Gardening big in small spaces

DP_HerbsThe gardenette, or small garden, can offer the ideal solution when gardening space is limited. Many varieties of herbs, veggies and flowers can live well together in tight spaces, and they often offer yummy and beautiful yields.

To begin, peruse unused corners or small pockets of ground available to you. This is a great opportunity to let your imagination run wild. Some of the best gardenettes are in unlikely
places such as next to a bench, mailbox or a small unused corner.

The next phase is to decide what you would like to grow and check instructions to see how much space is needed. Intensity can be created through plant variety, color and seasonality. Both annuals and perennials offer a splendid pop of color and can provide a beautiful bouquet throughout the season for you to cut and enjoy. An added bonus to a gardenette often means maintenance is easier. Have fun, and design it to suit your needs.


DP_ShrubsSmall shrubs provide year-round structure in the gardenette. How many to use will depend on the space available. The smallest shrubs eventually grow about 3 feet wide, so plan  accordingly.

Evergreens provide greenery during the winter and can make a nice backdrop for flowering plants. Consider dwarf forms of spruce, arborvitae, boxwood or holly.

Flowering shrubs add color with their seasonal blooms. Deutzia, caryopteris, crape myrtle, weigela and roses come in varieties that stay small.

Flowering plants

DP_FlowersA few perennials in the gardenette provide reliable color year after year. Some of our favorites are echinacea (PowWow Wild Berry), coreopsis (Crème Brulee), catmint (Purrsian Blue), allium (Millenium) and rudbeckia (Little Goldstar). Garden phlox, tall sedum, salvia and iris are good standbys. The foliage of heuchera will complement most any design, as do small grasses (carex) and variegated liriope.

Annuals are a must to fill in gaps that may occur. Even though they are planted each year, the color they provide is outstanding, and they are also economical. For best performance in sunny spaces, plant profusiontype zinnias, angelonia, vinca, gomphrena, lantana and supertunias. Begonias, impatients and torenia are the best flowers for shady spots. Use colorful foliage to accent in the shade.

Daffodils are the optimal bulb for any garden, though crocus offer nice color as early as February, and hyacinths smell wonderful. Because the foliage on bulbs stay around after blooming, place them in areas where annuals will be planted, or place them behind clumps of perennials that will hide dying foliage.

Herbs and veggies

Smaller and non-DP_Veggiesaggressive herbs such as oregano, thyme, chives and sage are easy to place in the gardenette. Treat basil like an annual; plant it in May for months of fresh pesto. Likewise, smaller vegetables work well in little gardens, some offering attractive colors. Plant early-season veggies such as carrots, beets, turnips, onions, kale, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Lettuce, spinach, radishes and bok choy can be used along the garden edge.

Summer vegetables such as peppers, eggplant and even compact tomato varieties make nice additions to the gardenette. If a fence or trellis is available, cucumbers and pole beans can be trained as a backdrop. Avoid corn and large vines such as watermelon or pumpkin as they require a lot of room to produce. Combine any of the plants listed here for an interesting and productive gardenette — a garden to suit your needs.


This gardenette is particularly attractive because
of descending heights from back to front.


Hydrangeas are reliable and beautiful and also make
good anchor plants because they are perennials.


Alice Longfellow shares her love for gardening on the mid-Missouri radio show The Garden Spot, through articles in Missouri Gardener magazine and with visitors at Longfellow’s Garden
Center in Centertown.