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Make the Most of Your Small-Space Garden

by Suzanne DeJohn

No matter what the size of your growing area, you can have a beautiful and bountiful garden. Maybe you're limited to growing plants on a balcony, or you're trying to brighten up a corner near your front door. Or perhaps time constraints prevent you from expanding your gardens. Whatever the reason, here are some plant suggestions and gardening techniques to help you make the most of your garden space.

Choosing Plants
Plants described as "dwarf," "compact," "tidy" or "clump-forming," and those with "an upright habit" are good choices for gardeners with limited space. Avoid those with descriptors like "sprawling," "multiplies readily" or "good for naturalizing" as these may overrun your small space.

Plant breeders have done wonders taking large species and creating smaller-stature varieties. Stella D'Oro Daylily, for example, grows about 16" tall; compare that to the Original Orange Daylily at 48" tall. Similarly, Brim Cup Hosta grows a manageable 16" tall and wide, while Sum and Substance Hosta grows 4' tall and up to 9' wide! So it pays to plant descriptions carefully.

Bee Balm Petite Delight is a compact variety suitable for small gardens.

Here's a list of plants that are compact, long-blooming and/or have attractive foliage: Recommended Perennial Plants for Small-Space Gardens.

Helpful Techniques

  • Look for plants described as reblooming or with a long season of bloom. Reblooming Bearded Iris bloom in early summer and again in fall; Hardy Geraniums, especially Max Frei Geranium, produce flowers over much of the summer into fall.
  • Select plants with attractive foliage. Look for plants with variegated or colorful leaves that attract the eye even when the plant isn't in bloom — Coral Bells and Hostas are good candidates for a small-space garden.
  • Include some woody shrubs for height and winter interest. Pee Wee Hydrangea, for example, is a compact shrub that boasts attractive fall color and flower clusters from summer into autumn.
  • Look to vines to add height and drama. A pretty obelisk or trellis adds interest year-round and is stunning adorned with colorful Clematis.
  • Combine edibles and ornamentals. Don't give up on growing food because of tight growing space. Tuck attractive edibles like Peppers, Chard and Basi among your flowers.
  • Grow in containers. Expand your garden space by growing plants in pots on your patio, deck, front stoop or anywhere you have a few square feet to spare.

Clematis Nelly Moser climbs a lamp post.

Coral Bellls Snow Angel has variegated foliage.