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Never too small: How to garden with limited space

JAN 18, 2024  | WRITTEN BY BOTSOC NATIONAl. photos by JOY PHALA

 

Above: Award-winning landscape designer Joy Phala says gardening in a small space can be very fulfilling if you use your space cleverly. 

Every year on 19 January, botany lovers across the world celebrate International Flower Day. This commemorative day encourages us to appreciate the colourful floral beauty that nature puts on display throughout the seasons – and inspires us to invite nature into our spaces too.

You might think you need acres of land to cultivate your perfect garden, but a small space need not be a limitation. In fact, some botanical magic can happen if you embrace using your small space to the fullest!

Award-winning landscape designer Joy Phala (from Organic Kitchen Gardens) shared some innovative ideas for gardening in small spaces during our October plant conservation webinar.

Above left: Being in a garden is the happy place for Joy AND friends. Above right: Joy is a proponent of planting herbs in your garden, in order to use fresh herbs in your meals. 

“The question I get asked most often is how to make a small garden beautiful,” she says. “You live in the city because it’s convenient, but often the only thing separating you from your neighbour is just a boundary wall.” These precious square metres can be used optimally with some careful planning and a bit of elbow grease.

But even if you have no outdoor space available, you can use these principles to transform a windowsill or balcony into a dedicated green area where blooms abound.

 

Above: Joy has worked on many gardens, and in this instance, the client wanted to create a feeling of a garden on the concrete patio, showing just what can be done, even with limited or no lawn. 

Here are Joy’s top tips for designing a small-space garden:

  1. Play the optical illusion game. Create distinct zones with separate purposes, and make use of different levels to make your garden feel bigger than it is. This can be achieved by adding a raised patio, or creating different small ‘rooms’ in your garden.
  2. ‘Invite’ yourself outside. By creating dedicated pockets of visual interest that catch the eye, you will feel more inclined to spend time in your garden. Try including some strategically placed artwork and seating that gives visitors a reason to go outside.
  3. Use texture to create depth. By selecting plants – or furniture – of varying heights, you will naturally draw the eye upwards and create the impression of space. It also adds a more layered look, which gives your visitors more to look at.
  4. Soften harsh materials. In the city it can be hard to escape concrete, paving and brick. Be intentional about including greenery – especially when it comes to the facade or entrance to your home. Grass and other plants will immediately make you feel more welcome when you arrive home after a long day.
  5. Don’t forget about water. A water feature is an easy and impactful way to level up your garden. Even in a small corner of your garden, or in an apartment, the sound of trickling water creates an effortlessly calming atmosphere. You can even add some koi fish, if you have the space.

Bonus tip: Limit your colour palette

Too many warm, bright colours in a tight space can feel like an assault on the senses. Cool colours, conversely, create the impression that the garden is stretching away from you and makes it feel bigger. Keep this in mind when selecting both plants and furniture. Joy recommends classic plants, like the indigenous agapanthus, which is popular in both white and blue. Plus, if you’re feeling hot, cooler colours will have a refreshing, calming effect.

Above: Joy has a challenge for all plant lovers: We live in one of the most unique, biodiverse corners of earth – so plant something indigenous today. 

More tips and ideas

Be sure to follow Joy on Facebook or Instagram.

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