Big Gardens in Small Spaces, Martyn Cox, Timber Press
Welcome to the very small but plant-packed garden of Martyn Cox. This respected horticulturist, journalist, prolific garden writer, and editor grows over 250 plants in a tiny city garden that measures only 600 square feet. This he accomplishes by including every inch of unused but usable space into his planting scheme, so that shady corners, flat roofs of tool sheds, window-sills, wall crevices, and cracks in the pavement become places to grow plants.
The author firmly believes that having a small back yard is not an excuse for not having a garden. To prove it, he invites us into his own and demonstrates beyond any reasonable doubt that beautiful gardens can grow anywhere, no matter how confined the space.
According to this author, the essential ingredient is an understanding how to manipulate plants. For example, a tiny garden need not contain only compact and dwarf varieties, By pruning large leafed plants or by harnessing their growth by putting them in a pot, and by training plants to grow against wires, one can grow large plants and trees in a small plot.
Here are a few of the many ideas that the reader will discover in Mr. Cox’s book:- A narrow side path from the front of the house to the back can become a sanctuary for shade plants, metal balcony railings can be covered with planters filled with annual flower. The flat roof of a garden shed will grow creeping sedum and chives, while vegetables may be grown in pots, or tucked into remaining gaps between ornamental plants.
By adding horizontal wires or a trellis, walls, fences, vertical surfaces can support fruit-bearing climbing plants or hold the branches of compact forms of fruit trees. A gap at the edge of a path will grow herbs. Even homeowners with mostly shady gardens are encouraged to grow edible plants. Here, the reader will learn which salad ingredients, herbs, and fruit will grow in shade.
In a discussion on the role of color in the garden, we are urged to consider the physiological effects that colors have upon homeowners. We learn that too many colors create a feeling of chaos, we are shown how one might create a colorful garden with a restricted palette, and we are taught about the soothing effect of the color green.
For homeowners who feel that they are unable to create proper plant combinations, the author’s treatment of this topic is priceless. Readers will learn that some of the most effective plant combinations occur when a plant self seeds or when a gardener brings home an attractive plant and places it just anywhere in the garden. The author advises that because these haphazard or serendipitous compositions are successful, one should not be too concerned about the placement of plants. What matters most is that the homeowner is pleased with the results.
However, for those who wish to fine-tune the plant combinations in their garden, Mr. Cox shares with us the success he has had with two specific plants that seem to integrate well with almost all others in his garden. Their color, shape, and form make them versatile companions.
The book is rounded out with a] practical advice for maintaining the garden wherein the author reminds the reader that small gardens require less maintenance than larger ones and b] the list. Yes, the author lists all 250 plants that he grows in his tiny 600 square feet plot. When readers examine in detail the photos of his garden, they will understand how easy it is to achieve such a goal.
Mr. Cox is an enthusiastic gardener. He shares his positive approach in a friendly, intimate manner and includes spot-on photos of other people’s small gardens to illustrate some of his gardening tricks. Most importantly, using candid photos, he invites us onto his property to appreciate how he transformed his small space into a big garden. Readers with tiny back yards are bound to be inspired.