Going Up…

I have a small garden, prime border real estate is very limited and at a premium when there is high demand from plants that are literally queuing up to have some ground space they can be crow-barred into. There are only so many pots that can fit on the patio, the greenhouse has only so many shelves and there are only so many hanging baskets that can be planted up. When space becomes rare what’s to be done?

The answer is to go up. Climbers are the answer and in my garden, climbers grow up the house walls (Wisteria, banksia rose, climbing hydrangea), up the fences and railings (jasmine, honeysuckle, ivy, clematis), and even up through trees and shrubs (more ivy and more clematis). The house is only made up of so many walls and there are are only so many fences that you can use so what then? You can return to the border and plant climbers in there. The right climber takes virtually no space at ground level (the most important factor) and instead will give you leaves and flowers at eye level, elevated above the herbaceous perennials that can only look up in envy.

Recently I was compelled to buy four 8-foot tubular metal obelisks and they weren’t the easiest to get in the ground (cue pictures of me leaping onto them, jumping up and down on them and generally wrestling with them trying to get them deep enough into the soil). It was all brought about when an excess-plant off-load operation went badly wrong and we came back with two large hostas, eleven sweet peas and eight runner beans. However, we had managed to swap three trays of ground-dwelling plants for climbers.

Garden Skyline

However, even obelisks need a reasonable amount of border space. What happens when you want more planting space, but are refused planning permission to take up any more grass? The solution is to use arches and pergolas. We have two garden arches that accommodate four climbing roses. The roses themselves don’t take up much ground space and the arches are a 2-D line in the border. However they will take the roses up, high over your head and the grass you walk on as you pass under them. The pergola I am still waiting on but you get the idea – “border” space is extended above the “lawn” space.

With the walls, obelisks and arches, the garden now has a “skyline”, tall broad shrubs punctuated by spires of obelisks and curves of arches. The small garden has naturally dictated my style of trying to cram as much in as possible and using the third dimension to go up means that I can fit even more in.

9 Comments


  1. Just Greedy Sunil – that’s what you are! No, I don’t mean it, it’s lovely to have a garden crammed full to bursting. I am trying to get that way with mine, but 100 feet long, and 10 years later, I can still see soil! I’d like to see those obilisks, too, please!

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    1. Hi Mrs Mac, I’d say having a garden 100ft long was greed! Mine would fit in many times over! The obelisks are there in the picture in the background, but are very well hidden by all the shrubs and other greenery.

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  2. Nice! You are right, gardeners need to think more vertically! I have been doing that, adding an arch and obelisk. Sounds like you have many wonderful vines. I have clematis and trumpet honeysuckle growing on walls, morning glories on the obelisk, and roses on the arch.

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    1. Hello Jason, I do like climbers as they put flowers and their scent right at eye level. There’s nothing quite like a rose pillar that’s overflowing with blooms or a wall covered in green. I think it brings a real sense of fullness, age and flower-power to a garden.

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  3. This is funny to me because I do the same thing. :o) I planted a clematis vine at the base of a stand of trumpet lilies because I had run out of other places to put them. It’s really tiny so I don’t expect it to do much for a few years. Still waiting for warm weather? I would have gone crazy!

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    1. Hi Tammy, I’m still waiting for most of mine to really take off, but I do put them in challenging positions and then go and snap them in half (by accident) so I can’t really blame them for giving up if they do. With my success rate, I’m half surprised they’re not extinct in the wild!

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  4. I like the way you have also put a table in just so you can sneak a couple of plants onto it. What are those very tall plants on the right with green string? Eremurus? Really like them for their structural effect.

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    1. Hi Claire, the table is supposed to be sitting out and eating on, but since summer seems to be on indefinite leave, I’ve repurposed it as yet another place to put plants. The tall plants on the right are delphiniums, they’ll be starting to flower in a few weeks. One of them is almost as tall as the shed they’re against. They look similar to Eremurus (fox-tail lily) and I’d like to get those in the garden too, but they are big plants to find room for.

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  5. In small gardens it can be particularly difficult to create a feeling of space – especially if the area is flat, so the whole site can be viewed at one glance. Arches, however, are a perfect solution. Placed at the end of a path or as a way through a short hedge or fence, they immediately create a feeling of separation between two sections of garden and an invitation to step from one reality into another.

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