Urban gardeners tend to work with very limited space, whether they have a tiny terrace, a courtyard encased by walls or a bijou balcony. But with a little clever thinking, it’s possible to make these gardens look just as fabulous as their country counterparts.
One of the best ways to achieve this is by growing in containers, rather than raised beds. This makes it easier to switch things around seasonally.
1. Go big
Growing your own plants is not only great for the environment, but it also gives you access to a wide range of healthy herbs and vegetables that aren’t available at the grocery store. Plus, home-grown produce tastes better!
Plants in containers and hanging baskets work best for a balcony that’s severely strapped for space. They also allow you to change things up seasonally.
2. Mirrors and tiles
Urban gardens are often small, overlooked or hemmed in by fences and walls. If you’re struggling to add a sense of open space, consider using mirror tiles.
Creating cascading plants on the balcony is another cheap and easy way to add green. Charlotte’s favourites include the evergreen trachelospermum and Dichondra, with its iridescent silver leaves. ‘They both look lovely all year round.
3. Go green on the walls
Adding lush, green plants blurs the boundaries of a garden and can make it feel bigger. Charlotte Rowe likes to use vines, shrubs and trees in her garden designs, especially slatted fences and trellis.
She also grows a mix of scented shrubs and flowers for a country lane feel – she says lupins, sweet peas, rambling roses and foxgloves work well. Planting a cascading climber such as Convolvulus sabatius or Dichondra is another great urban garden idea.
4. Go oversized
Many urban gardeners are tempted to scale down plants but this can leave your garden looking bare and sparse. Instead go big and add depth with larger plants like citrus trees – perfect for patios and balconies.
Charlotte has worked on a wide range of urban gardens from tiny terraces to courtyard encased spaces and bijou balcony gardens. She recommends choosing a colour scheme that works with your interior.
5. Go decking
If you don’t have the space for a lawn, decking is a great option for an urban garden. You can use a wide variety of plants to add interest and texture.
Avoid solid walls or fences as they can make a garden feel claustrophobic, instead cover them in greenery. Plants like ferns and palms have nice textures, but you could also try climbing flowers.
6. Go oversized
There’s a tendency to scale down when planning an urban garden, but this can leave you with a fussy and cluttered space. Instead, go oversized with plants like the banana trees in this gorgeous courtyard garden.
If you don’t have much space, try planting shallow-rooted vegetables and flowers that grow well in confined spaces such as radishes and herbs. Or choose flowers that have a light fragrance like these sweet-smelling lilyturf roses.
7. Go oversized with mirrors
It can be easy to go too small when designing a tiny urban garden, but doing so will just create a cluttered space. Using larger plants, like this courtyard garden filled with towering banana trees, helps to blur the boundaries and add depth.
Fences can feel imposing, but they can easily be disguised with lots of lush greenery and larger trees. Try a cascading plant, like Dichondra, to cover balcony railings.
8. Go decking
Urban gardens often lack space for lush greenery. Look to the walls for a solution – whether it’s beautiful climbers that billow messily or something more sleek and contemporary like a living wall.
Layer the walls with plants for a wide range of textures and shades of green. Here, ferns and palms contrast with ivy, jasmine and roses. Add a little rustic style to the area with wooden crates that hold the potted plants.
9. Go green on the walls
Urban gardens are often confined by walls, fences and balconies. This can make them feel claustrophobic so choose lush green plants that cover the walls.
Plant hedging or climbers like this clematis that drapes over the wall or this convolvulus sabatius with its lilac-blue flowers over the balcony rail. These plants grow quickly and look beautiful.
Charlotte Rowe is an award-winning designer who specialises in making ordinary town gardens look larger. She’s worked on roof gardens, bijou balconies and family town garden spaces.
10. Go decking
If your garden is a tiny terrace encased in walls, a bijou balcony or a rooftop spot try decking out the space. It will instantly make the space look bigger and feel more like an extension of your house.
Cascading plants like clematis, lilac-blue flowers and dichondra (which has iridescent silver leaves) are great for urban gardens, especially for balcony railings. They will also help to add privacy.