If you haven’t got much square-footage on the ground, make the most of vertical spaces. Garden designers Laurie Chetwood and Patrick Collins won a Gold Award for the tallest garden ever built at Chelsea last year, featuring a nine-meter-high glass tower covered in plants. A collection of window boxes brimmed with tomatoes, peppers and edible flowers, and a ‘living wall’ of herbs made use of hydroponics, a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions in water without soil.
The RBC New Wild Garden also put planting on a higher plane, converting an old shipping container into a central feature and ‘living building’ with a green roof designed for life and habitat. Inspired by rain gardens in the USA, the garden was designed to make the most of rainwater and reduce runoff from flash floods.
If getting to grips with hydroculture sounds a bit too scientific for your weekend gardening trials, window boxes and hanging baskets can help you make the most of wall space. And if you have an office, summer house or extension with a flat roof, covering it with vegetation, planted over a waterproofing membrane, could even help you save on energy bills, acting as an extra layer of insulation.
Work with or without water
The RBC garden made the most of leftover runoff not absorbed by its green roof feature by installing channels and pools that overflowed into different parts of the garden, providing a sustainable watering solution. But this wasn’t the only garden to base its design around H2O.
Tom Hoblyn’s Cornish Memories Garden was focused on a water feature that flowed into a small swimming pool based on coastal rock pools and planted with seaweed-style oxygenators. The luxurious A Monaco Garden boasted a lap pool surrounded by glass sheets and aqua mosaic tiles for that 5-Star holiday look, and The Daily Telegraph’s sunken garden was inspired by Roman ruins and surrounded by narrow water channels, or rills, to be crossed by cobble stones.
While your London plot may not warrant or even accommodate a swimming pool, using elements associated with evocative water features can help freshen up your outdoor space. Consider wooden beach runners instead of stone paths and cover focal walls in mosaic or spa tiles in green and blue hues, illuminated with garden lights for evening entertaining. If you’re lucky enough to have some form of pool or stream feature, introduce interactive features with stepping stones and small bridges that both kids and adults can enjoy.
Grow your own
As well as the tall wall of edible garden goodies, last year’s Learning Journey Garden also featured small containers full of peppers, tomatoes, chillies and blackberries perfect for small courtyard gardens and to provide accompaniment to those summer barbecues.
Golden runner beans, French beans and lettuce, as well as frisee lettuce and purple cabbage, joined apple, pear and lime trees in the hard-working The M&G Garden. And in the British Heart Foundation Garden wild strawberries echoed the red of the stepping stones and Pop-Art inspired metal arches.
Indeed, strawberries were a big focus at Chelsea last year, with RHS Wisley fruit and veg expert Rebecca Bevan finding out that the fruit can be grown on roof-gardens, patios and balconies, providing that the compost and growing conditions are good. If you want to branch out from the usual veg-plot offering and grow your own for Wimbledon this year, look out for the Monterey strawberry plant, from the west coast of America, and the British-bred Lucy – both championed at the event. These can be planted in March right through to the end of the summer and often bear fruit within 60 to 90 days.
Image Credit: British Heart Foundation Garden at Chelsea Garden Show 2011 - Sang Tan, AP Press Association Images