What to plant in a small garden

TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHS MARIANNE ALEXANDER [[email protected]]

Wondering what to plant in a small garden? Gardening in small spaces is getting easier as growers develop dwarf hybrids and cultivars ideal for townhouse gardens and containers 

1. TOMATO TUMBLER

The generous trusses of tomatoes on these bushy, spreading plants hang down in such an appealing way it’s hard to resist picking them.

Make the most of them
Best grown in containers, these tomatoes also look stunning in hanging baskets. Tall slim containers work well as you don’t need to bend over to pick the fruit; try adding a basil plant or two around the edge as they make good companions.

Growing tips
Grow them in full sun, in well-composted soil to which moisture-retaining granules have been added along with slow-release organic fertiliser. Feed your plants regularly with a high-potash tomato food like Phostrogen Tomato Food (5:2:10) or 3.1.5 fertiliser.

2. PENNISETUM SETACEUM ‘FIREWORKS’

Grow these aptly named ornamental grasses not just for their architectural shape, but for an explosion of colour during the warmer months.

Make the most of them
Group them together in clusters of three as accents for summer colour; use them to introduce a different texture to planters of cascading plants or as a sculptural element in tall containers.

Growing tips
Sun loving, they like well-composted, free-draining soil and prefer a warm position. Feed them with a low-nitrogen fertiliser (2:3:2), so they develop strong, firm stems which can hold themselves up. Cut them back to 15cm from the ground in early spring.

3. HELIOTROPE ‘MARINE MINI’

Compact ‘Marine Mini’ is a dwarf form of heliotrope. Cold intolerant, they’re often treated as an annual and grow 20cm high by 25cm wide.

Make the most of them
Pot them in a series of terracotta pots lined up on either side of your steps, or along the edge of the patio. This petite plant looks fantastic combined with summer-flowering yellow bidens or Cineraria saxifraga.

Growing tips
‘Marine Mini’ should be planted in loose, well-drained but moisture-retaining, slightly alkaline soil (pH 5,5–5,8). It needs sun, or filtered shade in hot regions; keep it constantly moist and feed with a slow-release fertiliser.

4. BEGONIA ‘MISTRAL RED’

With their deep red pendant flowers and attractive foliage, these trailing begonias are ideal for a shady patio especially as they start producing flowers early in summer.

Make the most of them
“Grow them in a sheltered spot in the garden, but they’re really at their best in containers, which should be big enough to allow space for root growth,” says Julian Kruger of BallStraathof.

Growing tips
Although they tolerate full sun they love partial shade, and in regions with low humidity, need full shade but plenty of light. Easy-care plants, they benefit from regular feeding with a pot plant food like Multifeed Flowergro.

5. OSTEOSPERMUM FLOWERPOWER DOUBLES

Hybridising of Cape daisies has come a long way and we love the two-tone colouring of these FlowerPower daisies.

Make the most of them
Although happy in flower beds they also make excellent container subjects; plant them near your patio as their flowers stay open at night. They thrive in the company of other plants with similar needs, like the indigenous sutera, bacopa, diascia and Brachycome iberidifolia (Swan River daisy), so plant them in a wide terracotta planter or window box.

Growing tips
Regular deadheading and cutting back in late summer will rejuvenate your plants and encourage reblooming. Feed them with slow-release fertiliser.

6. ‘WHITE FIGURINE’ ROSE

“Miniature roses are perfect for small spaces,” says Anja Taschner of Ludwig’s Roses, “particularly when they’re fragrant, like this knee-high variety, which produces a non-stop display of both single flowers and clusters. Good for cutting, it’s ideal for the night garden as its flowers almost glow in the dark.”

Make the most of them
Although they thrive in the garden, ‘White Figurine’ roses also do well in containers provided they are watered daily and fed monthly. Choose a deep, wide container so the roots are kept cool.

Growing tips
Plant in a good quality rose-potting mix. Feed monthly with Vigorosa and protect from black spot with a twice monthly spray of Chronos or Rose Protector.

7. CAREX OSHIMENSIS EVEREST ‘FIWHITE’

The green and white striped leaves of these ornamental, evergreen grasses are so fresh looking they bring light and life to dull areas, while their fountain shape makes them a good choice if you’d like to add texture to your garden.

Make the most of them
You can grow them on their own in a container as an accent or use them to soften a mixed grouping of impatiens, spotted leaf arums and Hypoestes phyllostachya ‘Freckle Face’.

Growing tips
Easy plants to grow, they tolerate bright shade or sun and can take moist and dry conditions.

8. CHRYSOCEPHALUM ‘FLAMBE YELLOW’

“It’s amazing how many people want to touch the little flowers of these mound-forming perennials from Australia, as they feel like velvet,” says Angie Carter of Elands Nursery.

Make the most of them
Mass plant them in informal drifts, use them as edging plants or plant along retaining walls so they cascade over the edges. Team them up with other sun lovers that need little water, like lobelias, Superbells Calibrachoa and osteospermum in terracotta planters.

Growing tips
These heat- and sun-loving plants are real survivors. They relish free-circulating air and thrive in the hottest part of the garden. They tolerate sandy soils, dislike wet feet and flower until the first frosts. Trim back tired looking plants in midsummer and feed with slow-release fertiliser.

 

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