We live in an urban world. Sometimes the challenges of design aren’t about realising our perfect space, but creating the perfect space with where we are. The first thing that springs to mind when you think about a garden isn’t traffic and buildings, but the reality is that most of us don’t have acres of land to contemplate where to put the rose bush or lay out a water feature. Needless to say gardening in an urban area has its restraints, but it need not be restraining.
Urban gardens are generally small in size, but there is no reason they cannot be as grand or informal as you like. Virtually any plant or garden style can be worked into a small urban garden space. The principles of good garden design still apply.
The main challenges on design will be:
Size: Most urban gardens are small. They may be able to accomodate some great features, but can only really be designed as a whole, otherwise they will seem disjointed.
Space: Limited space means you are going to have to make choices about what you plant. You won’t be able to grow everything you love. You will need to curb your enthusiasm.
Colour: You’ll need to offer less colour to give the illusion of space. However, you can compensate for the limited colour palette with a variety of textures. The textural contrast will help blend the plant material and allow the garden to flow.
Purpose: everything will have to have a reason to be there. There is no room for wasted space if you want your design to work.
On the up side, there are certain advantages. Such as detail: In a small garden, the gardener can pay attention to detail. And less work: You can keep on top of maintenance, while still having time to sit and enjoy your small garden. In fact, many small space gardens are designed around entertaining and sitting areas, rather than the need to nurture plants.
Regardless, urban living presents many challenges that are out of your control. When planning your urban garden, take a look around your site for possible problems and difficulties and plan for work around.
Here’s a few things to think about when planning your urban landscape:
Access: How accessible is your garden? Can you get to it with various tools and supplies you’ll need?
Privacy: Have you got any? Do you want people to see in and share the view?
Hot Spots: Are you going to find blaring sunshine in your space or will the nearby buildings block it entirely? This will determine plants. If you have glaring heat on concrete, then it will reflect back on the plants and you’ll need some shade.
Water: Crucial question really. Can you get a hose to your garden? You could think about other options if not. Such as a rain barrel.
Traffic: Nearby traffic can cause pollution and wind that can damage and possibly kill plants. Another problem of nearby roads is snow removal and road salt. You’ll need to be very selective when choosing plants, focusing on hardy, drought tolerant plants.
Authorisation: Often in urban spaces there might be the need for permits if you are renovating a garden. Just double check to be on the safe side. There’s no point doing all the work and creative thinking, only to be disappointed by restrictions on permission.
Lovely View? Not everyone is blessed with a view of a forest or a stream or a field or even another garden. You might have to face something more urban, such as a skip or a huge bin. But chances are you can hide it with a shrub, or a vine covered trellis.
So Can You Love an Urban Garden?
Absolutely. Yes! An urban garden can be a wonderful oasis, a great place to relax and a source of bountiful homegrown produce. You can still have a green thumb in close quarters with limited light. City dwellers everywhere are finding new and innovative ways to bring the outside in by urban gardening. Apartments can be homes to much more than the common houseplant — try fresh flowers, herbs and even fruits and vegetables instead.
If you’re looking for an urban design for you then we’ve got plenty of great urban garden design ideas for you.