When it comes to small space gardening, a little bit of careful planning goes a long way in helping to get the most out of your space. At the end of one of my posts from last Autumn (‘In the garden September’) I mentioned that I’d been starting to think about some outdoor planting ideas for my next place. Over the colder months, I like doing some imaginary garden sketching — usually in a drawing book but also on Pinterest too, to me it’s sort of like virtual armchair gardening. A few of you asked to have a peek at my ideas so I’ll be sharing them with you today — I hope you enjoy!
This post has two halves — last week I detailed my thoughts on pots + planters that work well in a more limited location + I had a really positive response so thank you very much! In today’s part 2 we’ll be turning our attention to the plants that will inhabit these pots + vessels plus I’ll be sharing what’s on my personal planting wish list, in case you wondered.
The things I like to grow + the plants that have been in my thoughts + sketches most certainly fall into the category of ‘small-space suitable’ because I think I’ll have access to a small courtyard garden terrace that I can plant out in my next place. With that in mind, I thought that I’d first share my most recent page from my sketchbook with you by way of an introduction to what I’m planning:
Some balcony sketching at my old apartment:
My existing pots + plants
Before I get into my planting wish-list, the first thing to consider is how my current gang of pots on my patio here in the cottage are looking + what ones I’m thinking of bringing with me when I move. After Winter, there are some quite unkempt looking plants that are in need of some attention + others which just did not tolerate the colder months for their first winter up North!
Here’s a note of my existing plants I’m planning on incorporating into my new planting ideas:
- 3x oxalis triangularis pots (currently dormant)
- 2x lavender pots (need a tidy up)
- 1x horsetail grass (pruned back)
- 2x cycads didn’t like winter much, but will give them a chance to bounce back
- my herb pots: mint, parsley, marjoram, thyme, rosemary (need to re-pot some of these + tidy up)
- dig up my shasta daisies from the border that are starting to grow again + divide into 2 pots
You might remember that some of my balcony plants are still being looked after/been adopted by my family in Wales because they wouldn’t fit on the moving van (too many houseplants!) I found these videos below on my computer this week + it was lovely to see some of my plants again! This was from the last Spring on my balcony:
Last weekend I was able to work through most of the above list + here’s how some of the plants are looking now — I dug up the shasta daisy + cut back/repotted some herbs all in lightweight planters until after I move:
Budgeting for plants + how to keep costs down
Now that we’ve addressed the more structural side of small space planting in Part 1, I wanted to share some of the ways that I budget for plants + keep my gardening costs down before we get into the plants that are on my shopping list/wish list. It goes without saying that gardening can be an expensive hobby, but there are some ways to save your pennies with plants + garden on a budget. For more on this, here’s a link to a post I wrote last year that includes some other ideas of how I keep costs down in the garden.
Propagating by division
First off, taking cuttings or divisions of plants you already have will help to multiply your stock for no cost whatsoever — a win-win situation. Propagating might sound like a fancy term, but with many outdoor plants it really is often just a case of taking the plant out of the pot + dividing it up into multiple clumps to be planted up separately. This is a great place to start as you will already be familiar with the plants in question + will know that they like growing in your area. With my oxalis for example, when the plant hits dormancy in Autumn, I often empty the pot + divide up the tubers so that I can grow multiple pots of it when it starts growing again in Spring.
If you are planning on growing a garden as a slower project over a number of years, harvesting seeds from your current plants at the end of the season is another excellent way to increase your bounty for free. You’ll always find me collecting seeds from my sweet peas + poppies to store over winter in a stash of little brown envelopes with names scrawled on them if I remember…sometimes I’m not entirely sure what I’ve planted but that’s part of the fun. Even if you don’t have any plants yet, growing from seed will always give you much more for your money if you have the space — I’m a big windowsill seed sower! The main thing to remember with seeds is that they take a bit of forward planning, so that’s why I like to keep a list together of my favourite plants to look out for. I enjoy the process very much + can highly recommend it as a rainy day activity — a pot of coffee whilst browsing seed catalogues is an excellent way to spend an afternoon. As I haven’t been able to plant my seeds this year, I’m getting even more excited with my plans for next year!
Look out in your local area for community gardens or gardeners sharing their stock for little or no cost. I have found gardeners to be so generous here + during lockdown last summer, I got runner bean plants for free, alongside apples too from a table outside someones home! In another instance, I was walking in the park + found a load of pots that had been collated together by a local gardening club to share with the community (with an honesty box to make a small contribution). I picked up this shasta daisy below left + a pot of marjoram which is doing so well. In terms of choosing plants to pick, I always like to see what people are growing nearby. My oxalis triangularis that always gets attention was dug up from a relatives garden quite a few years ago+ it’s now multiplied over 3 pots on my patio! This is particularly useful if you are in a different growing zone like I am (two zones colder) + are unsure about how certain plants cope over Winter. I don’t have the space to bring plants indoors (because… houseplants) so I need hardy growers that can withstand a Winter outside.
My outdoor space plant wish list…
This wish list has been growing on my laptop for ages + anytime I see something I like, I’ll add it on to remind my future self to look it up! I’ve also got a similar note on my phone + names scribbled in quite a collection of notebooks too. As I’ve said before, outdoor gardening is very much a hobby of mine + learning as I go is part of the fun + whilst I don’t have a big garden, I’m glad you enjoy seeing my outdoor planting experiments too. Houseplants can sometimes feel like work to me as they are part of my job, but outdoors is a different matter altogether.
The obvious thing to note here is that this is very much a hypothetical type of list because I am not sure of the specific conditions in my next place yet, so of course, the first thing to do will be to respond to the site in question! Choosing the right plants for the right places are the first things to address, always. But I hope by sharing my personal plant list, I might give you an idea of the kind of approach I would like to take + provide some inspiration if you are also planning on growing a small space garden.
Difference + Repetition
This is a very niche reference but I actually wrote part of my doctoral thesis about the concept of difference + repetition — an area of continental philosophy developed by French Philosopher Gilles Deleuze. Of course, I’m not going into that here + instead I’m talking about difference + repetition in relation to devising a planting scheme! Especially in a smaller plot, less is more when it comes to adding different types of plants into the mix. But a space that plays with a limited variety of plants does not have to be boring + it can actually really elevate the overall look. For example, choosing to plant a couple of cultivars of lavender can seem subtle, yet the difference in colouration + growth habit creates interest, whilst still retaining an overall consistency. In the lists below, you’ll see that I’ve included a choice of cultivars for this reason. Also, by repeating groupings across a couple of planters or pots it can help stop each individual container feeling like an island + unite the space as a whole.
Overall, I love naturalistic planting with a limited colour palette — lots of greens + whites + creams + a pop of darker tones too. I like the idea that the main elements of the garden will be predominantly green + verdurous, with seasonal interest popping through with hints of colour mixed in with grasses. For example, I LOVE how the planting of tulips + grasses look together, so this is something I would love to execute, even if on a smaller scale in a raised bed or across a swathe of planters.
These are a few Hydrangea I particularly like:
Hydrangea bushes always looks incredible when planted on a larger scale like these in Wentworth Gardens (National Trust) but if you have a smaller space, they are a sturdy choice for a pot plant + it’s always how I’ve grown them. I’m planning on getting an ‘Annabelle’ for my bargain planter I showed in the last post + possibly a ‘Limelight’ too if space allows.
- Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’
- Hydrangea arborescens Annabelle
- Hydrangea paniculata Silver Dollar
A variety of grasses such as:
Planting a collection of grasses en masse is one of my favourite styles because it’s striking but also low maintenance. This is an important consideration before embarking on any gardening project as it will help you choose the types of plants you want to grow. Think about how much time you would like to spend tending to your plants + how they’ll grow over time. Because of my houseplant collection, I need things that are not too high maintenance as my indoor plants take up a fair amount of time. That’s another reason why small-space gardening suits me! Grasses are great because they can pretty much look after themselves + offer a long-lasting display.
- Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ (black mondo grass)
- Hakonechloa macra
- Miscanthus sinesis ‘Gracillimus’ (Eulalia / Chinese Silver Grass)
- Festuca glauca (blue fescue)
- Stipa tenuissima / stipa tenufolia (pony tails/angel hair)
- Stipa gigantea / golden oats
- Pennisetum alopecuroides Hameln (fountain grass)
- Anemanthele lessoniana (Pheasant’s tail Grass)
- Briza maxima (Greater quaking grass)
If I have the option for a climber, these are some I particularly like:
- Clematis Miss Bateman
- Clematis cirrhosa Wisley Cream
- Clematis Guernsey Cream
- Clematis montana var. grandiflora
- Climbing Hydrangea / Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris
- Chinese wisteria (Wisteria sinensis var. Sinensis f. alba)
- Trachelospermum jasminoides (star jasmine)
As an alternative to a climber (aka if there aren’t any suitable ‘climbing’ spaces), if I have a corner on the terrace that could take a little Magnolia I might be tempted to do this instead — I love a little Star Magnolia (below right) in a small garden. Basically something with some white flowers like any of these would be lovely. If the position gets some shade, a climbing hydrangea would be a solid choice.
Kitchen herb garden type plants I particularly like:
In a small space, you need to grow plants that work for you + your lifestyle. For me, this means LOTS of herbs. I love to cook + no matter how small my outdoor spaces have been in the past, I’ve always managed to grow a doorstep planter or two so that I have a plentiful supply for culinary delights. There are lots of interesting varieties of mint that I particularly enjoy steeped in water as a herbal tea + they taste so much better than anything shop bought! As I mentioned in Part 1, I think I’ll try to plant up a reclaimed Belfast planter that fits my space + keep it near my back door. These are ones that are on my list:
- Chamaemelum nobile (roman chamomile)
- Allium tuberosum (garlic chives)
- Borago officials Alba / blanca (white borage)
- Thymus serpyllum snowdrift (creeping thyme)
- Chocolate mint (Mentha × piperita f. citrata Chocolate)
- Angelica archangelica (Angel’s fishing rod)
- Apple mint (Mentha suaveolens)
- Sage ‘tangerine’ (Salvia elegans Tangerine)
- Rosemary (rosemary/ syn. Salvia rosmarinus ‘Miss Jessopp’s Upright’)
A potted ‘tree’ that can be moved, I always love an Olive, Eucalyptus or Bay tree + keeping them in a pot + pruning will help stop them getting too out of hand + in-keeping with the smaller space (particularly the Eucalyptus!):
- Olive tree (Olea europaea)
- Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus gunnii)
- Bay tree (Laurus nobilis)
Tulips + grasses are a favourite planting combination of mine + whether in a pot, a raised bed or a little border, I have my eye on these varieties for next year:
- ‘Paul Scherer’ — this almost black variety adds such a depth to a design + works with a more pared-back palette
- ‘Swan Wings’ — white + ruffles, what more can I say? I don’t know what it is about flowers with feathery petals that I love so much, but more on that later.
- ‘White Triumphator’ — these lily flowered tulips with their arching petals look so beautiful on their own, planted in swathes across a raised bed, but I think they’re equally good when paired with Queen of the night too.
- ‘Snow Crystal’ — this is a lovely variety that has a more rounded form + compact, fluffy petals.
- ‘White Parrot’ — is a frilly number with hints of green that is voluminous in form.
- ‘White Lizard’ — has a hint of grey-mauve-blue in the petals + is cool + understated. which is why I like the idea of keeping the colour quite minimal + playing with the shapes + structures instead.
As much as a restrained approach works well from a design perspective, I’m very aware when the catalogues arrive on my doorstep that I might feel overcome by the urge to pick up a couple of my colourful favourites: ‘Apricot Parrot‘, ‘Green Wave‘ + ‘La Belle Epoque‘!
After the tulips have faded, I always enjoy the appearance of poppies in a garden + they are great for small spaces as they don’t take up much room at all! They are very tolerant yet so delicate + look like crumpled up tissue paper when the light catches these petals right. I love to grow loads so that I can use some for cut flowers in the house. These are some of my current favourites:
- Papaver nudicaule ‘champagne bubbles white’ (Iceland Poppy)
- Eschscholzia californica ‘Thai Silk Pink Champagne’ (California Poppy)
- Papaver somniferum ‘Lilac Pompom’ (Opium Poppy) — this would be a pretty pairing with ‘Amazing Grey’ if you know that one. I just love the riot of dishevelled shaggy looking petals + I found some growing out of a pavement here last Summer + they’ve been on my mind since then!
- Papaver orientale ‘Royal Wedding’ (Oriental Poppy) — these white blooms have a black centre — a minimalist’s dream! Aesthetically, they remind me of Anemone Mistral Bianco Centro Nero.
All sorts on this part of the list (Echinacea + Lavender are particular favourites in any garden scheme):
This is where my list gets less ordered + more shambolic, but I thought you’d like to see it anyway! I always try to keep notes of particular cultivars that I love so that I can try to stay focused when I get that seed-packet mind-blank at the garden centre.
Alongside the plants below, wildflower seeds + plants for pollinators are also something I look out for in general — even in a small space, I’ve grown wildflowers successfully in pots for a few years now, so don’t let having a container garden put you off!
- Echinacea purpurea ‘Coconut Lime’
- Echinacea purpurea ‘Virgin’
- Echinacea purpurea ‘Milkshake’
- I always have a few pelargoniums around the place, not loyal to a particular variety though
- Nigella damascena ‘Albion Green Pod’ (Love-in-the-mist)
- Nigella damascena ‘Albion Black Pod’ (Love-in-the- Mist)
- Nigella damascena ‘Miss Jekyll Alba’ (Love-in-the- Mist)
- Allium neapolitanum Cowanii group (ornamental onion)
- Lavandula angustifolia Imperial Gem (for low hedges if suitable)
- Lavandula angustinifolia ‘Hidcote’ (English Lavender ‘Hidcote’)
- Lavandula angustifolia Arctic Snow (White lavender)
- All kinds of sweet peas because they are my favourite! They did well in pots last year, so long as they have enough stability with room to grow + a sturdy support planted deep. Their upright growth habit makes them good for small spaces too.
- Scabious ‘kudos White’
- Orlaya grandiflora (White laceflower)
- Gypsophila paniculata (Baby’s breath)
- Cornflower ‘The Bride’
- Sunflower ‘Italian White’
- Calendula ‘Snow Princess’
- Dahlia ‘Cafe au Lait’
- Olearia x haastii (daisy bush)
- Anemone Mistral Bianco Centro Nero
- Helleborus x hybridus Pretty Ellen White
- Salvia x sylvestris Schneehugel (Wood Sage)
- Salvia greggii ‘Mirage Cream’ (Autumn Sage)
- Artemesia ‘powis castle’
- Achillea millefolium (common yarrow)
- Ammi majus ‘Graceland’ (Bullwort / Bishop’s weed)
These photos from Wentworth again are a good example of the sort of style that I enjoy — fluffy clouds of soft greens + lavenders + whites mixed up with wafting golden grasses standing tall. I know this is a larger bed, but this style can certainly be emulated on a smaller scale to suit most spaces.
It goes without saying that this is not an exhaustive list but just gives an idea of plants I enjoy growing in a smaller space + ones I’m planning on growing later this year + next. I hope you enjoyed a bit of gardening inspiration in today’s post + please feel free to save or share with someone who might enjoy it:
Next week, we are back to houseplants + I’ll be sharing the process of repotting my 3 large monstera plants! Until then —