Planning A Town Garden

Although designing the perfect town garden can be challenging, with a little care and imagination, even the smallest and apparently least promising bit of urban space can be transformed.

Although the town garden is often fairly small and often heavily overlooked, its role as a private oasis amid the urban landscape makes it particularly valuable. Successful town garden design calls for maximising the available space – and ideally creating the illusion that there is more – while ensuring that the world outside doesn’t intrude too much to disturb the peace. It’s a challenge, and much obviously depends on the nature of the plot itself, but with a bit of thought, it’s not too difficult to produce a town garden to enjoy.

What About A Lawn?

Opinions vary about lawns in town garden design. They certainly lend a traditional look to any garden, and there’s nothing quite like the feeling of walking on freshly mown grass. However, if space is very limited, they can sometimes be more of a nuisance that they’re worth – and having to get out a lawn mower to cut a couple of square yards of turf can seem a little silly.

Alternatives usually include some kind of paving, gravel or bark chippings, all of which can be very effective and set off the rest of the planting very well. If you do decide to go grass-free, it’s important to make sure that you allow for drainage, particularly if you pave; gravel and bark drain fairly well – though it is essential to make sure that any plastic weed-suppressing matting laid underneath is perforated to let water escape. The more expensive kinds of woven polypropylene are ideal in this respect, but a good series of fork holes in black plastic sheeting works almost as well.

In the end, it really all comes down to personal taste and how you use your garden.

Walls And Fences

Walls and fences are major elements in the typical town garden, and can cause a lot of the garden to be in shade over the day, particularly down at ground level. The planting regime needs to take this into account when planning the garden design, but with a little imagination it is possible to work with these features and turn them to your advantage.

In particularly shady areas, ferns, hostas and other shade-loving plants can make an attractive display, while picking taller plants and growing bedding plants in raised beds or containers in the rest of the garden will help them make the most of what sun is available.

Even the most boring-looking fence can be livened up by being clad in plants and using the vertical as well as the horizontal aspect of your garden will allow you to make the most use of space – and help fill the whole area with leaf and colour. Aside of the aesthetic advantages, there are practical benefits too – a fence festooned in climbers is a great help in cutting down noise, while the extra leaves can also filter some of the dust and traffic grime out of the air. It’s also a good way to provide a little extra privacy.

Other Features

Every garden needs a focal point and even the smallest town garden can benefit from having a strong feature to catch the eye. Depending on the rest of the design, single specimen architectural plants, a small water feature or a sculpture of some kind can work very well in this role.

It’s also worth trying to use evergreens where possible in the planting design – along with plants with interesting colours, leaves or textures – to try to ensure that there’s plenty of year-round interest. A well designed town garden can come into its own in the depths of winter and there aren’t many of us who couldn’t use a bit of cheer in the midst of all the grey skies and short days.

Even the most apparently un-prepossessing small space can be transformed with a little thought, effort and imagination – so if you’ve just moved to a house with a few square yards of concrete for a garden, don’t despair! No matter how unpromising your backyard looks right now, it shouldn’t take too long to turn it into something to be proud of, whatever your idea of the perfect town garden may be.