In need of a little garden inspiration, I decided to take in Boston’s South End Garden Tour, and what a treat it turned out to be! The tour was a real education in small-space and city gardens and how people handled the challenges of bad light, little dirt, and spaces that had to do double or triple duty as mini-farms, playgrounds and outdoor kitchens. There was so much to see and ways that these gardeners handled their challenges–I could write for days!
While there were many good gardening practices that were employed to handle the challenge of gardening in the city, almost all the gardens I saw did three things: used their vertical spaces effectively, added charm and year-round interest with statuary, and when they grew food, practiced companion planting (accidentally and intentionally).
Climbing Plants for Narrow City Garden Spaces
It makes sense that almost all the gardens I visited on the tour had either climbing roses, clematis, or climbing hydrangea vine, trained up a wall or fence. The number one challenge for city gardens is definitely lack of space, and by going up or over, these gardeners get big impact with just a little bit of soil.
In a larger yard, that space from the garage to the back door might be forgotten, but in a city garden, it’s an opportunity to train a climbing plant. Climbing Hydrangea vines, like the one pictured, are one of the few flowering climbing plants that needs very little light. I saw it used in several city gardens that were in partial or full shade for most of the day.
Variety and Year-Round Interest with Statuary
Another trend I was excited to see in these little city gardens was the use of sculpture and statuary. There are a number of reasons to add art to your garden, like adding your own personal flair or building a themed garden. And by adding statues and other decorative touches, gardeners get a little more interest that doesn’t rely on bloom or foliage. In city gardens where conditions are challenging and plant choices are even more limited, statuary can expand design options and add a bit of charm year-round.
Natural Companion Planting in City Gardens
The big treat of the tour was the chance to see the shared community gardens and speak to some of the gardeners that had been planting their little patches in the heart of the city for years. Those gardens were a delight for the senses, packed as they were with roses, lavender, clematis, allium, and of course, fruits and vegetable plants. By adding flowering plants to their vegetable gardens, these city gardeners turned their utilitarian veggie gardens into stunning displays that Monet might have been happy to paint.
It was a real pleasure to see how city gardeners use theses challenging spaces, and I came away from the tour with many ideas for my own little garden. But even if I didn’t love to garden, I think I still would enjoy these garden tours. It’s a great way to get to know your local community, meet new people, and enjoy the outdoors. If you know of a regular garden tour in your community, share it with us in the comments, and we’ll share it with our followers on our own Great Garden Supply Facebook page. Happy touring!