GARDENING: FULL EXPOSURE- A-Z OF REALLY SMALL GARDENS - Arts and Entertainment - The Independent

GARDENING: FULL EXPOSURE- A-Z OF REALLY SMALL GARDENS

This week's extract from Jill Billington's 'Really Small Gardens' explores trees, rooftops and effective planting for all seasons

R. IS FOR ROOF GARDENS

Roof gardens are nearly always small, and have to contend with exposure to wind as well as to sun. Wind is not only physically destructive but it also dries out soil extremely fast. Since the beds on roof gardens are usually raised, the soil is already less deep than in ground-level beds and a system of drip irrigation may be essential. Some form of boundary will be necessary for protection from wind as well as for safety. Solid boundaries like walls may simply create eddies but a semi-permeable form of screening, such as pierced walls or panels of trellis, slatted timber, bamboo or wattle fencing would be more effective, filtering the wind and reducing its force. Heat too is more concentrated higher up, so a light canopy of slatted timber may be needed to give shade and protect plants. Select plants, such as sea buckthorn and pyracantha, to cope with the extremes of rooftops. Despite all their drawbacks, there are some wonderful small gardens in the sky.

S. IS FOR SEASONS

The whole of the tiny space is usually on view from the house so making it attractive all year round has to be a priority. Several small shrubs blossom in spring and many carry either fruits or foliage colour in autumn - include these in the foundation planting of the garden. Herbaceous perennials and bulbs reflect seasonal change, so choose those plants which pop up and fade with no fuss and require little tidying up afterwards.

Many spring bulbs can be fitted in at the base of shrubs. Include the early winter aconites (Eranthis hyemalis) and wood anemones (A. blanda) in shaded corners and follow them with early small daffodils like Narcissus 'February Gold' or the really miniature ones like N 'Minnow'. Small spaces are the place to appreciate fully the delicate beauty of Cyclamen coum, with its pink and white flowers above silver-patterned dark green leaves. The small Iris reticulate hybrids also become important in intimate spaces. Crocus species like C tommasinianus are more delicately built than their progeny; when open to the sun, they are a welcome sight after winter; Scilla sibirica can be massed without taking over. For formal scenes, tulips provide repeating vertical forms with a vast range of flower colour and shape, and some smaller species, like Tulipa tarda, open like crocus in sunlight. By summer, alliums will merge with most schemes: there are tall, slim drumsticks like A sphaerocephalon and A hollandicum, plus many smaller ones like the yellow A moly.

If you want to indulge in masses of herbaceous flowers, start early with doronicums and feast on old-fashioned pinks (Dianthus), chrysanthemum hybrids, Leucanthemum maximum, Campanula lactiflora 'Pouffe' and, later on, rudbeckias, phlox, Japanese anemones (A x hybrida) and asters, followed by nerines and kaffir lilies (Schizostylis coccinea). Infilling with annuals like cornflowers, poppies, linaria, limnanthes, nigella, nicotiana, flax and cosmos will produce flashes of summer colour where you need it. Bedding out with tender perennials such as verbena, impatiens, tagetes and the tender sub-shrub Senecio cineraria will fill any remaining gaps and bulk up a young garden before it matures.

By the end of the year the cotoneasters, roses, pyracanthas and skimmias will be carrying red, orange, yellow or white berries. Seedheads like the fluffy ones of clematis, the papery ones of honesty (Lunaria annua), dead agapanthus flowers and superb allium globes carried on tall stems enhance the garden for months from autumn until they are battered by snow. Autumn is also the time of brilliance in colour, when the foliage of acers and many azaleas takes on fiery hues and vires flare into scarlet crimson reds.

T. IS FOR TREES

There is rarely enough space in a truly small garden for real trees unless you choose very slim ones like Prunus 'Amanogawa'. For a softer effect, the weeping pear (Pyrus salicifolia 'Pendula') is quite small, with trailing branches and fluttering silvery foliage. In a small site the chosen tree must offer more than a mere two or three weeks of pleasure, discover those that offer good value and beware of instant appeal at the garden centre.

For sheer elegance, Japanese acers are the front runners for small spaces. Acers are very slow-growing and seen from beneath, with sunlight filtering through, they look magnificent. Some, like A palmatum 'Osakazuki', have outstanding autumn colour and others, such as A palmatum 'Dissectum Atropurpureum', are primarily grown for their finely dissected foliage.

In sun-filled sites, treasure small trees which give flickering shade. Silver birches like Betula pendula 'Fastigiata' filter sunlight effectively, as do some of the rowans. Some of the thorn family (Crataegus) are relatively small but densely solid, making deep shade beneath. C tanacetifolia is slow growing but ornamental because the greyed leaves are deeply incised and the fragrant white flowers are succeeded by yellow fruits.

READER BOOK OFFER

A-Z of Really Small Gardens is taken from Jill Billington's RHS Really Small Gardens, published by Quadrille, available from bookshops. To order your copy for the special price of pounds 20 (a saving of pounds 5), including p&p in the UK, call the credit card hotline on 01256 302 699 quoting ref GLR 991

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith Richards is publishing 'Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar', a children's book about his introduction to music

music
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris has generated £4m in royalties from the music platform

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman stars as the Time Lord's companion Clara in Doctor Who

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Time and time again: the popular daytime quiz has been a fixture on Channel 4 since 1982

TV
Arts and Entertainment

To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthday

books
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams is reportedly competing with Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss for a major role in True Detective

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sam Smith returned to the top spot with his album 'In The Lonely Hour'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Backshall is set to dance with Ola Jordan on Strictly Come Dancing. 'I have a friend who's a dancer and she said to me 'You want Ola because she's a fantastic dancer and she can make anyone look good' meaning 'even you'!' he said.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sting and Paul Simon on stage together at Carnegie Hall in New York

music
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Strictly Come Dancing 2014 contestants and their professional dance partners open the twelfth run of the celebrity ballroom contest

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin teaches Clara to shoot an arrow
doctor who
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week