12 Secret Gardens Hiding In City Spaces
Some city dwellers with the tiniest of yards are savvy enough to carve out a little slice of Eden for themselves. Want to know their secrets? Read on and plot how to turn a postage-stamp backyard into a world of wonder.
Many city gardens don’t have a lot of light, so choose plants that thrive in shade such as ivy, fast-growing Virginia Creeper or other climbing vine that will envelop structures for a romantic effect. Create a focal point with a stone fountain.
If you don’t have room for plant beds or have a “dead space” where nothing will grow, create character with architectural fragments and planters. Designer Theresa Casey mimics her favorite travel destinations in her Toronto backyard with brick, stone, rustic iron pieces and lots of classic boxwood and ivy for a vignette with instant history.
In this downtown property, a decrepit deck was removed to make way for a courtyard. The homeowner wanted to keep the garage for resale value, but the addition of accordion doors made it feel like a private, open-air café. A section of pavers layed in a herringbone pattern lends old-world character.
Create big impact in a small yard with vertical arrangements: include a lush focal point and your space won’t need wall-to-wall greenery or grass. Pee Gee hydrangeas are under-planted with boxwood and topped with a bird-of-paradise to draw the eye up.
Consider a water feature. Traffic noise can break the spell of a soothing retreat, so muffle it with burbling water sounds from a fountain.
A pool doesn’t have to be huge, as this 7′-x-14′ example proves, and it’s economic enough in size to be heated up as a hot tub. Adding a patio to the back of the garage makes a picturesque seating area.
This circa 1913 house’s garden was full of scrub and two lone trees. Now, a meandering flagstone path weaves between perennials and a lilac tree is underplanted with no fuss eunonymus, while astilbe and hydrangea offer color.
In this city garden, a pond was filled in to make way for an easy-care fountain that adds sound and movement to the small yard, with no upkeep. Tall bamboo stalks in large, contemporary planters act as natural screens and don’t drop leaves. A low stone wall provides extra seating.
Customize a DIY playhouse from a big box store and turn a yard corner into a kids’ zone. A French-style wrought-iron fence cordons off the woodsy 25’ x 35’ garden, planted with a butterfly bush and edible berries.
A pergola doesn’t take up much floor surface but serves as an airy divider, so you can get more “zones” from your space. This 35’ x 110’ Toronto backyard doubles as a cottage with the addition of a pool.
Invest in whimsy. This narrow alley beside a coach house is given the feel of a secret garden with romantic wrought iron gates. Use climbing plants such as a Jackman clematis, seen left, to soften hardscaping.
If the garage is an eyesore, dress it up with weather-resistant sheets of marine plywood, topped with shadowboxes for display. The green paint visually extends the garden, and symmetrical cedars convey a polished look.