Small Garden Design Tips

Creating and enjoying a garden even in the smallest of spaces

Archive for the ‘container gardening’ Category

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Dress up your dinner plate with flowers from your small garden.

“>Hanging Nasturtium - edible flowers for small gardens

Can the flowers you grow do double duty?  If you plant edible flowers, enjoy them as they grow in your garden and then use them to dress up your dinner plate too!

Are you growing chives in your small herb garden?  Then you already have edible flowers to add to your culinary creations.  Chive blossoms can be used in salads and vinegars.  Pick the flower heads apart and add to a salad for a light onion flavor.

A common edible flower is Nasturtium.  Nasturtiums are easy to grow and incorporate into small garden designs.  They work well in hangers or containers.  The climbing variety lends well to a vertical format and they come in multiple colors – yellows, oranges, and reds.  I’ve added them to a dinner plate for great color and peppery taste.

How to know which flowers are edible?  You should always be careful before eating any flower. Check out this Edible Flowers Chart  for guidance.  You’ll find that rose petals, lilac, and lavender are other flowers that can be incorporated into your recipes.  Even the flowers of weeds have found their way into recipes…dandelion wine anyone?


Vertical Gardening Book Review

“>Read recent review in Los Angeles Times with authors Susan Morrison & Rebecca Sweet of Garden Up! Smart Vertical Gardening for Small and Large Spaces.

Vertical Small Garden Design

The authors discuss vertical gardening craze and their new book.  The article also provides pictures of vertical garden ideas for small garden design!





Vertical Gardening – Small Garden Design Ideas

When space is limited, going vertical can provide you the space you need to create your small garden design.  Many plants, vegetables, and even herbs can be coaxed to grow vertically, making them perfect for a small garden design space.

Vertical Small Garden Design Ideas
Vertical Gardening – Grow, Not Out, for More Vegetables and Flowers in Much Less Space, by Derek Fell


Vertical Small Garden Design
Garden Up! Smart Vertical Gardening for Small and Large Spaces, by Susan Morrison


There are various methods for creating a vertical small garden design.  Here are some ideas I’ve come across. Building a Vertical Pallet Garden Vertical Gardens can be Lush Masterpieces Vertical Garden goes Green with Recycled PET Bottles As with container gardening, the options for vertical planters can be endless…shoe bags hung to hold individual plants, old rain gutters, wooden frames, and more.  Check out some of the books devoted to Vertical Gardening. Do you have any vertical gardening idea that you can share?




Small Garden Design using containers from around the house…

Using household items as planting containers is a great “green” way of recycling items.  Use your creativity to turn shoes, boots, bowls, old pails, and other household items into containers for herbs, flowers, vegetables, and other plants in your small garden design.

Check out this short video that shows how you can use household items for small garden design and spruce up your container gardening.

What household items have you used for unique garden containers?  Share your ideas by commenting!

Flowers for Small Garden Design – Annuals or Perennials?

Posted by admin on Jun 28, 2011 under container gardening, flower garden design, small garden design

When it comes to picking flowers for your small garden design, there are two broad categories of flower types – perennials and annuals.

What’s the difference?  Perennials will grow back year after year.  Annuals typically only last for one growing season and must be planted again every year.  I say typically, because some annuals will reseed themselves.

In this short article, I will touch on just a small sampling of the many choices you have for perennials and annuals that work well in gardens that get full sun to partial sun.

Columbines add a dash of color to an early spring garden

If your small garden design is going in the ground, consider a small perennial flower garden designed to provide beautiful blooms year after year.  The flowering plants you have to choose from are endless.

Choices for early spring…there are endless varieties of bulbs for tulips, daffodils, hyacinth, irises, and lily varieties to choose from.   Peonies are also an early spring bloomer.  They make great borders, grow low compact almost like bushes, and are hardy for colder regions.  Another early spring bloomer that comes in a variety of colors from pinks and yellows to blues is columbines.

For late spring and summer, daisies and flowers in the daisy family such as Echinacea or purple coneflowers, yellow and red gaillardias, and black-eyed Susan, which are actually biennials, all provide great color.  Dianthus can be found in a variety of colors from white, pinks, reds, and purples to all combinations of mixtures.  Asters and mums are great for late summer and fall with a great selection of colors to choose from.

White Daisies
Daisies are perennials that return year after year
Daylillies in a rock garden
Daylillies in a rock garden

Many perennials will spread and can fill your garden space over time.  Instead of planting all perennials, another option is to mix perennials and annuals.  This way, you can have some plants returning each year while experimenting with different annuals to add variety to your small garden design each year.  Experimenting is what makes small garden design so much fun!

Are you working with a small garden design on a deck or patio?  Try container gardening for your flower garden design, and consider annuals.  While perennials will grow back every year, they also tend to want to spread, which makes them difficult to maintain in container gardening.  Also, if you live in an area where you get cold weather or freezing weather, the flowers may not survive the winter in a container.

The varieties of flowers to choose from are endless.  Some annuals for full sun areas to consider…pansies in early spring, grazania, geranium, marigolds, petunias, zinnia, cosmos, and portulaca…the choices are endless.

Hanging Nasterium
Nasturtium flowers are not only colorful but edible too!

Summer has just started.  If you still want to plant flowers, it’s not too late.  Consider planting annuals that will bloom into the fall – asters, mums, and marigolds, just to name a few.

What new annuals and perennials have you tried in your garden this year?  Leave a comment and share your experiences.

Railing Planters for a small garden design
Railing pot with portulaca, grazania, and vinca










Unique Plants for Your Small Garden Design

Posted by admin on Jun 5, 2011 under container gardening, small garden design

After a very rainy May in the eastern USA, I have finally gotten my gardens and containers planted.  In addition to planting some usual favorites, I’m trying some new plants…at least new to me.

Solamum pyracanthum
Porcupine Tomato

The most unique plant I’ve added to my collection…a Solanum pyracanthum or “porcupine tomato”.  Orange thorns coming out of the green leaves drew me to this unique plant.  I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

This plant takes full sun – great for my patio – and flowers with electric blue blooms.  Can you imaging how the electric blue blooms will look with the orange thorns?  I just had to buy one to see what it will look like in bloom.  Once it blooms I will post some images.

Unsure if this plant can take the east coast winter, I’ve planted it in a small container.  This way I can bring it indoors over the winter and will hopefully have it for my garden next year.

If you’ve grown a porcupine tomato, I’d love to hear your experiences with this plant.

What’s the most unique plant you’ve added to your small garden design this year?


Vegetable Small Garden Design – The Heirloom Tomatoes

Vegetable Garden Design - Black Krim Heirloom Tomato

Black Krim Tomato

At my local university Ag Field day recently, I looked to purchase a local breed of tomato seedling for my vegetable garden design.  Unfortunately, the variety I wanted was already sold out by the time I arrived.   One of the vegetable specialists convinced me into purchasing a Black Krim seedling.

I didn’t notice, until after I purchased the seedling, that the Black Krim is an heirloom variety.  Not knowing much about heirloom tomatoes, I decided to do some research.  Here’s what I found out…

My first question…what is an heirloom tomato?  Heirloom varieties are defined as being open-pollinated cultivars.  The draw to heirloom varieties is that they have lots of flavor, look beautiful, and are easy to grow.  Heirloom seeds have been passed down through several generations.  Heirloom varieties are genetically unique, and have evolved resistance to pests and disease, while adapting to specific growing conditions and climates.  They come in a wide variety of colors, shapes, flavors, and sizes.

Heirloom tomatoes can be described in different ways –

Commercial heirlooms – open-pollinated varieties introduced before 1940 or are more than 50 years old

Family heirlooms- varieties whose seeds have been saved and passed down from generation to generation

Mystery heirlooms – these arise accidently from natural cross-pollination or mutation

Heirloom tomatoes are not commercially available.  They are not shippable over long distances, do not ripen perfectly and do not have a uniform shape.  These imperfections are what make them appealing to gardeners.

What is open-pollination?  This is when a cultivar or plant can be grown from seeds and will come back “true to type”, meaning the next generation comes back looking identical to its parent.

How do heirlooms compare to F-1 hybrid breeds of tomatoes?  These are the ones we consider “supermarket tomatoes”.  Seeds collected from F-1 hybrid tomatoes typically don’t germinate when planed the next season and may be sterile.  If they do sprout, they will not have the same characteristics as their parents.

The attractiveness of hybrids for commercial growers is their ability to produce more transportable fruit, with minimal spoilage.  They also have a more consistent color and shelf appeal.  While hybrids have outstanding characteristics, the ability to reproduce is not one of them.

There are many varieties of heirloom tomatoes.  Here are some popular varieties:

Vegetable Garden Design - Big Rainbow Heirloom Tomato


Big Rainbow – large yellow tomatoes with red swirls and mild, sweet flavor



Vegetable Garden Design - Black Krim Heirloom Tomato


Black Krim – dark red to brown, can be grown in containers with rich flavor and considered to hail from the Isle of Krim on the Black Sea



Vegetable Garden Design - Brandywine Heirloom Tomato


Brandywine – one of the most popular heirlooms with large pink fruit and a slightly tart taste



Vegetable Garden Design - Green Zebra Heirloom Tomato



Green Zebra – light-green stripes against an amber background, with a tarter flavor


Vegetable Garden Design - Cherokee Purple Heirloom Tomato



Cherokee Purple – deep, dusky pink purple, beefsteak in style with a dense, juicy texture

Small Garden Design for Attracting Butterflies

Posted by admin on Jan 21, 2011 under container gardening, flower garden design, small garden design

Butterflies are beautiful.  When creating your small garden design, it is flowers that will attract butterflies.

Butterflies are insects.  Insects are cold blooded and rely on the environment for heat.  The best place to find butterflies are basking in the sun to warm up.  The dark spots on butterfly wings help them absorb the heat from the sun to keep them warm.  Sunny areas will bring the butterflies out, while shady areas provide a place for them to hide in cloudy weather.

The type of butterflies attracted to a garden depends on your location and the nectar or sweet liquid found in flowers, that your garden provides.

The best way to decide on what plants to include in your small garden design to attract butterflies is to first research the types of butterflies that are native to your area.  Then find out what flowers and plants they like to feed on and lay their eggs on, since these will be native to your growing area, they will be easy to grow and maintain.

Butterflies are attracted to flowers.  Planting flowers in varying tall and short heights is not only aesthetically pleasing to your eye, but will attract different butterfly types.  When planning your flower garden design, keep shorter flowering plants to the front of the beds, borders, and walkways.  Examples of some short height plants that attract butterflies include impatiens, lavender, and verbena.  Taller flowers such as cosmos and sunflowers should be kept toward the back of your flower garden design.  Medium height flowers such as zinnia, coreopsis, coneflowers, and black-eyed-susans are also great for attracting butterflies to  your small garden.

Regardless of where you live, there are a few basic elements that any butterfly attracting small garden design should have.

  1. A sunny location. Being cold blooded, butterflies need the sun to help them stay warm for flight and feeding.
  2. Nectar producing plants. Butterflies are attracted to flowers in purple, red, yellow, orange, and pick with flat-topped or clustered flowers and short flower tubes.  A small garden design that contains flowers that bloom from spring through the summer into autumn will provide a continual food source.
  3. Planting flowers in groupings. Butterflies are attracted to nectar plants in clusters.  This is because they are near-sighted.  It is easier for them to see splotches of color than to see one bloom here or there.  Even when designing a small container garden design, grouping of three or more nectar plants in a pot will help attract butterflies.
  4. Avoid pesticides. Butterflies are sensitive to pesticides.  You don’t want to kill off butterflies, caterpillars, or their eggs by using pesticides.

An added benefit to attracting butterflies to your flower garden design that attracts butterflies…it will also attract hummingbirds.

Container Gardening – The Perfect Solution for Small Garden Design

Posted by admin on Nov 3, 2010 under container gardening, small garden design

If you think you don’t have room for a garden, think again!  One of the most popular and best ways to have create a small garden design despite space limitations is container gardening.  No matter how restrictive your gardening area, you can always find room for a few containers.
railing planter for small garden design
There are an endless variety of containers that you can use for container gardening.  Do you have a deck with railing?  Try railing planters for planting flowers or herbs.

Create an interesting container garden arrangement using a number of small containers.  Conserve on space by displaying your containers using a wooden step ladder.  You can paint the ladder or leave as is and arrange your small garden design on the ladder rungs.

Depending on the amount of space you have, try finding an older style ladder with rungs on either side.  You can create shelves by placing a board across a set of rungs and screwing the board in place, then arrange containers on the shelves.

What about hanging planters?  Hanging planters is a great way to display colorful flower displays in a limited space.  Have some wall space you can use?  There are a variety of wall planter options to choose from for displaying your containers.

Depending on your space, container gardening is also a great way to recycle home items.  Let you imaginations go – old buckets, tea kettles, ice buckets, chipped glassware bowls, wagons or wheelbarrows, old shoes or boots.  As long as the item is weather resistant, it has potential for use in a container garden.

Be sure when choosing plants for your containers or containers for your plants, that you make sure you consider the amount of root space each plant will need.  Pots will constrict the size of the plant, so make sure you choose your pots accordingly.

There is no limit to the plants you can put in containers.  User trellises for climbing plants, plant containers with flowers, roses, herbs, and vegetables.  Combine different plant types for an interesting look.  Space is no longer an excuse to hold you back from the garden you’ve always wanted.