A guide to creating a garden
If you are short on space or time, the intense planting that occurs in a “pocket garden” yields very big rewards. Pocket gardens are not a new concept. Those of us who are addicted to plants have created them in our spaces for years by layering plant upon plant—whether vegetables or ornamentals—in the soil and on our porches or balconies.
Pocket gardens have recently resurfaced as trendy stars in the world of gardening—we even have a brand new “pocket park” in Downtown Lynchburg. (Learn more about that project on page 21.) The basic idea is to take the barren, empty spaces around your yard and turn them into intensely planted areas. Put your creativity to work and look for underutilized surfaces around your home, apartment, condo, business, your child’s school and “go green”—even up the walls! In fact, especially up the walls. Dream big with endless possibilities.
Before you get too deep into the details of what and how to plant, you need to decide
what purpose you want your garden to serve.
It can be designed to help you achieve any of the following things:
Create a barrier to block out ugly views or traffic
A retaining wall, a raised bed or just an elongated bed can provide the structure for the barrier. Fill it with screening trees like arborvitae and other plants to reduce noise pollution and block the views of the city streets.
Create a place for reflection, conversation, reading or al fresco dining
By placing a pocket garden in the more intimate areas of your yard or enclosing a small area for a special purpose, you can “carve” a cozy space out of your larger landscape.
Remember a few years back when “garden rooms” were all the rage? This is a similar, but simpler idea. A seldom-used patio seems much more important when you’ve given attention to making it a special retreat. Build a wall, layer plants, enclose the space with planted beds, cover it with a pergola and then plant on top of that for a green ceiling.
Imagine sitting by a fire pit in the fall or the bubbling of a fountain in the background during the summer—it doesn’t get much lovelier. >>
Create a welcoming arrival area for family and guests
Placed either along your front walk or parking area, you can create a sweep of lush vegetation that invites visitors and family. As they travel through it, they will enjoy the green space.
Create a purpose for wasted, dull space.
A lot of homes and apartments have wasted space between the parking pad and the door.
You may have a partly enclosed area by your garage or one wall of your house that is creating a dead zone. If it’s a sunny area, you could trellis a rose or two up the wall and underplant it with perennials such as catmint (nepeta), German thyme, or a low-growing carex variety. While you are planting, you can leave space to add bulbs like bearded iris, daffodils, or crocosmia. In addition, you could also choose to add a few flowering annuals that you can have blooming to brighten the space all summer.
Basically, you want to create a lush space that feels like a little oasis in what was once a dull and uninteresting area that you just passed through on your way to the front door.
Create a focal point in your landscaping
Do you have a yard with no real interesting features? Lay or plant a path that leads to your pocket garden and make that your focal point in the distance to draw people into the yard. Once you know what it is you want to achieve with your
design, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get busy. Here are a few considerations and precautions as you plan and plant your personal oasis:
• Any kind of plant, succulent, shrub, vine or tree has the
potential to be used as long as its growing requirements can be satisfied in the spot you are designing. You are only limited by your imagination.
• The point is to create an intensely planted space with multiple levels of vegetation in order to keep you engaged in the garden. This should not be an area where you have a lot of mulch between plants. If you are on a budget and can’t do it all at once—
no worries. Just keep your end game in mind and every season, add a detail that fits into your plan.
• The amount of color is up to you. You can choose either a calming or a stimulating palette of plants as long as it suits your style.
Also, be sure that you choose a plan that you can maintain.
For example, if you don’t have three hours on a weekend to water and deadhead annual flowers, then you may want to limit how many different blooming pots you use and incorporate more houseplant or shrub plants.
• You can add interest with different elements such as a few colorful seasonal pots or an architectural detail like a wrought iron remnant in either a functional or decorative capacity. Also, consider hanging a mirror on the wall to make the area appear larger.
• If the space is large enough, add in cozy seating (a café table for two) or a water feature to enhance the overall experience.
• If you want to use a tree in your pocket garden, consider smaller options like a ginkgo, crepe myrtle or Japanese maple.
• If you plant shrubs, use varieties that won’t sucker and/or spread (for example—forsythia, lilacs or Virginia sweetspire will spread) as they may crowd out your other desired features.
• Connected to the above, when selecting your plants make sure you allow room for them to reach their mature height and width without crowding out your walkways, paths or other areas that you want to remain clear and passable.
Structures for Privacy
• Bamboo fence rolls from a landscape store create instant walls and privacy. It may look flimsy but it is quite durable with proper maintenance.
• Grouping traditional trellises in a way that pleases you can provide additional places for hanging plants, candles or string lights.
• Deck railing used vertically instead of horizontally is also a fantastic “wall” material.
• Using recycled wooden pallets is economical and versatile. Pallets are very sturdy and the possibility for what you can hang on them is endless. Anything from grow bags to tin cans with holes for planting will work. (Find more ideas on Pinterest.)
Not only do pocket gardens encourage creativity, they can be maintained more easily. By arranging plants in this intensive way, there is less need for mulching and weeding. If your plants are not in pots, you will conserve water because the plants will shade the soil and keep the soil temperatures lower.
So, what are you waiting for? Go take a walk around your home. Look for that “boring” area and plan where you will create your own personal oasis to be enjoyed for years to come.
Limited (or Nonexistent) Yard?
Consider Creating A Green Wall
If you are out and about or pay attention on social media, you probably already know that green walls are everywhere these days—from shopping malls to restaurants to businesses.
One idea for those in apartments—hang a large piece of wide window-paned chicken wire and make a living wall out of succulents “stuffed” into the wire and filled with slightly damp moss. They’ll make it in our growing zone with just a few light waterings for an entire summer. (If it’s 3×3 you can attach the wire with a nail or a hook at the top and two on each side so the wind won’t blow it around.
If it’s larger then you may need to staple the chicken wire to a wood frame.)
Another idea is to attach screw-in-eye bolts to the ceiling every eight inches,
add string or wire and build a vertical wall across the front of your balcony.
Add potted plants below the hanging string that will entwine and climb the string
and you’ve created a green screen that will produce some shade as well.