(This post was updated on April 23, 2023)
When I gaze out over a big yard, I can’t seem to break the area down properly in my mind so as to define a cohesive plan for a garden.
I do much better with smaller spaces like an apartment patio.
Some of you recall my patio at my old apartment. It was a large rectangular space that got lots of sun, so I could grow most anything.
Below is a collage of that patio garden. I have endless gorgeous photos of plants and flowers I planted there over the 8 years I lived there. But here is what some of the areas I planted there looked like.
Clean & Get The Surfaces Ready:
First, clean up your area. If you have grass and weeds, you’ll have to deal with that in order to plant a garden in the ground.
If, like me, you mostly plant in containers, then just clean up your surface space to get ready for your pots and patio furniture.
This is part of my back yard at my new home. Most of the yard is raised for some reason; I’m assuming for drainage problems.
So that part of my space has a surface that either has weeds or grass, as well as gravel. And is somewhat difficult to work with.
My Patio & Yard My First Summer Here In 2022:
The photo above was my first year’s garden space as it was my first summer living here.
I had ankle surgery in late June, so I didn’t get to do as much as I wanted to. The fall season passed, then winter, and now we’re into spring. And still I’m having rehab 3 times per week here at my apartment.
I’m just now starting to walk again with a walker, as the damage to my right ankle was extensive. Plus it’s a 12 year old injury and that was my third ankle surgery.
I’ve ordered plants and herbs, and am hiring a neighbor’s grandson to come help me clean up the yard and plant them.
This same neighbor’s grandson, Casey, built a pathway to the sidewalk last summer, as there wasn’t one there to walk down.
The Pathway Was A Major Improvement:
This was a major improvement in my yard. Finally people could walk down my pathway to my living room patio door instead of going to the front door. Or attempt to walk on the raised yard.
From the parking lot it’s much easier to get to my apartment. Everyone who comes to visit me parks there and walks down the sidewalk to my pathway.
I have what I consider a large yard for an apartment. Where I live there are lots of trees and yards that face one other. So it doesn’t really feel like an apartment complex. It’s more like a neighborhood.
So now I’ll get to some of my tips for getting a space ready to create gardens, and what I think you should strive for in your space.
If you have a small space to garden, you may want to find ways to make it look larger than it actually is.
Create the illusion of a larger garden with an outdoor mirror:
Just be careful that your mirror does not have a lot of sun directed toward it. I’ve been cautioned about that in the past.
Determine Your Color Theme:
I always have shades of purple in my gardens. Purple is an excellent color choice against an expanse of green. Whether it be green grass, green containers, or what have you.
Purple just mixes really well with the green in nature. It is a soothing color that often seems to recede into the greenery around it.
When you look out across a garden space, dark blue/purple flowers seem to recede. In garden design, you can use this quality to make spaces seem more expansive.
My Japanese Maple In A Container:
Of course I brought my Japanese maple in its container here to my space. I love that tree. There are many trees that grow quite well in containers.
Last spring my neighbor helped to plant it in a larger container, as the roots were out growing the container it was in. However Japanese Maples do tend to grow slowly.
You’ll want to choose trees that grow slowly if you want to put them in a container.
My Garden Color Theme For 2022:
Last year my chosen color theme had whites, yellows, reds, and of course purples. This year I’m adding pink instead of red.
I also planted perennials both in the ground and in containers. Below you see a hosta plant I planted in the ground last year.
I planted two hostas, and both have come up this spring, which I was quite happy about.
Bring In Furniture For Seating:
Once your garden surface area is somewhat clean or clean enough, it’s time for the placement of furniture.
Keep in mind that you might end up moving things around once you lay out your container garden pots and other elements.
What we have planned in our mind and what actually works or fits in our spaces sometime differs.
If you’re going to have a beautiful garden space, you’re going to want to sit outside and gaze at your efforts. And watch the birds and squirrels coming to visit.
So provide your garden space with seating. I have outdoor wicker furniture that I purchased years ago at a discount store, and it has held up quite well.
Seating I Have For My Outdoor Space:
There is a wicker settee out in my yard next to the Japanese Maple tree. And the chairs are on my patio where I can go outside and sit and watch the squirrels and birds. We have rabbits here as well.
Bring In The Pots/Containers:
Then bring in the pots. Or ones that aren’t already in place. Plan what’s going to be planted in each one and design your patio garden accordingly.
Stack garden pots multiple heights to add dimension:
When you differ the heights of your garden pots, it makes for a much more beautiful container garden.
It leads the eye up vertically, which is always a good thing when you’re short on space, as it makes the area feel more expansive than it actually is.
Consider a water feature. It will be soothing and also attract nature to your garden space.
Keep in mind that plans will change or have to be altered. As you add plants you’ll often find that you actually need more or less.
We gardeners often misjudge the space we have.
I like to arrange my pots in groups of 3-4, depending on how large they are for the space.
Bring In Annuals For Instant Color:
I typically buy annuals because you get color and flowers quickly. Perennials take longer, but unless they die during the winter, they’ll come back for you come spring.
I’m going to get the perennials in place, and then consider annuals for the patio.
Add Herbs To Deter Insects:
Also I’m very fond of herbs and add various favorites of mine to my garden.
I always have to plant lemon verbena and pineapple sage. They have the most incredibly sweet scents to them!
I’m big on chives because I like to add it to food for that extra bite of flavor. Also rosemary and oregano. Well, let’s just say I love many herbs!
At my old apartment I could plant vegetables because I had lots of sun. It is the very opposite here. I mostly have shade here.
In case you choose to plant in large containers and have a smooth surface, you might want to consider getting plant caddies so you can move them.
In fact I urge you to order plant caddies to hold any heavy plants. If possible place the pots on rolling caddies before you even add your soil and plants.
I like the one below. I’ve tried various other plant caddies, but they weren’t as durable.
Here I have more yard space than patio space, so I don’t know how necessary it will be to bring out my plant caddies.
I moved big plants myself for years. But now I’m getting older and pay a heavy price for attempting to move heavy containers by myself.
Planting Roses In Containers:
In case you’re not familiar with my previous patio garden, I had a yellow rose bush in a container in the corner by the gate.
It came back for a number of years. Then finally winter killed it, and I was heartbroken.
Here’s what it looked like growing there in the corner. There was sedum growing on the rose bush pot’s surface.The photo is somewhat blurry because I was using my zoom lens to capture the flowers in front of it.
Below is what the roses looked like on what started out as a somewhat smallish rose bush that grew mightily.
It was planted in the biggest pot in my garden. Now my Japanese Maple resides in that pot.
If you want to plant roses in containers, I advise shopping for them at a plant nursery where someone will be knowledgeable about the best roses for containers.
Attract Wildlife & Pollinators:
I like salvias and zinnias and petunias and any flowering plant that will bring in bees, hummingbirds and butterflies.
You want to encourage these frequent flyers to your space. I don’t have enough sun to grow zinnias well here. But I am doing the best I can to grow plants, herbs, and flowers that will attract pollinators.
Yarrow and salvia are two great pollinators.
Add Garden Art:
I also have garden art that I’ve collected over the years. Most of what I have is still in my patio closet because I didn’t get to spend as much time in my gardens last year, my first summer here.
Water Sound & Movement:
You’ll attract birds to your garden with running water. I had a gorgeous cobalt blue water fountain that I unfortunately dropped and broke. Now I only purchase water features that won’t break!
Once you get all these things situated and your plants planted, your garden is virtually complete.
Well, sort of. I don’t think a gardener’s urge to buy more plants is ever complete!
Design your garden space by becoming knowledgeable about the amount of light your space has and buy plants accordingly.
Give your garden lots of love and it will reward you. Each year add something new to your yard, because that’s just what a gardener tends to do.