The Tiny Garden, from Ault Park to Your Balcony

Landless gardeners and those confined to tiny yards and balcony gardening are an optimistic and creative bunch. We have learned, out of necessity, how to make the most of our small green spaces. We embrace the challenge knowing we can create divine designs with a little ingenuity and creativity.

When we come across gardens in person or in magazines, you may hear a deep sigh as we dream for a moment about how lovely it would be to have so much space to play with. But in a flash our garden gears are set in motion. We take in the landscape and find ways we can incorporate the feeling, the colors, textures and design style on a much, much smaller scale.

Ponds and large fountains are right out when your plot is a few strides wide and deep. However, a millstone set flush to the earth, resting on a sturdy grate over a water reserve and finished with polished stones is a rather nice water feature as well; in perfect scale to a tiny garden.

Maple trees and large expanse of grasses are swapped out with Japanese maples, ground hugging perennials and dwarf grasses. 

And the large veggie garden is brought down to single serving size, perfect for balconies and other small sunny spots.

Running out of space- garden up!  Where others see walls we see unplanted territories.

The first native-plants, vertical garden in northern New England coordinated by Lynn Felici-Gallantt of Coastal Home magazine and jointly owned by C.H. and Chuck Hugo of Charles C. Hugo Landscape Design, the designer.

Want a desert garden? No trouble, succulent container gardens do the trick. Like this beautiful design by the expert in all things succulent, Debra Lee Baldwin author of Designing with Succulents and Succulent Container Gardens.
The tiny garden is a tribute to creative thinking and an eye for detail. There is no room for errors in a tiny garden, literally! Every inch counts.


Studying the Winter Garden

I remember my early years as a gardener and the feelings of gloom and boredom that crept in with the winter months. As a novice gardener I mistakenly equated winter with the end of the garden season. Now that I am a seasoned gardener I know better.

Research, research, research.   Winter is a wonderful time to hone our garden skills.  We should learn all we can about new plants and garden design by reading as many books and magazines as we can get our hands on. It is blissfully self-indulgent to say, Today all I shall do is read garden books! No weeding, watering or plant divisions to call you away to the garden.
An example of how the right trees add visual interest in the winter landscape.

This climbing hydrangea is a spectacular plant and now that I see it in the winter, it has definitely moved up a few rungs on my favorite list. The twisty, knotty contortions of the branches contrast nicely to the linear form of the arbor. The bark itself is also visually interesting. I am drawn to the structure and order of a formal garden, but too much order can be boring. Thankfully, this hydrangea adds just the right amount of drama.
This garden vignette would be far less effective sans the larger planter taking center stage. It provides a focal point in the spring, fall and winter months. In the summer, it is often obstructed by a lush planting.

Study the winter garden before setting pencil to paper to design a garden. It is so easy to get swept away with flowers and foliage. I think that is why most of us get hooked on gardening- the flowers! But if we want to be more than good garden designers we must design for all the seasons- which can be tricky. It may tie designing for continuous bloom in the garden as a new gardener’s toughest lesson to learn. By studying the winter garden we learn about structure, flow, scale, texture, and the importance of adding non-green materials to the landscape.

 A snow covered bench in the winter garden.
Generously include trees and shrubs with winter berries. The red of these berries pop against a backdrop of evergreens, snow and grey skies.

Even on the coldest winter day a well designed garden will draw us in and embrace us. A well designed garden has good bones. The foundation of the garden is not in annuals and perennials. Rather, it is in its shape, form, flow of the beds, inclusion of trees and shrubs and non-green items. Without these design elements, even an expertly arranged collection of annuals and perennials will fall a bit short of a success. I liken it to cooking. The perfect sauce needs an equally impressive meat or pasta to make the meal a success!


Snowflakes on Roses

The park on a cold, snowy day still holds spots of bright color and very pleasant surprises. I was warming up with hot cider and editing my pictures when these delicate snowflakes caught my eye. What a lovely sight.


Before the First Snow Flies

Before the first snow began to fall in Cincinnati and the Arctic blast sent us hightailing it indoors, the park's gardens were still appealing and full of beautiful surprises. I am pleased that the park florist, what we call horticulturalists here in the Queen City, did not deadhead and cut back all the plants. The seed heads and spent flowers are attractive and worth a closer look. While they may not be lush and full of color, their earth tones and simplicity is striking. I liken it to the bones, or structure, of a garden. Take away the lush foliage and blooming plants and a garden should still be inviting and inspiring.
Better plants are the same as a well designed garden. Their basic structure should still hold our interest after the last leaf and flower have fallen. I think there is something soothing about the colors of a fall garden. On this clear, crisp day, the bright blue sky coupled with the browns and tans of the plants made me think of the earth, rich and fertile, resting before the next season. The colors of an autumn garden are more quiet than exciting. An autumn garden is calm, it is reflective.
We can see just enough of what was the year's garden to appreciate what we had and plan for next year's changes. The autumn garden allows us to set our tools down for a while and just observe. There are no more flowers to deadhead, the dividing and replanting is complete and the spring bulbs are even tucked away in the beds. Now it is time to just sit and be still.
And then I saw this, a beautiful Holly tree in striking contrast to the understated beauty of the flower gardens.
Before heading home I took a quick peek at one of my gardens at the park. Putting Down Roots II, my shade garden, still had some show left in it thanks to the Autumn and Tassel Ferns. At least, I think that is their names. The tags are missing. It is not uncommon for park visitors to take tags of plants that they like. Makes me happy to give them a plant idea for their own garden, but leaves me in a bit of a pickle when I want to remember what I planted. Note to self- garden journal!