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Design solutions for building gardens in urban environments

Published: 8 January 2019 - Sarah Mead

Building a garden in an urban environment can be particularly challenging: limited space, specific regulations, etc. Even though you only have a small patio within the city, you can build a garden that is highly  functional, yet comfortable and refined: an urban sanctuary away from the urban bustle.

In this article, you will find a non-exhaustive list of design solutions for building a garden in urban environments.

Segment the space in different living areas: creating different atmospheres in your garden, especially if it is small, will actually create the paradoxical effect of making it seem larger. You can divide the garden into outdoor rooms that echo upon your interior. This also creates a feeling of space.

In small gardens, the space is usually too limited for major focal points. To address this issue, you can create a series of mini views within the garden itself. It will offer interest in every direction while using plants to provide a framework.

Carefully select your plants: on the one hand, too many colours give the sensation of a close and confined space. On the other hand, monochromatic schemes (such as blues, violets or yellows) preserve the sensation of space. You should choose smaller cultivars or dwarf forms of your favourite plants that won't outgrow the site and are easy to maintain. Find a suggestion of plants that are perfectly suitable for such purpose.

Make the walls go away: Use a living wall to create lushness where grounds pace is limited. Otherwise, William Morrow, garden designer, use a trick he calls the "disappearing boundary". Imagine painted wooden board fences, which give a greater sensation of space.

Forget about natural lawn: to keep a lawn look nice takes a great amount of time, energy, chemicals and machinery. Instead, you might want to consider paving stones, a wooden floor or artificial lawn which are fine and durable alternatives.

Design for all the senses: in urban environments where senses are often mistreated, a garden should address and calm all senses. Fountains add the relaxing sound of water, scanted plants (such as gardenia) provide sweet fragrance for the smell; divergent textures of hardscape will address the touch. For the taste, you can grow an urban vegetable garden with herbs, tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, greens, etc. This convenient option will add a fresh taste to your summer meals.

Fire outdoors: "Fire is more about keeping people warm" says designer Scott Shrader. Fire is an ancestral gathering place, a source of comfort, a mesmerising play of light. With the constant constraint of limited space you would be combining style and practicality. For safety reasons (and particularly in urban thigh spots) it is better to consider gas-fuelled designs.

Eventually, when designing your garden, keep in mind that urban environments can be tricky to work in. In other words, you need to think well about the logistic and the budget. For instance, you might need specific machinery such as hole diggers or a mini shovel to conduct the construction work.



 
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