A well-designed urban garden allows city dwellers to enjoy the best of both worlds
Franchesca Watson on how to utilise your urban outdoor space best
To live in the city and have a green patch is to have your cake and eat it. on the one hand there’s the energy of the city, on the other the oasis-like calm of a garden with the added bonus of endless opportunities for creative problem-solving and trying unusual plant combinations. Two main considerations determine an urban garden’s design: a lack of space and privacy, and tricky conditions.
Organise your space Whether it’s a food garden with a table for six or a tropical oasis with an outdoor shower and hammock, every millimetre counts. This requires precision planning. Plants may have to be restricted to the outer edges or you may have to use overhead space-saving devices.
the basics privacy is usually a problem. hedges and planted screens are often the way to go to block the view from the sidewalk. Pergolas and strategically placed trees, in large pots if necessary, will block the view from above. surfacing a small horizontal space is best kept simple and practical, as a lawn may be out of the question due to too much shade or matters of maintenance. The best solution is usually a deck, tiles, paving or astroturf. roof gardens require deep enough soil so that plants can develop. Trees need at least 800 millimetres of soil and smaller plants 300 millimetres for their roots. Then there’s drainage: seepage and run-off water needs somewhere to go, otherwise it will create problems. a few large pots are easier to care for than lots of small ones.
unique considerations being in a city presents a whole new set of gardening challenges. There are dirt and pollution, wind that barrels down streets, extreme shade or glaring sun made worse by heat or light reflected by surrounding buildings, and extreme temperatures. understanding the specific conditions in your garden is essential when selecting plants. If they are to be planted around the edge of the garden, choose plants that are able to grow right up against a wall or in a narrow bed and still develop properly. If you are planning a container garden, you will need plants that don’t require very deep soil to flourish and can grow in pots.
choose bulletproof plants Podocarpus falcatus (yellowwood) can withstand a fair degree of wind, sun and some shade, and is suitable for a tall hedge.
Rhoicissus digitata (baboon or dune grape) is a hardy, wind-resistant evergreen creeper suitable for pergolas and screens.
Agave attenuata (lion’s tail or swan’s neck agave) is a very useful architectural succulent that can withstand quite a bit of shade as well as full sun and wind.
Indigenous grasses can all handle wind but most need good sun too to thrive. The exception is Chlorophytum saundersii (weeping anthericum), which does not mind a few hours of shade a day.
Indigenous succulents usually are good choices. There is a huge range of indigenous ones, from larger rambling ones like the blue-grey Senecio ficoides to smaller ground-hugging vygies like Delosperma cooperi. franchesca Watson 082 808 1287
Arranging plants in a soothing green and white palette around the perimeter of a small garden opens up space to relax