|Gardening on a narrow strip or postage stamp places many constraints on gardeners. But for many, the challenge of gardening in a small space creates plots both interesting and arresting. City and small-space gardening in the front yard can make for a landscape that is both welcoming and visually appealing.
Many city dwellers have the idea that their front yard should be neat and well-manicured. This gardening misconception has translated into a series of square grassy plots upon square grassy plots. For this reason, when a front yard finally does deviate from the standard lawn, tree, walkway, shrub formula, it stands out and is usually appreciated for its unique traits. Furthermore, it is definitely a misconception that not much gardening can be done in a small space—there are a myriad of possibilities to transform a small front yard city space into stellar space on the block.
For a front yard in the city, tree selection is vital. Because of space constriction, there will likely only be room for one or two trees on the property with perhaps the possibility for one or two more on the public land beside the street. Gardeners will want to carefully choose a tree that will not detract from the overall landscape but also offer great year round interest. As a likely focal point, a tree presents a characteristic element of the space. Also, many ornamental trees can be messy so be sure you choose a tree that suits your maintenance style. Some popular choices include Japanese cherry trees, crape myrtles, Tatarian maple, thinleaf alder, water birch and Eastern redbud.
Of course, a planting a focal point tree is not essential especially if your block is already shady. If you have another focus in mind, it may be better to avoid the significant presence of a tree. In the confined area of a city space garden, you do not want too many features to compete. Rather, features and plantings should compliment each other and avoid the appearance of clutter. For this reason, tree, arbor, fountain, trellis, bench, etc…may pose too many elements that detract from the overall harmony of garden balance.
Lawn, while nicely typical, need not be the default greenery for your front yard garden. Such small plots seem hardly worth the effort to lug out the mower. Consider an ornamental grass like lavender creeping phlox. The lovely blanket of purple appears each spring only to disappear leaving soft tufts of grassy growth in its place. When paired with a backdrop of lavender and a trellis of purple wisteria, your home will be a true showstopper simply because the color coordination is right on. A single color theme can make a city home stand out better than a more rustic selection of multiple colors.
Be sure to consider some hard space to compliment the growth. A formal walkway of colored slate might balance out the raised flowerbeds of herbs for instance. Or, a single circle of cobblestone might provide the focal point for a moss-covered boulder or statue. The use of stone or other hardscape materials can add to the definition of the gardening spaces. Edgings and planters add to the manicured appearance and form the bridge between garden and house.
If the idea of selecting a design for a small space seems, at first, daunting, consider basing your space loosely on a theme. This will help you narrow down selections and provide the cohesion for your updated space. Your city house needn’t boast a pagoda to showcase an elegant Japanese tea garden style or rock garden for instance. Similarly, a stone façade might lead one to opt for medieval elements like an herbal labyrinth in miniature for the front plots with focal point chalice well set as backdrop.
In any case, the essence of an urban garden tends toward sophistication. For this reason, pink flamingos and plastic pots seem less than desirable. Steer toward classic styles and materials like terracotta and stone. Keep larger elements like shrubs and trees at a minimum and, if possible, keep your flower palette to about three colors so that groupings will pop out against the backdrop of tall buildings.