Limited space is a landscaping challenge, but it also has the advantage of being more manageable than a large garden. Working within a small boundary encourages efficient use of space, and resources of time and money go a long way. Almost any space is large enough for creative use of containers and plants to achieve a pleasurable outdoor living area.
Use containers to grow ornamental plants as well as small fruits and vegetables. Large urns, window boxes, hanging pots and other containers in various shapes and sizes are useful in small patio gardens because they bring life and color to corners that might remain bare otherwise. Hang interesting or colorful containers from hooks on bare walls or support structures, or use them alongside steps or simply place tubs of colorful plants by doorways. Containers make the most of available patio space, but keep in mind, containers dry out quickly, especially in the hot summer sun. Invest in quality containers that will last for many seasons.
Using the vertical space of a small patio or garden increases usable areas tremendously. Use hanging baskets for flowering ornamental plants, of course, or use the baskets to grow small fruits like strawberries or grape tomatoes. Tiered shelving in a patio corner or against a wall creates options for herb gardens and groupings of small potted plants that may otherwise look haphazard when scattered around on the ground. A trellis or arbor is another garden feature that adds a lot of vertical interest to small gardens.
Small Species and Dwarf Cultivars
The size of a tree is usually proportional to its root system, according to Oregon State University extension literature, so container-grown trees are often smaller than the same in-ground species. Trees that are small at maturity are the best choice for container growing. Dwarf evergreens like Skyrocket juniper (Juniperis scopulorum cv. Skyrocket), boxwood (Buxus species) and dwarf citrus trees (in the proper climate) are all good small space candidates for containers. An added benefit of growing dwarf evergreen plants and trees is year-round color and texture.