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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

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Tiny Front Yard Gardens

I have just returned from the Boston suburb of Brookline where front yard gardening has been raised to a high art form. Street after street of apartment buildings, presumably condominiums, populate the area south of Beacon Street and west of Winthrop. Each has a small square front yard, where  grass has been removed and replaced with a miniature garden that has been landscaped to look like a jeweled brooch.

  The trick to designing small front yard gardens is to keep the height of the plants low. Except for a tall center plant in the middle of the square garden shape, all of the plants should be no higher than ankle height or mid-calf height, at the most.


The function of a tall plant in the center is to anchor the garden to its small space and to create a backdrop against which the other plants may be displayed. If a tall plant is not desired, a bird bath or a fountain will serve the same purpose. Some gardeners choose to plant a boxwood shrub in the center while others prefer a small grove of day lilies.


 The Boston growing zone is sufficiently warm to make the planting of a tall ornamental grass another reasonable option for the center because it will attain a decent height quite early in the growing season.


Another gardening trick for a small space is to restrict the varieties of shrubs or perennials planted to just a few and then to repeat them to create a symmetrical rhythm. Many of these small gardens are located in shade, given the maturity of most of the trees growing in this neighborhood. It is amazing how many different kinds of shade gardens one can see in Brookline, with no two ever looking alike. The possibilities are endless.


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Reader Comments (5)

I would love to see some photos of these gardens. I bet they are stunning.

June 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHolly

Yes I would have liked to have seen some pictures! Better than a thousand words you know! :-) Val

June 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterValeri

We deal with small lawn gardens all the time. One of the popular ways to create a garden when you have limited space is to create a container garden. This allows you to arrange your garden in any way possible especially with very limited space.

July 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterScotts Lawn

I really like your tip of having a tall plant in the center of garden.Often people do the opposite ,they install the taller plants on the sides of a garden while leave the center space for smaller plants and thus resulting in hiding the beauty of a garden.Nice one ,,

February 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPest Control London

The second to the last garden was designed by and is maintained by The Traveling Trowel, a garden design/maintenance firm in the Brookline area. We're glad you like it.

September 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterThe Traveling Trowel

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