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Hands up if you have loving memories of running through the huge yard at Grandma’s place or playing with your friends in the park at the end of the street? For many of us, that was just the way our world looked. We took all that open space for granted. However, as our cities expand both horizontally and vertically, the space that each of us gets to call our own is now much smaller.

These days we are more likely to have a small yard, balcony or even just access to an apartment rooftop where we go to get some ‘fresh’ air sometimes. Although these spaces are small, it doesn’t mean they have to be bland or empty. We just have to take a different approach or ‘think outside the square’.

Think back to the gardens of your childhood and try and identify your favourite features. Was it the colors of the flowers? The old swing? All the odd things found in the shed? Once you have these images in mind, you can incorporate elements of them into your own special garden retreat. They’ll just be on a different scale.Let’s take these examples and develop them further.

Fill your space with color

Find a nursery or plant market in your area and take time to talk to the staff. Describe to them the space you have available. If you include details such as which direction it faces, if it is sheltered or exposed to the wind and elements, and how you plan to utilize it then they can help you select appropriate plants. Look for those that are in pots or planters and are easy to maintain.

Choosing a theme based around colour or varieties can work well. For example geraniums come in almost all the colors of the rainbow. Plant them together in large containers or group lots of smaller pots in clusters. Color does not only have to come from flowers though. Leaves can be amazingly colourful and have unusual textures. If you are in a warm climate, consider a collection of unusual cacti.

The containers you use for planting plus your garden furniture can also have brightly colored paint or be made from all sorts of materials. Consider using wine barrels cut in half or old bird baths as planters. Even drain pipes cut to assorted lengths can be arranged vertically and painted for a more modern look.

Rock-a-bye baby

While you probably won’t have the space to set up a full swing set like the one you fell off as a child, you can buy free standing swinging chairs in all shapes and sizes. Chose one that fits your space and position it so that when you are curled up on it you can gaze on some of your beautiful plants or over a peaceful view.

Re-use and recycle

Go back to Grandpa’s shed if it is still there or rummage through second hand shops to find objects that can find a new home in your garden. Look for things that would make wonderful planters such as watering cans, baskets or old baking trays. As long as it is hollow, durable and can have some drainage added then it is a possibility.

Also look for small tables, chairs or anything that can be used to display your plants. Don’t forget you can hang your plants too or attach them to walls or trellises. Use your vertical space well and you can shield off the outside world to create your own private paradise.

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