In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
August, 2009
Regional Report

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This pocket garden is bright spot in an otherwise dreary urban setting.

Pocket Gardens

I was in San Francisco last week and came across a delightful little garden planted in front of a basement apartment. That the site was dark, damp, and receiving only an hour or so of direct sun was taken into consideration when this little plot was planned, I'm sure. All the plants seemed to be thriving and the splash of color was a delightful surprise in an otherwise urban setting.

Grow your Own
A pocket garden would be ideal in a side yard where there is only a sidewalk with a strip of soil, or in any small space that has not been paved over. My friend Sylvia has a tiny spot in her side yard where the down spout for the rain gutter meets the sidewalk. She is planning to plant the area with miniature ferns and baby's tears (Soleirolia soleirolii) with a few small stones to add interest and to deflect the flow of water during the rainy season.

There are certain things that must be addressed when designing a garden for a small space. First, and most importantly, is to select plants that suit the site. Never plant shade-loving plants in full sun or vice versa. Do your homework prior to investing time and money into any project, no matter how small. The second thing to take into consideration is the mature size of the plant. Most garden references include information on how tall a plant will grow as well as watering and light requirements.

Select plants with small flowers and foliage to keep the garden in proper proportion to the space. Thyme, heather, miniature armeria, sedum, alyssum, potentilla, pratia, and bacopa are all plants that have tiny leaves ideally suited for a diminutive garden tableaux. Miniature roses might be used in a sunny location. Henry has tiny wild orchids growing all over his yard that would be perfect for a shady, moist garden setting.

Keep in mind that small plants have small roots so you don't need to amend the soil as deeply as you would when growing larger plants.

Be Inspired!
Visit public gardens to get ideas for your own miniature garden. The San Francisco Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park has a beautiful collection of alpine gardens in containers right outside of the library. The elegant Filoli Garden in Woodside has planted formal miniature knot gardens in raised planters directly in front of the larger in-the-ground versions.

Growing miniature gardens with a theme is very popular. Desert scenes with cactus, fern grottos and even Italian villas can be created by combining the right stones, plants, and accessories.

There are hundreds of Web sites that specialize in miniature gardening and sell all kinds of decorative miniature "stuff" to enhance your own creation. Don't let size intimidate you. You don't need a huge yard if you feel the urge to get your hands dirty.


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