materials such as fibreglass are ideal for roof or balcony gardens. Styles of containers include hanging baskets, wood window boxes, galvanized buckets, and all manner of recycled objects.
Scale. You need to use space cleverly in your mini garden. For example, small plants look more balanced in small containers, large plants in bigger pots. I relish the effect of vines growing on trellis in half-barrels with smaller plants edging the container. Over the years, I have grown many different vines in half barrels but have found that the effect of scarlet runner pole beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) is really a knockout with their gorgeous red flowers and you can eat them too.
Microclimates. So, what plants go where? Choose plants best suited to the conditions suitable for their optimum growth. Plants such as begonia (Begonia x semperflorens), coleus (Coleus x hybridous), and Fuchsia (Fuchsia x hybrida) love shaded, darker areas while geraniums (Pelargonium x hortorum), marigolds (Tagetes erecta), and petunia (Petunia x hybrida) flourish in the sunlight. Wind can also be a factor and damage delicate plants. Choose varieties that are wind tolerant such as many of the grasses; the sound of the rustling of the grasses as the wind blows through them is wonderfully relaxing.
Soil. I generally buy pre-mixed potting soil from local garden centers or nurseries. I find that these are lighter to carry, sterilized to stop weed seeds from germinating, and contain generous amounts of peat moss that helps loosen the soil so that it will not compact in pots.
Watering. Check every day as potted plants often dry out more quickly. This is especially true if you are using earthenware pots. Make sure pots have holes for water to drain out, as roots sitting in water will rot. When there has been a lot of rain - we do live in Ireland - empty saucers that are full.
Fertiliser. Because they need to be watered often, container plants require fertiliser on a more consistent basis then plants in the soil do. Use organic fertilisers ( if you can ) such as bone meal, or fish emulsion, particularly if the soil is going to be added to the garden at the end of the season, as many commercial fertilisers harm the wildlife.
Function. When you are designing your mini garden you are actually designing an outdoor room. Remember that this can be colour co-ordinated to appear as an extension of your house. I move my house plants outside for the summer (which they love) and develop these areas as garden rooms.
Focal point. Create a point of interest such as a dramatic urn, unusual plant or tree, colour, or a water feature. Popular vines such as Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) will grow in a big container and come back year after year. Create a sense of mystique by hiding a plant or ornament behind something else to give the pleasure of finding it.
Colour. Where space is tight, use three colours such as pinks, blues, and whites; reds, oranges, and yellows; reds, whites, and blues; or reds, whites, and purples that provide a stylish backdrop for your garden. Cool colours make the space look larger and brighter while deep colours shrink spaces. A white and green colour theme called a ‘moon garden’ is more a sophisticated look at night is just wonderful. Many white flowers are fragrant at night as well.
Lighting. I especially like pretty fairy lights twisted through branches and interwoven throughout a trellis for a shabby chic look. Up lighting with tiny spotlights can put attention on a particular area for evening entertaining. Magical.
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