Even a jot of a garden can be paradise. The trick is to optimize the space you have—and if you can’t go out, go up.
“Think about plants that climb,” says Lenny Wilson, assistant director at the Delaware Center for Horticulture in Wilmington. “Create a vertical garden with a trellis or by hanging pots on the side of a building.”
Clematis, with extravagant, showy blooms, is an accomplished climber. Consider New Dawn, an upwardly mobile red rose that can reach 10 feet in height. Attach strawberry pots to the side of a garage. Or espalier a fig tree to a sheltered wall of the house, where it can withstand a snowy winter.
Native honeysuckle does not have the same sweet fragrance as the ferociously invasive wild plant. But it offers significant charms.
“They have beautiful red flowers and attract hummingbirds, which are magical in the garden,’ Wilson says.
In the city, where people tend to live in smaller homes, a courtyard garden can expand the habitable square footage.
“Think of your garden as your own little outdoor living room,” he says.
When space is limited, choosing the right plants is essential. Creeping thyme forms a soft carpet between stepping stones and emits a softly spicy aroma in response to foot traffic. Cabbage and kale in window boxes can weather a cold snap, then go into a winter soup. Amelanchier, commonly known as serviceberry, is a shrub with clusters of white flowers that perseveres in full sun to partial shade, and dry or wet conditions.
“Also try to pick at least one plant that is interesting all year so there will always be something to enjoy,” Wilson says.
A good choice is the witch hazel tree known as green thumb, which is smaller than the typical tree. Witch hazel unfurls blossoms in the dead of winter.
“As soon as the worst weather is over, go out and plant pansies,” he says. “You will enjoy them for months to come.”