Pruning is a good thing

On a visit to a retirement village, chief gardening sub-editor Diane Peacock discovered that downsizing to a smaller home and garden is a lot like pruning

On a visit to the Douglasdale Retirement Village in Jo’burg, I gleaned a few great ideas from gardeners who’ve moved from a large garden to a small one. The experience also included deciding what furniture and favourite items to keep and what to get rid of. They had to be selective when it came to deciding what was ‘dead wood’ and what wasn’t. They also had to change their way of thinking when it came to selecting plants for their new gardens.

In this garden, an amazing amount of varieties were densely planted to achieve a pretty cottage-style look. Hanging baskets add to the view and provide a certain amount of screening.

This curving pathway flanked by beautiful roses makes a pretty view from the house.

The aim of pruning is to get rid of old and dead wood. Having played its role in the blooming process, it needs to move on (in this case to the compost heap). It hinders new growth, and has become a burden on the plant. Removing it not only invigorates the plant, but leaves it free to develop new life. It’s like spring cleaning: throwing out or giving away things you no longer need is liberating and opens up new opportunities.

Grow large varieties like bougainvillea in pots so the roots won’t become invasive.

A chat with a few of the resident gardeners revealed a host of things they’d done to put their limited space to good use. By letting their ingenuity run wild, they indulged their love of gardening to the full. Here are some of their ideas:

Use small trees and species that are ideal for confined spaces, like climber Black-eyed Susan.

Curving beds and winding pathways provide a sense of space. This meadow-style bed looks endless and has subtle mounded tufts of grass and stones that make points of interest amongst the colourful annuals.

Mirrors visually increase the size of a garden and are ideal decoration for bare walls.

Archways add an extra area for growing, look pretty and provide privacy.

Items like statues and birdbaths can also be downsized.

Rose lovers need not be concerned, you can find a suitable rose for just about anywhere. One gardener made ‘rooms’ with different colours, another, a woodland area with small trees.

A good pruning is necessary every now and then, and afterwards, you’ll be rewarded with a regenerated, beautiful space no matter the size of your garden.