By Paul Hervey-Brookes
City gardens often offer some of the most exiting spaces within which to create gardens. The odd shapes and limited spaces left over from industrial building, new offices and sometimes high rise residential blocks at first seem uninviting as a space to garden but can offer an amazing wealth of inspiration to city dwellers and those attracted to the sensation of bright lights alike.
It you have a relatively small garden then taking inspiration from the best design ticks employed by city gardens will give you effortless designer feel and a sense of excitement. Foliage is king, in the city you rarely have the luxury of a series of garden rooms to drift through on a summers night never to return until next July, the city garden knows its a hard worker so big glossy foliage backed up with key evergreen shrubs makes the most of planting spaces.
Often city gardens live in a microclimate - thats to say its a few degrees warmer meaning the range of plants which can be used is increased but if you have shelter planting Tree Ferns, or Tetrapanax will give you instant exotic whilst perennial Begonia’s with there juicy jade green foliage, dangerously red on the underside will add further drama.
It you have a relatively small garden then taking inspiration from the best design ticks employed by city gardens will give you effortless designer feel and a sense of excitement.
Don't forget grasses, in and out of fashion they seem to go but hard work drought tolerant species like Anemanthele will give amazing autumn colours, plumes of pink flower heads and is soft to the touch - all without demanding copious care and water.
Big foliage needs to go hand in hand with big design thinking - in the city the architectural inspiration is everywhere almost from every age so its easy to find something to draw on. Using oversized paving is also a good move, it looks expensive and has the designer look. Long aspect paving laid diagonally to the route of travel is my preferred design look. It says elegant but not obvious in its laying pattern as just a means to go from a to b and this is the secret - use the hard landscaping materials as you would the planting, deliberate and with intention.
Big chunky blocks of stone make great seats and don’t be afraid to mix smooth porcelain or natural stone with rougher more traditional paving, this combination is a great designed way to acknowledge vernacular history whilst bravely stepping into the modern age. Not only that it makes it easier to carve out your own style and not stick to a given look.
The last key ingredient in drawing inspiration from city spaces is perhaps the most obvious and the one we only remember when we take a city break - the city never sleeps! Lighting to bright silhouettes and interesting features to the fore at dusk and behind will give the garden a new life and dimension!
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