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

Arts and Entertainment
Cillian Murphy stars as Tommy Shelby in Peaky Blinders

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Rupert Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks in 2011

Review: A panoramic account of the hacking scandal

books
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian Jack Dee has allegedly threatened to quit as chairman of long-running Radio 4 panel show 'I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue'

Edinburgh Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Director Paul Thomas Anderson (right) and his movie The Master featuring Joaquin Phoenix

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
There are no plans to replace R Kelly at the event

music
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>Laura
Carmichael- Lady Edith Crawley</strong></p>
<p>Carmichael currently stars as Sonya in the West End production of
Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya at the Vaudeville Theatre. She made headlines this autumn
when Royal Shakespeare Company founder Sir Peter Hall shouted at her in a
half-sleepy state during her performance. </p>
<p>Carmichael made another appearance on the stage in 2011, playing
two characters in David Hare’s <em>Plent</em>y
at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. </p>
<p>Away from the stage she starred as receptionist Sal in the 2011
film <em>Tinker Tailor Solider Spy</em>. </p>

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Zoe Saldana admits she's

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Mitch Winehouse is releasing a new album

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him

music
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event

film
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
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.

    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain