A garden with plants and flowers

Five lessons for a city space

Here's five lessons for creating a beautiful and manageable garden in an urban space from expert James Hitchmough, who uses his own garden to experiment with ideas on planting combinations

James Hitchmough is Professor of Horticultural Environment in the Department of Landscape Architecture at Sheffield University. His own urban garden in the city is a test bed for his scholarly work and the stylised meadow he has created unfolds from one season to the next.

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From late winter onwards bulbs and a low understory of woodland plants reduce the area of bare soil that weeds would otherwise swiftly colonise, with taller summer plants emerging as the spring layer dies back.

Here he gives five no-nonsense lessons for a city space.

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Five lessons for a city space

  1. Don’t discount exotic species. Many South African plants are very happy in urban Sheffield.
  2. A good ground layer of plants, out of which other, taller things can emerge, will keep the garden looking good in the early months, so plant large numbers of shade-tolerant understorey plants, such as primulas and ranunculus.
  3. Trying to have flowers from January to November means that you have to open the vegetation up more than if you just want a garden from April to September. It’s more work, but you’re rewarded with greater visual interest.
  4. Dogs and gardens can be tricky. This is the first garden James has had with a dog – one that occasionally wants to dig a big hole but this article has lots of great ideas to help you create a dog-friendly garden.
  5. Don’t be in a big rush to discard plants that don’t seem to be performing. Give them another year as it makes a big difference.