Some of the prettiest gardens in Lincoln are also some of the smallest!  One uses the entire west side of her garage as a hanging garden from embedded hooks.  In this site there has to be plants that can take a lot of heat!  And a little care in watering as those baskets can dry out fast.  A number of blues and purples dominated the color scheme one year.  The larger the basket one can use on a west brick wall with a water retaining base holding a high percent of compost the better.  A lattice with a thick vine and two “pencil trees” made this wall a garden in itself.

          With the lawn confined to the front yard, the back yard had mulched paths, and yes, usually a tiny pond with a pump to create the sound of water.  One of them had a solar fountain that only worked on sunny days.  Another had an in ground garbage can containing a tiny pump.  The top was a grate covered with rocks. The center big rock was drilled through for a pipe and the pump kept water running down the rocks.  Birds and people both like the sound of water, so there was a bench close by to enjoy it.  The rocks were also enjoyed by Butterflies who could drink from the thin layers of water on the rocks as it returned to the garbage can down the rocks.

          Since the yard is small it actually gives you more time and energy to do more for what you have without costing as much.  First place to start is your soil.  When you add as much compost as possible, plants can be closer together than in poor soil.  In other words, each plant becomes a showpiece.  If you don’t make your own compost or mulch there is bagged manure, compost, or mulch.  In one garden she made all raised beds by adding these.  She left only her paths at ground level.  This took several years to build up the soil level, but drainage is about perfect, and adequate moisture is held by the fluffy new topsoil.  It is almost impossible to have too much compost.  If you go on a tour of Lincoln Rose gardens and ask their secret, most will say “horse manure.”  Make sure the manure, from whatever source, has aged so the weed seeds have already grown and died. This can then be added as a new layer on top your old, and will smother your garden weed seeds.

          You can even have trees in these small yards – both fruit and ornamental!  Some might like a tall skinny tree such as the Colonnade Apples.  My squirrels like them and get nearly all the apples, but both have gorgeous blooms, are very slender trees, only 4-5 feet wide.  There are a number of dwarf trees that can be grown in pots.  Bonfire Peach doesn’t have edible peaches, but has double pink blooms and dark red leaves.  Other dwarfs do produce peaches or nectarines.  There is a slow growing Fringe Tree (Chionanthus virginicus) that sometimes is hard to find with long, white, fringe like petals, blooming before leafing.  It likes slightly acid soil and can do well in partial shade.

          You can have a garden even on a porch!  The last few years container gardening has become very popular.  A neat garden here in Lincoln was a wide entrance (cement) up to the stairs to the front door.  It was outlined with very large pots going up to the steps with tall plants – Cannas, Bananas, and Red Fountain Grass edged by trailing plants leaving no doubt where the front door was.  The wide steps had pots on each one – a garden right there.  The Red Fountain Grass (Pennisetum) is not hardy here and does not have viable seed.  In a big pot mine gets about five feet tall into a big clump by fall.  This fall BJ cut it down to four inches and put it in the garage.  I hope the roots live so I can divide it next spring.  I keep the soil barely damp all winter.  There is a tough looking root, so I expect to use a saw to divide it if this winter ever ends.

          The Cannas are easy to dig as the bulbs are planted close to the surface of the soil.  I have the six foot tall red leaved ones.  After digging I divide them to make packing them in vermiculite in the basement easier.  Small sections can dry up.  The latter part of March, I put the sections in damp sphagnum to give them a head start either in the basement or the garage.  My Dahlia bulbs are treated in the same way.  They aren’t divided until Spring as they tend to dry up.  Vermiculite may be drying, so this winter they went into closed plastic bags in the garage.

          For a background in one of the large pots I planted ‘Bright Lights’ Swiss Chard.  It grew over three feet tall with yellow and red stalks.  The leaves were huge and rough surfaced to show off those colored flat stems about three inches across.  This year’s catalog had an orange variety, so I may have to do several pots this summer.  Bacopa hung down from the edges.

          Angelona is another of my favorite pot plants that blooms all summer in pink, white, lavender, or purple between 12 and 18 inches high.  Now, that there are both sun and shade Coleus they make excellent pot plants anywhere.  There’s no end to the color variations to choose from.  My “Lace Stockings” with black veins filled an 18 inch pot and grew about three feet high in full sun.  The newer Perilla Padilla that resembles a Coleus also gets that large.  Both Coleus and Perilla can give you cuttings to have a bouquet in the house after snow arrives.

Copyright 2010