The Ultimate Guide For A Small Patio Garden

freaking-out-over-your-paint-colors

 

Hi Guys,

Thank you all so much for all of the lovely comments about Sunday’s post featuring the beautiful architecture and spring flowering trees in the Back Bay section of Boston.

My lovely son, Cale, is here! How lucky am I!

 

I warned him a few days ago that I would need help with my little garden.

Remember it from last September?

 

secret garden

 

 

I was so excited to see this charming outdoor space. Two things I’ve always wanted were

 

  • a working fireplace
  • and some outdoor space, all my own.

I am so lucky to have this wonderful small patio garden space. It’s my very own little piece of Boston landfill. lol, Remember that where my house is located was underwater less than 200 years ago.

In fact, most of Boston was.

 

Laurel, I’m a little confused by the title of the post. It says the Ultimate Guide For a Small Patio Garden.

 

Yes, I know what it says. I wrote it. ;] What about it?

 

Well, I recall that you said that you don’t know diddly squat or something like that about gardening.

 

Uh-huh, I have said that; it’s true! I’m almost completely clueless. haha

 

So, how does that put you in the position of being able to write the “guide to the ultimate small patio garden?”

 

It doesn’t. That’s because I’m not the one who’s going to be writing the “ultimate guide.” You guys are. Or, at least those of you who know what you’re talking about. I hope you’ll help me out. Otherwise, it’s going to be a sad little guide.

I mean, I know what I like.

 

@gncgarden on instagram - gorgeous - garden - outdoor living - table - chair hydrangeas@gncgarden on Instagram – This is one of my favorite accounts on insta. I mean, every image is absolutely breathtaking. This woman has an unparalleled green thumb, and her flowers are jaw-droppingly beautiful.

 

@gncgarden on instagram - gorgeous - garden - outdoor living - hydrangeas for days

More of the same from GNC.

 

Shor Home instagram interior design - architecture - gorgeous hydrangea topiaries - beach house decor

Remember this from three summers ago when Cale and I went to Provincetown on Cape Cod. I took this photo outside Shor Home in P-Town.  These hydrangea topiaries are beyond showstopping. Yes, even the drag shows P-Town is known for. lol

So, apparently, you can grow hydrangeas in a pot. However, I’m not sure about planting them in my tiny flower beds.

 

And, here’s the proof that you can grow them in a pot. From Furlow Gatewood.

 

HOWEVER – I’m putting this in bold since people skim. I DO realize that Furlow lives in Georgia, and I am living in coastal Massachusetts.

 

magical garden Back Bay - Boston

photo I took last fall when I was searching for my new home!

 

Gardens and gardening are very big in Boston and actually throughout New England.

 

Lovely garden - Northampton, MA

Remember the post from nearly a year ago when I was in Northampton featuring the beautiful homes and gardens there?

 

Greenwich Botanical Center - grandiflora garden tour

 

And, then in June 2019, I went on the most exquisite garden tour in Greenwich, CT.

 

ben pentreath - charlie mccormick dalias - english gardens

But, it makes sense. New England’s roots come from England, and of course, that is the land known for its exquisite gardens. Here are some incredible gardens that I saw on my trip to England in 2017.

Above is a pic I took of the legendary dahlias from the garden of Ben Pentreath and Charlie McCormick.

 

Okay, so now it’s time to face the music and take a look at my small patio garden.

 

When I moved on December 21st, the patio was covered with snow. After that, I pretty much never went out there. It was only a couple of weeks ago that I went out there for the first time, and I noticed that it was pretty sad.

 

small garden before

See what I mean?

 

tiny flower bed - small garden Boston

What’s with this 7″ deep flower bed? And, yes, that’s a rodent motel in the corner. Yuck.

 

dilapidated door small garden

That dilapidated door is something that I would love to replace before long. Of course, I’ll need permission to do so.

Yes, there’s an automatic watering system. However, I need to figure out how it works.

 

wrought iron window guard

Anyone who’s been reading this blog for at least six months knows that I pretty much think this window guard sucks the big petunia. Or, in this case, rose bush. I mean, I hate it.

 

And, I hate the door guard too. Fortunately, I don’t have to look at it because my window covering hides it.

 

my backbay bedroom design
Remember my concept for a new bedroom? There’s one example of a far better door guard design. Well, for me.

 

55 Comm Ave - Greek Key window guard

The other night, I was going for a walk and spied this attractive Greek Key design on a door guard. But, this could be adapted for a custom window guard.

 

hollywood-regency-wrought-iron-gates

These are some gates that I found online several weeks ago. I think this is a cool design too. Or, something along these lines. But, that is another post.

 

messy small patio garden
I’m not sure why the trellises were laid out this way. I would’ve put the big one underneath the hanging planter. But, anyway, time to clean things up.

 

So, fortunately, Cale was feeling almost perfect after his vaccine and gave me a lot of help.

 

 

Cale helping me with my small garden 2021Above, Cale’s trying to identify one of the plants using a phone app.

 

Lots of leaves, dead branches, flowers, and other detritus. And, yes, that’s a surgical mask that blew in. Is there a more telling sign of the times?

 

We worked for well over an hour in the bright sunshine, and then Cale needed to rest.

 

After clean up small garden

He did great! I was bloody useless the day after my 2nd vax.

after clean-up small patio gardenWe even pruned the rose bush a little.

 

after clean up small garden fountain

We’ll definitely need some potting soil.

 

Small patio garden cleaned up
Please forgive the messy barbecue cover. It kept blowing off last winter.  But, look how clean everything is! And yes, that’s another rodent motel in the opposite corner.  There has to be some alternative for pest control? Any ideas?

 

So, tomorrow afternoon, Cale and I will take a trip to Allandale Farm in Chestnut Hill.

 

Chestnut Hill is a less urban, more residential, and very beautiful part of Boston a few miles south-southwest of where I live. Cale worked there part-time several years ago after he finished college at New England Conservatory.

I’m finishing off with a couple more inspiration photos.

 

gncgarden on instagram - exquisite gardenOne more beauty from gncgarden on Instagram – exquisite garden

 

Loi Thai - Tone on Tone - White Hydrangea

And, of course, the consummate designer and taste-maker, Loi Thai, whose Instagram account has zillions of followers, and for a good reason. Everything he touches is exquisitely beautiful!

I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts. It’s a very small patio garden, and I want to keep it pretty simple.

You might also enjoy these two classic garden posts.

Jaw-Dropping Urban Gardens

The Most exquisite Gardens and Landscaping Ever!

 

xo,

PS: Please check out the newly updated HOT SALES!

And, MOTHER’S DAY GIFT GUIDE!

 

PPS: Yes, we’re taking Joe with us to Allandale Farm!!! I can’t wait to find him a larger pot! For those of you who don’t know who Joe is, you can read about him here.

And, you can see Joe here, here and here.

 

PPS: Thanks so much for all of the great advice, but please try to avoid links as they need to be moderated and made to open up in a new tab. Thank you.

 

Cale skateboarding Boston Back Bay 2021

And, here’s my boy (now 30) just before my super-nice neighbors came over for a visit. BTW, for any young women out there, he’s currently available and sweet as can be.

7th edition rolodex-post-graphic - November 2020 - A unique shopping guide with hundreds of sources created by Laurel Bern

  • Mary - May 8, 2021 - 3:39 PM

    Have never heard about the contraceptive – interesting! Wanted to reiterate to NOT use poisons. When the animal dies, wherever it is when it dies, it could also poison another animal who eats it. My dog was hospitalized and almost died – they thought he may have gotten at a mouse or similar that ate poison. Not sure where he got at it, as I do not use that, but they said it could have been a neighbor and the infected animal came in my yard.

    Good luck with this garden – cant wait to see it! Wish I had access to this many knowledgeable people for re-doing my landscape!ReplyCancel

  • Mary - April 29, 2021 - 4:09 PM

    Hi Laurel,

    I am a long time reader, first time poster. Check out Stonegate Garden Center in Lincoln.

    MaryReplyCancel

  • Karen Ann - April 27, 2021 - 1:19 PM

    A good sized porthole mirror to chase away claustrophobia…ReplyCancel

  • Janet - April 26, 2021 - 6:44 PM

    Youtube ideas from Bunny Guinness, a UK garden professional: 1. Small gardens look larger if you go vertical with bottomless large pots to elevate young trees. 2. Purchase only freeze proof pots versus freeze resistant pots. 3. No digging soil except to remove dirt for new plant to preserve soils’ structure, worms, and microbiome creatures and systems for flourishing plants. 4. Instead of digging, placing organic matter on top of the soil is taken down and processed by the worms who also aerate bringing oxygen. Also, since you enjoy research, Bunny may be your cup of tea since her videos often quote research dispelling landscaping myths or teaching how to garden. I feel like you might enjoy her video entitled, “Gardening for Well Being.” Monrovia’s website will give you professional write ups for plants in your 6 hardiness zone.ReplyCancel

  • Ruth - April 26, 2021 - 6:15 PM

    Someone has probably already said this – I am way behind. As you would likely recommend on an interiors project, even a brief consult with a designer is well worth the money. Gather your inspiration pics, a clear idea of how you want to use the space, how much time and energy you want to put in to maintaining the space each season, and find a garden designer to do a consult and perhaps draw a plan.ReplyCancel

  • Suzane Moore - April 25, 2021 - 6:25 PM

    Think about planting a variegated Virginia Creeper vine. It’s very hardy, beautiful trumpet shaped flowers of orange and red. Hummingbirds LOVE it. With a walled garden such as your’s it would be a beautiful and a dramatic change from the usual clematis vines people plant.ReplyCancel

  • Travis - April 25, 2021 - 2:11 PM

    Hi Laurel! Your back patio is going to be a wonderful sanctuary for you. I didn’t read through every single comment (this was a highly popular post!) so not sure if you already had this recommendation or not.

    I’m new to planting but really love my climbing hydrangeas. You don’t have that much space and from your posts you seem to adore hydrangeas, so perhaps the climbing hydrangea would be a wonderful choice with it’s beautiful white lace-cap flowers. I can see it creating a flowering arch over your gate and spilling over your brick wall. (Taken from a Boston gardening site–“Climbing hydrangea is perfectly hardy as far north as Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago and the Pacific Northwest. It does equally well down to the mid-South, but in areas subject to long, hot summer droughts, it does not succeed”).

    I agree that if you could have your mason build some planters that would be a wonderful option and raise your plants off ground level and automatically give your garden some height and your plants roots with thank you for the additional space. I know that with your design skills you will come up with a terrific plan (which I know is one of your most important rules!). If you do choose a climbing hydrangea splurge a bit and get an already established one as they do take a bit of patience before they take off. Good Luck and can’t wait to get an update on your charming and cozy space.ReplyCancel

  • Debbie - April 25, 2021 - 1:27 PM

    I would suggest you go to a garden centre, they usually have a service that is free if you purchase the plants from them.
    Study the sun/shade patterns so you can tell them what they are and show them your inspiration pics. Or hire a landscape designer=interior designer. Best buck for your $$. Also keep the plant tags and if you DIY draw out a plan of which plant went where til you are knowledge enough to identify the. Most of all if it dies there are plenty more in the garden centre and have fun doing it.ReplyCancel

  • Daria C. - April 25, 2021 - 10:14 AM

    There is a rat contraceptive humane alternative to poisoning them. It’s extremely effective and at $69 for a residential starter kit, very cheap compared to rodenticide and pest management services. I order directly from the company. Google ContraPest.

    It feels good to address the problem without torturing the poor creatures.ReplyCancel

  • Dee Brown - April 25, 2021 - 8:16 AM

    I don’t like the small flower bed. I’d brick it in and install concrete rectangular planters to a height of about 18″ all along that wall. Then you can plant thrillers, fillers and spillers to create a fabulous garden bed with plenty of soil. Also easy to tend to as you can sit on a chair when weeding, etc. The concrete planters really hold moisture. The other bed – I’d consider planting creeping fig for a green wall that doesn’t take up too much space. Potted plants in front of the wall of green would look lovely if you want seasonal color.ReplyCancel

  • Kristin - April 25, 2021 - 7:44 AM

    Hi Laurel! I love your blog, thank you so much for sharing your knowledge! If no has mentioned Claus Dalby’s instagram page to you, please check it out. Everything he does is gorgeous, his work is very inspirational. His container gardens are particularly stunning. Another great resource is Garden Answer, they are great source of inspiration as well but it’s their how to videos that helped me bridge the learning curve into gardening.ReplyCancel

  • Catherine Cullen - April 24, 2021 - 7:39 PM

    My best tips for container gardening:

    Drippers and tubing are essential. Attach everything with plumber’s tape. The order is (from the top, the hose bib):
    1) a splitter if you need more than one system
    2) a timer
    3) a GOOD pressure regulator

    Without the plumber’s tape, everything will leak. Without the pressure regulator, you’ll have nothing but problems with your drippers. I don’t know why they don’t sell all of it together. That’s it! You need to disconnect everything and take the timer and regulator inside for winter.

    The other tip is that container plants need regular fertilizing, way more than plants in the ground. Something about the water washing out the nutrients? I don’t totally get it but it’s definitely true.ReplyCancel

  • Donna Oliphint - April 24, 2021 - 1:59 PM

    Such a fun challenge! I love so many of the comments, too. My first thought is to look back over your posts of the gardens you love. They’re mostly just green and white, so you have your color scheme. And I, too, would love the gate painted black, but if the HOA color is the dark green, go with that. The same with the door and window guards. I think they’re lovely, but all of the ones you showed that you love are geometric. So you have the design for your beds. Like others, I would remove a couple of bricks to increase the depth of the bed, but I would raise that bed 18″ or more to give more soil. I’ve used 4x8x16 solid cinder blocks and chipped all of the edges that show with a hammer so they look tumbled, but since you won’t need many you can buy them already tumbled from a Home Depot or Lowe’s. You could also make the bed have a semi-circle shape under the fountain with low bushes planted in it to make it more of a focal point. If Encore azaleas do well there, they bloom 3 times a year, come in white and are easily pruned. Loriope comes in a white and green striped variety and would do well in the long sides. You can even plant bulbs among it for spring. Then small hydranges in big pots in the corners and you’re good to go. I would love climbing hydrangea on the brick and a pergola if allowed to control the sun as well as hide that ugly mass of electrical wires on the building that’s visible from your courtyard. Have fun with it! And, your boy is gorgeous!ReplyCancel

  • Olivia - April 24, 2021 - 9:12 AM

    I’m not sure about how you’d feel about it but some kind of border to your garden bed can allow you to add several inches of dirt. By the time you have 10 inches, that will please lots of plants. You can also find plants with more shallow roots that don’t care about the depth. Hydrangeas do well in pots bc of this trait. Lavender is another option with a shallow root system, and some varieties do come in white if you’re looking for something monochromatic. I would probably just plant the whole shallow bed with strawberries. They love shallow, tight places to grow. My parents and I spent years trying to grow them in a big bed, and one year they took root in the cracks in our patio instead. Happiest strawberries I ever had.ReplyCancel

  • Mina - April 24, 2021 - 3:14 AM

    Feed your rose now if you haven’t already, and get some Neem at least to battle aphids. One trigger bottle is enough. You can use GardenSafe Fungicide 3 which will help your rose keep yucky away. This is available most any hardware store or big box or nursery.

    A moon garden will be absolutely lovely there.

    Don’t bemoan bluestone. I have it and sometimes it reads a bit depressing in certain light.

    Choose your furniture for comfort first or you will never sit long on it. I will never buy teak or small iron chairs again, however well cushioned. (Tables, yes.)

    The first thing to do, of course, is to measure twice and log the light. This is of upmost importance.

    Annabelle gets huge if happy. She has many smaller cousins.

    I vote for sweet autumn clematis trellised to the outer wall, so it can hang over to the other side.ReplyCancel

  • Gloria - April 23, 2021 - 10:24 PM

    The account @myformal garden on Instagram is a tiny courtyard garden and it’s beautiful. I agree with others that a color scheme will help pull the space together. My Annabelle hydrangeas and white drift roses have proven to be super hardy. I bet you could pull out a row of brick if you wanted or plant a row of white begonias/inpatients in that side and pack it full of tulip bulbs in the fall for spring color. My “yard” is only slightly bigger than yours and structure and consistent color seems to help.ReplyCancel

  • Cat - April 23, 2021 - 6:13 PM

    My first thought is to find out how much sunshine you receive. Then determine if you need shade or sun loving plants. Test your soil and amend to ensure ph (alkaline or acidic) and nutrients are sufficient to work with the type of plants. Amend the soil as needed. Once these are known it will make it easier to shop for what will work best in your space.

    The above are key to any successful garden.ReplyCancel

  • d - April 23, 2021 - 5:36 PM

    Your small patio brick garden is beautiful, even with nothing in it. Amazon sells these plug in varmint deterrents, they work inside as well as outside if the plug is covered. Perhaps try a narrow vertical tree at back by your gate(might have to remove a few bricks) like a crimson plum tree it flowers pink in spring, so it wont feel as if folks are looking in. Or an espalier, like an apple or pear. No to ivy and no to boxwoods for varmint and cat pee smell.ReplyCancel

  • Janina - April 23, 2021 - 3:28 PM

    I’d recommend a clematis for covering your wall. There are so many cold hardy varieties, the flowers come in all colors and shapes. There are lots to choose from with beautiful white flowers.

    Passiflora incarnata (passionflower) is another vine I strongly recommend. People either love or hate the striking “space alien” looking blossoms. Many passifloras make edible and tasty fruit.

    Personally I’d avoid ivy. Ivy is a contact irritant and the dust coming off it burns the eyes, nose, and lungs. It’s not immediately evident when you plant it, but after 6 months I don’t want to sit anywhere near ivy. It’s hard to control and keep to a reasonable size, and extremely difficult to get rid of. It slowly destroys brick, wood, and live trees. Rats really like ivy, too.

    If you don’t have enough soil to grow in, I recommend using fabric pots for long term plant health (like the Vivosun brand on Amazon). You can put the fabric pot into a decorative container.

    I’m so excited for you that you have a new patio to turn into your dream paradise outdoor space.

    I’m an avid gardener of 30 years with experience in permaculture, garden design, site restoration, and orchid cultivation.ReplyCancel

  • Janet - April 23, 2021 - 1:33 PM

    I apologize if this was already noted. I would allow for more space where your existing 7” planting space is. You could remove some brick, maybe follow the line of your fence door where the current inward jaunt exists. I tried to attach photo where I drew a line but doesn’t work. Mice and pack rats love ivy but who can refuse the beauty. You can hide mice traps under matured plants, not sure how to handle rats/pack rats.
    You could re-use bricks if you choose to widen your garden bed by stacking them around planted plants, 1/2 or full circle. This may also help keep dirt from flowing into the middle of your patio when they are watered. It may not be possible but I can envision creating a small area with shade for you in the summer, even as simple as a table w/ umbrella and oh wouldn’t misters be heavenly along the top perimeter of walls for super hot days. My dad had misters in his back patio in AZ and they made it tolerable to sit outside in 110 degrees.
    Your home & patio are lovely!ReplyCancel

  • Allie - April 23, 2021 - 12:58 PM

    PS I really like the wooden gate but I think it would be lovely to paint the inside with a trompe l’oeil view of another garden or pathway. Your walls are so high so a view with a distance painted there would be lovely.ReplyCancel

  • Allie - April 23, 2021 - 12:56 PM

    My advice is to watch a few episodes of Big Dreams Small Spaces (with Monty Don/amazon prime) and Garden Rescue episodes (those are on youtube). The English have so very many subclimates that a lot will tie in and there are episodes were people have small courtyard gardens like yours. But the advice and experiences are really really good and you can really get at what you are looking for which is the trickiest part IMO. There are many ways you could go here. I would personally do vines growing up those stone walls for the back layer and I would hang some mirrors out there. I love cozy courtyard gardens. We put a fence up in our front yard so we could have a courtyard garden. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Ruthie - April 23, 2021 - 11:23 AM

    Do you see the area from the house? Do you walk through it from the garage each day? If so, please consider how that looks in winter as well. Simple plantings might provide structure for the space. Perhaps tall narrow Hicks Yews in the corners, and boxwoods connecting them, leaving open spaces for lots of containers with seasonal plantings. Visit a botanical garden (or similar) for inspiration. The walls might have espalier(s) a lovely look framed by the yews on one and climbing hydrangea on another? Need more planting space? Remove some of the bricks. Perennials are nice, but in a space so small, remember they each are blooming only for a short time, I would not recommend many (if at all and no hostas, please) Need more privacy? Pergola might be an answer, Which could have vines growing on it. Have fun! And remember, WWBPD (what would Ben Pentreath do)?ReplyCancel

  • Mary DesPrez - April 23, 2021 - 10:38 AM

    Hi Laurel,

    I have a small garden at my house. I focused on planting white bloomers that are fragrant. You want to be mindful of when things bloom. I have two Viburnum Carlesii that bloom early~May in Boston. I also have sweetspire in white, and it blooms in July/August. A climbing hydrangea is a possibility, but it will be larger than ivy or virginia creeper. You can not go wrong with climbing roses that rebloom. Good luck!ReplyCancel

  • Lynn - April 23, 2021 - 10:16 AM

    You have a wonderful small garden space with such character. The outside fountain, and stone pot for the rose bush are great additions. You also have the charm of the brick wall backdrop. As for flower and plant options, I am sure you have had wonderful advise from the look of the responses above. I would like to see a small tree placed in the larger bed, that could be pruned back each year- this would give you vertical height and perhaps some shade in the summer months.ReplyCancel

  • Florence I Enns - April 23, 2021 - 9:38 AM

    One of the most beautiful gardens I ever created was a small patio garden and I learned a couple of things.

    1) Don’t need to get it all ‘right’ the first year. It is a process. My best garden was in my third year after I had learned what worked where and what didn’t work! Be aware that every ‘side’ of your garden will have different needs because it will get different amounts of light, wind etc.at different times of day so go out and ‘creatively gaze.’ Think of what you would like to see somewhere (take pictures and hold them up if you want to see if they visually work there). And do this at different times of the day- just as light changes in rooms so in your garden space.

    2) Do research! See if the things you would most like to put on a particular ‘side’ of your garden will like it! For example, if you get morning light on that side but no afternoon light you will not want to put a plant that loves light there! Choose something that needs a little light but no strong afternoon light – like wisteria!

    3) On that note – GO UP – not out! Because you have such small beds and high walls, the background base of your garden (where you will get the most height and coverage will be on the walls) needs to be climbers. On walls that remain mostly shaded, ivy or Virginia creeper do well. On sunny walls, you can explore roses and clematis, which go beautifully together – especially if you pick ones that have the same bloom time (OR you can deliberately pick different bloom periods) to extend the blossoming time).

    4) Don’t worry too much about potted plants or annuals yet. Get your base right first – which may take a couple of years. BUT, in the meantime you can “play” with the kinds of color or shapes you think you might want to bring in long-term by doing them in potted annuals. If they aren’t as high as the perennial you are thinking of, put them on something -like a plinth- to see if the long-term plant you are contemplating using would work there.

    Finally, I noticed that a lot of your inspiration images were of ‘white’ gardens. Doing an entire garden in just white blossoms (often called a moonlight garden because many white blossoms remain open at night and take on a kind of luminous glow) is a wonderful look and would create a very classic look with the brick. Basically, the garden relies on the greenery as a base and the white is your main accent color. Then, if you want more color, in the long term, you can experiment now by using annuals in containers for a splash of something more.

    A white garden is a color scheme that is hard to go wrong with! As for the door, if it is not rotting and the style is okay for you, doing it in a high-gloss black would look great with a white/green/silvery-grey color scheme. Hope that all of this is of use to you. If you have any questions, feel free to email.

    Florence

    P.S. I noticed in the comments that some people said hydrangeas wouldn’t work in that space because it was too hot. Maybe check out snowball bushes. Their blossoms have an incredibly similar look to hydrangeas and you can buy them as ‘trees’ where they have been pruned to grow narrow and upright and then spill out into a glorious spray of blossoms at the top. They come in different sizes and you could grow a row of them using space between them to fill with something of medium height. TO test out if they will handle the heat, buy just a couple and keep them in containers for the spring/summer season (they bloom in late spring). If they do well then plant them in your beds at the end of the season. Do MAKE SURE they are well-watered in the containers though as they will have a harder time handling the heat if they are too dry and this is easy to have happen in a container!

    Like decorating, a good garden is made of layers. So your backmost (or first) layer could be climbers (which is like the paint on your walls). Then your next layer could be snowball trees (which is your large-scale furniture). The next could be medium-size bushes between them (either solid green, a silvery-grey green [some kind of artemisia, perhaps] or something with white blossoms – this is your smaller furniture). And finally your container plants (which would be like your soft furnishings.) Accessories are your pots and garden ornaments!ReplyCancel

  • Deena Stovall - April 23, 2021 - 9:00 AM

    I love gardening but won’t offer more suggestions because the ones you have are GREAT! (All gardens evolve and you have enough ideas to evolve endlessly!) Just wanted you to know I’m reading and love all of your posts! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Jane - April 23, 2021 - 3:51 AM

    Hi Lauren,
    ivy screening gives hight, is instant and evergreen. Can be grown in narrow, deep troughs on detachable trellis to prevent root damage to walls. Winter hard too.
    An automatic drip watering system is great in a hot patio garden- saves water and work!
    An arrangement of pots in a corner with small bush underplanting and annuals added to give seasonal colour.
    A herb trough if nice too.
    Always look at final height and spread before buying anything!
    Have fun!ReplyCancel

  • Virginia Nuta - April 22, 2021 - 11:32 PM

    Ideas from my townhouse gardening years: trellises installed on top of your wall to give height, and then vines and strings of light. Pot plants. Outdoor rug and patio umbrella. Lovely lounge chair for reading. lots of white wine.ReplyCancel

  • Linda Cowan - April 22, 2021 - 7:09 PM

    Hi Laurel,
    Did this post generate the most responses you have ever received? I made my way through only a small portion. If you are still reading, here are my comments.

    The Beacon Hill Garden Club is having a virtual garden tour this year—$25 a ticket (June 30, I believe). You can also purchase their book, “Hidden Gardens of Beacon Hill.” Check out their website. I hope that next year they will once again be able to host an in-person tour in May. I’ve wanted to go on that tour for years, and I have enjoyed my copy of their book.

    Thanks for keeping us all up to date on your projects.

    LindaReplyCancel

  • Kris Betts - April 22, 2021 - 2:27 PM

    I’ve had 2 courtyard gardens
    You need to focus on screening your view for privacy and shade and vertical gardening think up not out
    Hydrangea are too out takes up a lot of space you need evergreen stuff will complement the brick
    Screening and shade if HOA allows install retractable awning. If not get a huge patio umbrella brick courtyards are hotter than hell in summer
    Vertical gardening install pretty wall fountain that is bigger than current on wall
    Install arborvitae they are evergreen pillar shrubs can be pruned can grow as tall as you want
    Install outdoor lighting you’ll want some for summer nights
    Keep rat traps I have them it’s a necessity in the city
    Do pots for flowers boxwoods in pots in NE they’ll dieReplyCancel

  • Kristi Smith - April 22, 2021 - 1:11 PM

    Absolutely love Monty Don!!ReplyCancel

  • Gdawg - April 22, 2021 - 9:33 AM

    Welcome to Boston. A few rules about planting locally, i live locally. Nothing, absolutely nothing outside before Mother’s Day and officially nothing outside before Memorial Day. Some, more tolerant annuals can go in by Mother’s Day, others need to wait. As you have seen over the last couple weeks, we can get late freezes then you will loose your plants to frost and have to start over. A couple other great places to check out, if you are willing to go as far as chestnut hill….Mahoney’s in winchester and Wilson’s farm in Lexington – you’re welcome for both….ReplyCancel

  • Tracey Christianson - April 22, 2021 - 8:15 AM

    Don’t forget the herbs!ReplyCancel

  • Kristi Smith - April 22, 2021 - 12:54 AM

    Dear Laurel,

    How very exciting for you to be able to bring this space to life and spend hours nurturing and being nurtured in it!

    My very first suggestion is to bring in plants that you absolutely love. It’s a very small place, and there are so many different plants to choose from. Plant what gives you joy, and do the research to find a way to make each one thrive.

    You have a lot of vertical space, and layering different heights up the wall and in planters gives interest and depth without creeping too far into the “room”.

    It’s been my experience that soil quality and nutrients (plus water) are crucial when it comes to vibrant plants. And they tend to be much happier and easier to maintain in the ground than in pots, but there needs to be adequate root space either way. You’ve had multiple excellent suggestions for how to enlarge your planting area.

    When it comes to pots, pay attention to the material and how it may alter soil ph or even poison plants through leeching toxins. There’s a fix for almost every issue, though.

    Walk your area and see what you love in the plants that thrive there. Talk to your neighbors about their favorites and experiences. Gardeners often have to thin things out and love to share cuttings and starts. You may not have to purchase many plants.

    It looks like Clematis and Canna made through the winter on their own. Beautiful.ReplyCancel

  • Rusty - April 21, 2021 - 11:45 PM

    I had a thought about trees and shrubs in large pots. If they are not winter hardy in your area (which most likely will be most of them), you might be able to find a greenhouse that will winter over your pots for you, it’s usually not too expensive and they may pick up and deliver back to you. There were a couple of places in my city that would do this. Good luck, have fun and be patient!
    -Former landscape designerReplyCancel

  • Beth Weber - April 21, 2021 - 11:43 PM

    Hi – I’m not going to read all the comments so not sure if this has been said but first thing, it’s too cold to start annuals yet so wait a week or two. Second, plants can be very expensive so I always start some from seed indoors but your garden is very small so that shouldn’t be a problem. In that long thin space I would plant some impatiens in one or two colors. I also think I spy some perennials in those beds already. Maybe some clematis but I need to see them closer up. So wait a bit and see what blooms and then fill in. Also, I love to do lots of pots – you can combine snapdragons, vinca, portulaca, etc for color. If you aren’t an avid gardener choose things that aren’t picky. Roses are beautiful but they can be a lot of work. Good luck!ReplyCancel

  • Marla - April 21, 2021 - 10:28 PM

    Raise those beds! Empty them out, replace soil use a concrete frieze to add detail to the wall around the beds. It won’t affect your courtyard real estate and will add beautiful detail. Select plants that are agreeable with available light. Look at green velvet boxwoods for your corners. Their texture is beautiful, their look is classic and they will anchor your space without overwhelming it!ReplyCancel

  • Jenny Niemeyer - April 21, 2021 - 8:57 PM

    Monty Don would tell you to decide what you want to use your garden for. Lounging? Puttering? That courtyard looks perfectly suited for a container garden with small slow growing trees and hardy hydrangeas if that’s what you love. Wish I was there to just pitch in and do it.
    Go find some fabulous large pots and get help placing them. Pick no more than 7 types of plants/trees and repeat. I used to watch Monty Don videos on YouTube. Look for ones about container gardens. Pick plants (and pots) that will winter well. Hell, hire a garden designer to make you a plant list for seasonal interest. You won’t regret it. Good luck!
    Ps- love your blog. I’m still laughing about the all-white decorating post.ReplyCancel

  • Daria J Dunivan - April 21, 2021 - 8:56 PM

    Laurel, I did not read the other comments so I may be repeating someone. The first thing is how do you want to use your patio. I spend a great amount of time on my deck or screen porch when in Michigan. I enjoy my coffee and breakfast, lunch, dinner, reading with an ottoman or on laptop. What type of furniture. And of course you can do a floor plan even small. I love to garden but I am not a garden designer. In every home I hires a landscape designer. I told them what I liked and what I did not like. I also did it in stages since I could not afford all at one time. I had them draw up the design. It is well worth the money. They can show you pictures and give great advise. Pots are great way to go several different sizes. A 7″ bed is useless. That is where a designer can help you. Most important is great soil and deep. Remember the more you have the more maintenance. All things to consider. Mondo grass in the 7″ area could be nice. No cutting mondo grass. I love it and have it in between my flagstone. Once you are done you will love it.
    Good luck.

    DariaReplyCancel

  • Jennifer - April 21, 2021 - 8:37 PM

    Hi Laurel

    Not to yuck your yum… but…
    Before you think about anything pretty.. you need to check if your bricks were repointed with cement vs lime. This is because if cement mortar is used with older brick it causes Spalding, meaning the brick face starts to flake off. This is because cement motar is stronger than old brick so when it gets wet the water has nowhere to go except through the brick which causes problems and the face of the brick to flake and pop off. Mortar is supposed to be sacrificial to the brick so always needs to be the weaker of the two. It may be fine, but I did notice some Spalding, you wouldn’t want to nurture a climbing plant for years only to have to tear it down to repair the bricks or worse have a structural problem because the bricks became too weak.
    Cement mortar on old brick and putting paint on stucco (vs a potassium silicate, lime, etc) are two of the costliest mistakes made on older homes and actually against GSA guidelines on listed properties and outright forbidden on National Landmarks.ReplyCancel

  • Karen N Johnson - April 21, 2021 - 8:04 PM

    So many wonderful ideas for your garden. I read a lot of them and they sound amazing. I just think your son is so great and helping you as much as he can. He is a good looking guy and hopefully he ends up with a girl you will love too.ReplyCancel

  • Michelle Winter - April 21, 2021 - 7:33 PM

    Clever. I’m going to try not duplicating anyone…

    1. Welcome Sunny! Thanks for participating in the post…it’s a fun one, right?

    2. Hey Jean…blonde is beautiful!

    A rodent motel is a trap or poison that is usually boxed shaped….designed to get rid of you-know-what’s.

    3. I’m one of those who lost a sweet and soft flame-point kitty because neighbors fed their rodents poison. He was only six years old and I still mourn him.

    Thanks Andrea for reminding others of what animals and insects go through in search of human safety and/or beauty.

    4. Julie, I had no idea there are plants that rodents hate! That’s awesome!

    5. There are rodent traps available that keep them safe and alive, so you can move them to a more appropriate setting. Just remember to check in on them.

    6. One other great rodent deterrent: Get a cat.

    Do you have one Laurel? I thought I saw a picture of a cat in a post. Let her sniff around in your garden occasionally and the rodents will smell her and leave.

    7. Terry gave ideas on your outdoor sconces. Consider adding uplights (powered by the sun if possible) and string lights above (if they allow it). Or is that just a California thang?

    8. If it’s possible to move the wall fountain down, I would. Where would it look best when enjoying it from a seated position?

    Anyone mention it might be nice to have a few cooking herbs if you can fit them in?

    Also, I think having a giant blow-up Santa would be perfect. One that takes up your whole yard and is there all year round. Make sure it’s tall enough that neighbors can at least see his hat from the street.ReplyCancel

  • Cindy W - April 21, 2021 - 7:32 PM

    Wow! Great comments- I agree to clean up and maybe coordinate the trellises and keep the gate but paint to coordinate with your door . See what things look like this spring summer. It is worth the money to get professional design suggestions. Pin the ideas/ colors you like. As master gardener , unless you want to deal with lots of pots, lose patio surface area and widen the beds.Practice colors with annuals this summer. I see people suggesting creeping phlox, but blooms don’t last long and it can look like dried seaweed in the summer. Periwinkle (almost year round green with purple flowers in spring) small boxwoods(I have over a hundred on my property and they don’t all smell like cat pee) give clean green look year round. Adding white hydrangeas would be beautiful- but even “small” versions need space. You will learn gardening requires patience, ability to tolerate failure, and like decorating, always in flux- have fun- so excited for the potential-oh, and get a fountain- even a little one -psst, Cale, Mother’s Day coming up!ReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth - April 21, 2021 - 6:32 PM

    I leave it to others to comment on flowers, while I will comment on the “accoutrements”. First off, get yourself some good, old fashioned and inexpensive black spray paint and spray all your trellises, hanging bits and bobs, and planters all one colour. it will freshen everything up and add cohesion at a fraction of the price of buying new. (Get rustoleum for anything metal). Next, can you paint the existing gate a black or dark charcoal to pick up on the dark of the wall bricks and your newly sprayed everything else? It would be a great temporary and inexpensive fix while you work on the gate-of-your-dreams. I think the existing gate will actually look great in black. You could also change to nickel hardware if you want to “go big”. Once you do all this, you’ll have a great base for any plants you add. Good luck and I look forward to seeing the results!ReplyCancel

  • Nicole Judge - April 21, 2021 - 6:25 PM

    Remember gardening should not be stressful. Most important is climate, flower type. Sun or shade. Annual or perennial. Is it a climber or is it a spreader. As long as height and odd numbers of the flowers are in a order. With complimentary colors. I believe some tall whispy plants with well groomed hydrangeas, wisteria, roses. Also, lilac bush that is on smaller size. The one that is a continuous bloom all summer.

    I really think Wisteria would be perfect for those trellis on doors and window. You control the plant. They are available now to buy. Beautiful colors. I have 3.ReplyCancel

  • Nicole Judge - April 21, 2021 - 6:17 PM

    I love to garden. To define a space with a story. I love to use the color wheel for my garden. I live in CT. I know about the types of perennials and annuals that can thrive. I am in love with hydrangeas. I have about 20. From the shrubs, to the tree to the plant. All colors. I think your space would be perfect with hydrangeas and roses. I think a climbing rose up one wall. With a dwarf hydrangea in a beautiful huge vase for the ground. Than other side put 2 more hydrangeas. I am sure you know plants have to put in either3,5,7 odd numbers. Looks pretty when you clump one color together. Than a opposite color from the color wheel to be placed adjacent.

    I also have Wisteria . They are beautiful. Climb but get heavy. That would be perfect for the doors and windows that you have. They need to trellis . Hope this helpsReplyCancel

  • Ramona - April 21, 2021 - 6:05 PM

    I’m late but have read most of the comments. I agree!! Even the comments which contradict, I agree! Laurel, you have many expensive project for the inside of the house, so I would keep things simple this year. You and a garden designer can study your space, get a good sense of how much sun you get throughout the growing season and let what you have already come up.
    An all white and green garden is one of my favs too. I add in purple tho’. But all white does glow at night even without the lights you have. Your door looks completely salvigible with stain. You can use black stain if you wish, but plenty of it in oil. The lonely fescue might be a good starting choice for a row along your long wall. They stay green most of the year and you would have instant gratification. I suggest planning for limited but instant gratification this year (which means a good dose of annuals)and making some permanent choices for the long haul. I see vines of some sort in several places. You might let them come into themselves and decide how to use them. All those mismatched trellises have to go, but maybe not till next year. I’d like to see at least one complete wall with trellis in the long run. Same thing for the very expensive iron, wait till your kitchen and stairwell are done. You can have a very pretty garden this year, just not your perfect one. We all love these missives about your new place.ReplyCancel

  • Denise Manno - April 21, 2021 - 5:55 PM

    I see Mark D Sikes Hollywood Hills garden there. Boxwood in planters as a backdrop, snd color added in as you please. Some cooler colored blue cushions an black iron or steel bistro furniture. White flowers brighten things up, and provides a neutral backdrop for the colors of your choosing, which could change with the seasons.ReplyCancel

  • Brenda Lakin - April 21, 2021 - 5:46 PM

    I just wanted you to know that there are varieties of hydrangeas that are somewhat mini if you ore set on having some ub tier garden. Also you probably already know that you have to be careful what you put in pots as the roots do not have the same protection in a pot as they do when they are in the earth.during the cold winter months. They would have to be protected. You could always try one. Boxwoods are also a great mix for most flowers and there are varieties that do not get too large. Because of the lack of garden beds, the last person tried to get as much vertical greenery as they could.. A great variety of a climbing rose is a pink one called New Dawn. It also mixes with Clematis very well. There are so many beautiful Clematis colors. You can also uee grasses in pots as an annual. I love Mexican Hair grass as it is so graceful. I can’t wait to see what you do out there! You and your son have already made a HUGE improvement! Keep up the good work.ReplyCancel

  • Sandzi - April 21, 2021 - 5:40 PM

    Before you select plants you need to know:

    1. How do I want to use this outside space?
    2. Will I use it differently, Spring, Summer, Fall & Winter?
    3. How much time am I willing to spend on garden maintenance? Pruning, fertilizing, repotting, watering.
    4. Where will I keep my tools, fertilizer and pest control items?
    5. Have you considered pots for the garden that can be moved inside when “baby it’s cold outside”? Example: Dwarf Kaffir Lime Tree (fast growing, great scent and good for shredding leaves into Asian recipes.)
    6. I can’t find where I put your dimensioned plan for the outdoor space. Copy, please. It would also be nice to know orientation: North, East, South and West. How hot might it get in the summer? Do you need to think about installing a summer fan or small winter space heater? Where?
    7. Remember, plants grow! What you thought was a Pee Wee can grow to 4′ by 4′. Will that work in the space? Scale!
    8. The great thing about plants is that for small gardens they are more affordable than fabric, art, furniture or husbands. If you fall in love with a plant and it doesn’t work out, move it along and purchase and plant a replacement. Don’t fret! You’ve already got Joe as your constant companion.
    9. The perfect garden takes time and diligence. It doesn’t evolve overnight. Purchase some inexpensive annuals (Sun Patients, Shade-loving Impatients, Phlox, Snapdragons, Geraniums, etc.) and plant them (after you know if they like sun or shade). You may learn you have a brown thumb and don’t want to deal with the planning, planting and maintenance necessary. Or, you might fall in love with gardening.
    10. Most of all, ENJOY the experience. You will learn much about plants and even more about yourself. Joe will enjoy watching you grow!ReplyCancel

  • Laurel Whitmire - April 21, 2021 - 5:18 PM
  • pamela smith - April 21, 2021 - 4:43 PM

    Consider joining the local garden club (virtual or otherwise.) Great speakers, meet smart folk who have been there, done that, learn about your zone, get invited to plant swaps and garden tours, etc. Hydrangea are LOVERLY when they are in bloom, truly nothing more swoonworthy; however, fuuuuugly the rest of the year, but so worth it. Evergreens will help soften the bleak seasons. I love lemon trees in old terracotta planters w/casters, but you have to bring them in before the frost; however, your huge windows should make them quite content during their inside months. Like an Italian limonaia. Heck, string up a row or two of Italian lights and extend your garden time to the evening hours, past the sun’s heat. Maximize your garden mileage. Happy planting/planning.ReplyCancel

  • pat - April 21, 2021 - 4:41 PM

    Hi Laurel, Happy Spring!
    Contact your local Master Gardener. They will draw up a plan for you taking in an account of soil conditions, light, etc. They charge by the hour. Mine was around $60.00. I like the idea of a partial sunshade. It would hide the wires above and also give you privacy from the windows above you. Good luck, take your time. Gardening is always evolving.
    PatReplyCancel

  • Margaret - April 21, 2021 - 3:31 PM

    Planning a garden isn’t so different from planning a room in some ways. You think of color, texture, height, repetition, light, spacing. The hardest thing for all gardeners is that things will grow(or not), slower or faster than you would think. One point is that plants in pots will self limit their growth due to limited root space and with regular pruning they can do very well as long as they are watered as needed. I think I would start small with a basic plan. You can always add more after you live with it and learn how much time you want to spend on caring for it. Nothing worse than getting all excited and over planting and then being overwhelmed with it all as I learned many years ago when I planted a huge veggie garden when I had my first house with a large lot!ReplyCancel

  • Janice - April 21, 2021 - 3:14 PM

    THIS! Listen to Pamela. She knows what she’s talking about.ReplyCancel

  • Suzanne Summers - April 21, 2021 - 3:03 PM

    Espaliered white roses would look stunning against the red brick. Can’t wait to see what you do with this lovely space!ReplyCancel

  • Kathy - April 21, 2021 - 2:41 PM

    I second that suggestion. The pavers should be set in some sort of sand or aggregate and you can make the planting beds wider if you wish, and add containers of course.

    The door is very dry and needs a heavy application of stain, preferably oil-based. Cover the surrounding area and really slosh it on there much heavier than painting a wall, getting into the crevices. My painter says the semi-transparent is the most-durable and he is always complaining that even professional painters don’t put it on so it really penetrates and protects. Don’t skimp and use more than one coat.ReplyCancel

  • Katie - April 21, 2021 - 2:36 PM

    So much good advice already. After downsizing from Los Gatos to a small yard in Napa, I agree with watching the sun patterns, staying monochromatic and classic. There’s a great article today in the NYTimes about being strategic when going to the garden center. I found excellent Brown & Jordan pieces on Craigslist, had them powdercoated and re-strung at a fraction of the cost of new – lots of folks in Palo Alto downsizing apparently. Classic & withstand any kind of weather. Teak is beautiful but as you know, has to be maintained. Can’t wait to see your garden develop!ReplyCancel

  • Lynn - April 21, 2021 - 2:09 PM

    I am another urging restraint this year. See what’s planted, observe seasonal light patterns and how the soil drains.

    Instead, I would invest in a fabulous planter urn and stuff it with good new potting soil and fabulous annuals. No shortage of online inspiration.

    Proven winners.com even provides recipes for planters.

    While you may not have the space or sunlight, a petunia tree is fun to contemplate.

    Then there’s hydrangea. Wonder if the association would permit you to plant a climbing hydrangea on the tall wall. Unlike ivy, it won’t penetrate the mortar. It would be pure heaven in June.ReplyCancel

  • Barbara - April 21, 2021 - 2:08 PM

    Hi Laurel – as a passionate gardener who grew up in Boston and now lives in Virginia I can’t recommend some evergreens enough (November and March are so gray and you want to look out and see something green. I would recommend dwarf boxwood. I love the idea of a small tree in the corner. Paperback maple is a favorite of mine as well – it never gets too large and has the loveliest shape. I would live the dream and buy three large pots for hydrangeas. Life is too short to not have what you love (for example, I have two lilacs who really do not love Virginia – it doesn’t get cold enough – but as a Boston girl I can’t imagine not having lilacs in my garden and I know they understand. I do agree to take your time. Paint the gate black, get your pots and set in some dwarf boxwood and a small tree and then go through the summer and learn about the light and what your garden needs. In the Fall plant bulbs. That tiny 7″ bed is perfect for clumps of crocuses and tulips. Nothing is more hopeful than bulbs pushing through!!!ReplyCancel

  • Kristin Brookhart - April 21, 2021 - 1:58 PM

    Run, don’t walk, to pick up a copy of The Less is More Garden by Susan Morrison. You will find tons of inspiration there. Consider also growing UP – maybe using the small 7” beds to plant vines and trellis them up the walls. (jasmine, perhaps?). And yes, you need to know your light very well, and how you wish to use the space. All covered very well in the Morrison book.ReplyCancel

  • Birdie Coutts - April 21, 2021 - 1:45 PM

    In my opinion:
    Your gate/door looks amazing as is.
    If you are allowed to plant ivy (Boston or otherwise) get to it.
    Your window/door grates are lovely, if you always have blinds pulled then why not put mirror behind the grates to create depth, repetition, surprise…
    Turning negatives into positives is so satisfying.ReplyCancel

  • Robin L Luchsinger - April 21, 2021 - 1:04 PM

    Gorgeous garden inspiration photo’s. Please go with garden containers-8″ isn’t enough space to grow robust plants. Kind of like asking you to stand on your tip toes all day-I know you are a ballerina, but let’s not make the plants struggle when they don’t need to. Good luck and show progress photo’s!ReplyCancel

  • Jackie - April 21, 2021 - 12:54 PM

    Great suggestions. I agree with using this first summer to see your light patterns. Brick walls hold and reflect a tremendous amount of heat which will be a determining factor on which plants will survive that condition. Also agree that in a small courtyard patio you should stick to a small color pallet like green and white and maybe throw in one other color with the use of pillows, throws on the patio furniture cushions. Too many colors in a small space doesn’t allow your eye to rest. I know you like the designer Mark D. Sikes so I would study the use of boxwoods he has in pots throughout his garden and how he used white geraniums and boxwoods in pots grouping the pots together in odd numbers then using one other color (blue) for his furniture and chinoiserie pots which I believe you’d love. His book ‘Beautiful’ features his garden where you can see how his use of 3 colors is stunning. Boxwoods and geraniums are extremely easy to take care of and don’t like having real wet soil so they are great choices if you don’t like to water too much. I would ask a landscape designer about how much a potted boxwood needed to be watered and the care and pruning needs of the boxwood…especially in the winter if the plants can stay outside, do they need to be covered, etc. Geraniums are easy but get bud worms so they need to be sprayed once you see them on your plants every week. If you have a rodent problem then I wouldn’t give them a climbing ivy vine on the brick wall to climb up on. I liked the suggestion of using a mirror on the brick wall which would make the space seem larger. Wish you the best on this great adventure. Gardening has been a passion of mine for 40 years so enjoy the process of learning and accept the fact that nothing goes smoothly in the beginning of gardening…we all have failures but that’s why we call it gardening…..start slowly and enjoy.ReplyCancel

  • Teresa Maddison - April 21, 2021 - 12:54 PM

    Laurel, it’s so incredibly fun to follow your ideas for your new place! I’m sure this has been mentioned, but I’d personally take the 7″ bed side and utilize a wire harlequin design for a climber, perhaps with some low concrete rectangular planters set just in front all along the base, planted with the hydrangea of your choice – that symmetry would give you the formal landscape you lean toward. Also, I’m a huge fan of urns with tall formal evergreens – those could set off your gate nicely with one on either side. I echo the sentiment of many as well – your son is super handsome and love that you are both so close! Thanks for all you do, Laurel, thoroughly enjoy your blog!ReplyCancel

  • Emily - April 21, 2021 - 12:53 PM

    Gardener, Zone 5, 35 years: I agree with the retired landscaper’s advice; with leaving plants that are there and living with it for a year; with using an alternative method to rodent management; with approaching this as designing a room; & watching the light over the year. This is the time to see what’s been done and what you like. Address the “bones” of the space that can be changed without changing the plantings for now, such as replacing the door and window guards, painting the old door, and deciding if you need that big grill or if a small tabletop one will do. All gardeners need a place to store their tools, gloves, bags of soil, and a place to actually pot up those pots-will that be inside or outside the wall? Give some thought to how this space will be used and by how many? Just you, as a private space? Two or a few friends for get-togethers? That will dictate what furniture you need and how many chairs, keeping storage in mind. I was intrigued by the suggestion of a retractable shade—very creative. Sit in the morning sun for an hour each month—Spring, Summer, Fall. Do you want a shade source? Where will you store an umbrella in the winter? You will also have garden waste—leaves, etc. How tidy do you like it? As you’ve taught us, research ideas, plan first, measure twice, ch the codes and HOA requirements, and so forth. You have plenty to do!ReplyCancel

  • Diane - April 21, 2021 - 12:48 PM

    Gail, I second everything you said. The best advice. Especially regarding testing the soil. This is a job for planters, pots, raised beds. Mobility of the planters allows adjustment as the seasons change and the light shifts. Some tender plants (lemon trees) could be included and brought indoors during the winter.ReplyCancel

  • Brittany Rhea - April 21, 2021 - 12:24 PM

    Having not read all of the previous commenters my initial thought was to watch and know the sun exposure you get. Also consider narrowing the plants to just a few kinds, and a couple colors then planting those en masse-well as much as you can in your space. When you study what you love about the gardens you pictured there isn’t a lot of diversity in the number of types-that’s why it looks so good. If you were to do one or two of 20 different types then it’s just chaos and everything looks dinky. Someone above mentioned Monty Don. Prepare to binge watch if you turn it on and I dare you to try and not fall in love with the man! 😆ReplyCancel

  • Shaleen - April 21, 2021 - 12:04 PM

    Laurel! I love your little space, and the brick! And also you’re son is quite handsome I must say 🙂 But back to business, I have a habit of covering everything in green… I’ve tried Boston Ivy but way up here in the cold north it just doesn’t work. Its also quite hard on the brick from what I understand, but Virginia creeper on the other had does not damage the surfaces and grows like a weed, and its low maintenance. I’m in the process of covering my garage and house with it and I’ve removed some of it without any damage to the house that a pressure washer didn’t solve. I think it would be happy in that narrow little flowerbed of yours as its quite resilient. I have it planted north, south, east, and west, in similar narrow beds along the house and it thrives. It might even just cover up that gate if you let it! There are also these really cool wire trellis kits you can buy that you anchor with glue to the wall, and you can do any patterns you like. It has been a dream of mine to do something like that with honeysuckle one day! That leads me to the other idea that instantly sprang to mind, ESPALIER! This would be absolutely stunning on the wall with the fountain! Like drop dead GORGEOUS. I don’t know what direction the wall faces but I’m sure you could find a tree that would work ) Of course it takes a bit of time but if you can buy a more mature plant already started it should take off! Then you could just do containers for colour and accents, which is super versatile over planting beds. I am absolutely green with envy at your garden possibilities and your historic home, what a dream! I so look forward to seeing what you do with your amazing space!ReplyCancel

  • home before dark - April 21, 2021 - 11:52 AM

    I’m a retired Master Gardener in Kansas which I call the bad weather sampler from hell. Along my gardening evolution, I have grown to prefer woody plants (trees and shrubs) to flowers.I say yes to understanding sun/shade. I would also have the soil tested if are going to plant in that very small bed. Personally, I’d go all containers with maybe a border of liriope that looks like grass. While I haven’t grown trees in containers, others have. Small maples (paperbark is a favorite) would add height and beautiful fall color. long rectangular planters of bowood could work.Climbing hydrangea is a slow grower, but would be beautiful on the wall. Yes to painting the inside of the gate black and if you keep the fountain plan to grow something to hide the electrical connection. Look for plants that have structure for year round interest. Yes to a planting bench/side table for entertaining and an umbrella (black and white stripes always a classic). I’d get rid of the random trellis thing going on and go for a clean, consistent look.ReplyCancel

  • Gail - April 21, 2021 - 11:51 AM

    Wow. So much info! SUN, SOIL, SEASONS. You must know your exposure before you plant a thing. You will need all new soil, so there’s no point testing what is there. Hydrangeas are beautiful but they’re short-lived. You’re going to want interest from spring to fall. Foliage and form are more important than flowers. Just as in design you’ve got to get the flooring the walls and the mouldings correct before you put pillows on sofas. Flowers are the pillows. You have to get the foundation right.
    You’re not going to get an English country garden in that tiny space. But you can do a Mediterranean courtyard and that would be fantastic.
    The flowerbeds are not wide enough to do anything impactful. If I were you I would put wide, deep cedar planters in and paint them black. Benjamin Moore onyx is what I use. I also love your gate and think it would look fantastic painted black. Then I would augment with pots.
    There is no rush. You’re always telling us not to rush out and buy a sofa without a room plan. Visit the library, get a good garden design book and draw out the form you want. Go to the nursery with your design and your information about how many hours of sun each wall gets. They will help you choose plants that will thrive.
    For now buy yourself a couple of fuchsias and some nice potted geraniums and enjoy a glass of wine while you plan.ReplyCancel

  • Tina - April 21, 2021 - 11:47 AM

    Hi Laurel. You might find in helpful to check out the BBC’s gardening god, Monty Don. His shows are full of tips and advice and features gardens of all sizes, some as small as yours with fabulous plantings in pots. Though I haven’t seen this particular series, he has one entitled ‘Big Dreams in Small Places.”
    As others have mentioned you will need to observe how many hours of sunlight you have to see what you can plant and where. And if you have a lot of shade, no worries, there are many fine options.
    For more plant porn: Annie’s Annuals emails and catalogues. (Annie has a nursery in the SF Bay Area) and the White Flower Farm (CT) catalogue is fun to look at as well.ReplyCancel

  • cyd - April 21, 2021 - 11:27 AM

    Something tall and evergreen in each corner will soften the edges. An umbrella will add interest and height. Taking out some brick pavers will enable you to have a larger plant, but you don’t have to do a whole row; it could just be a selected square in the middle of a wall. A potting bench or other piece of furniture can be used as a buffet and also another place for small plants (herbs?) and give some height. Looking forward to what you do with this space but as others said use your local resources for good info.ReplyCancel

  • Lu McKinney - April 21, 2021 - 11:26 AM

    AGREE! Japanese maples are stunning in LARGE pots… and come in a variety of colors, shapes…ReplyCancel

  • Andrea - April 21, 2021 - 11:19 AM

    Get rid of the rodent bait stations unless the building absolutely says you must have them. They are a horrible solution to a rodent “problem”. The bait contains a powerful anticoagulant (Warfarin is very bad, Bromadiolon is even worse)that takes up to 5 days to kill any rodent that consumes it. The poisoned rodent dies an agonizing death by bleeding to death internally. Any predator that consumes a live poisoned rodent will also die a horrible slow death – this includes owls, falcons, cats. The best way to deal with a rodent issue is to prevent it. Don’t store your garbage cans outside. IF you are dealing with a persistent rodent issue make sure all your neighbours are on the same page with regards to prevention.Snap traps are horrible, too but at least the death is immediate and won’t affect other creatures.ReplyCancel

  • Gogogramma - April 21, 2021 - 11:18 AM

    Great little spot!
    Lose the skinny garden “beds”. Space is at a premium and they are worthless.
    Go for beautiful large pots, a classic patio table and chairs, a patio umbrella plus a comfy lounger.
    Hydrangeas are gorgeous, but are not “year around” shrubs. Think about plants that give seasonal interest. Maples come to mind with shade, color in the fall, beautiful airy shapes.
    Sunlight, watering, pruning, clean up are all worth considering.
    Enjoy the process!!ReplyCancel

  • Meredith - April 21, 2021 - 11:12 AM

    Only one suggestion, subscribe online to Garden Design newsletter, it is free and you will spend hours looking at the gardens they feature. Good luck and enjoy.ReplyCancel

  • Melody Eckert - April 21, 2021 - 11:10 AM

    Lots of good advice in the comments. I’m in the process, with a landscape designer, of redoing my 165sf front patio in the desert. My ONLY tip is, if you have plants in big pots, put them on rollers. That way if you do need to move them around to maximize (or minimize) sun exposure, or bring them indoors during the winter, you won’t hurt yourself. I’m having great fun. ENJOY! Plants sustain me.ReplyCancel

  • Jennifer - April 21, 2021 - 10:56 AM

    Go for the hydrangeas, you won’t regret it! Annabelle hydrangea will grow virtually anywhere in the us, and is pictured in the Gnc garden.

    Forget box woods – they smell like cat pee! It should be illegal to sell them lol

    I would consider fragrant climbing roses for the walls. They require spring pruning and fertilizer.
    Check heirloom roses website- they have a great video on pruning and training climbers.
    David Austin has gorgeous climbers too.

    On the wall with the larger bed, I would plant Annabelle hydrangeas and peonies under the climbing roses, and then repeat that in pots on the 7” bed wall.

    Getting the right plants for the sun exposure is key.ReplyCancel

  • Sara Mattes - April 21, 2021 - 10:50 AM

    Take your own advice-hire a pro!
    (When at Allandale, look for John Lee)ReplyCancel

  • Susan McLaughlin - April 21, 2021 - 10:47 AM

    Amen to the value of a landscape designer!
    I would definitely keep the character door, either stain & finish or paint in BM Black Forest or Farrow & Ball Lichen, a traditional garden color in the UK.
    – Pots of Green Velvet boxwood
    – A wall trellis from Walpole WoodworkersReplyCancel

  • Kay - April 21, 2021 - 10:44 AM

    So much good advice! A couple of things I didn’t see. First, that small brick area will get extremely hot. Plants that might do fine in heat in a more open area could fry in your little garden. Please hire Mary Ann White! She’s wonderful.

    Second, I agree about pots, but in your climate (similar to mine) ceramic pots will crack outside over the winter and have to be brought indoors. And they weigh a ton, even before you fill them with dirt. Big plants need a big pot, so you have to go with containers that are light. There are some very nice ones online.

    Learning to garden is a process. Be patient with yourself, and try not to get too upset when something beautiful dies.ReplyCancel

  • Katherine C Thomas - April 21, 2021 - 10:41 AM

    As many have said, knowing your light is key to determining what type of plants may grow there. You also want to test your soil. It’s not a fun part of gardening, just like installing new HVAC or electric or plumbing is boring, but having the right soil can make all the difference in terms of how well and how fast things grow. If it were me, I might want to make the space feel more private and see less of the wires overhead (pet peeve of mine, but they bother some and not others), if that is the case, you could plant some small understory trees with a slight umbrella canopy
    and some interesting foliage like a Japanese Maple. This would provide some shade that allows you to plant more plants that can handle a brown thumb, like Hydrangeas and Hostas. The inspiration picture with the daffodils is super easy, basket, lined with plastic, soil and bulbs in the Fall. Leave outside and you’ll have a great little show in come Spring. The best part is that gardening is also all about color choices for example, cool vs. hot or analogous colors vs. complementary. With your background and eye, you’ll do phenomenal in this area. Oh, and if any of your windows look out into that space, make sure you place focal points outside those windows to draw your eye into the space. It is like creating a little picture from inside your home as you look out. A great beginning book is P. Allen Smiths, Garden Design book and be sure to check out the Garden Answer lady on YouTube for great container gardening ideas too!ReplyCancel

  • Vicki - April 21, 2021 - 10:29 AM

    You first saw this property in the fall, and you haven’t really looked at it until recently. I know you are anxious to get started, but I would live with it for this year, just planting annuals in the available spaces. You don’t know what is in the garden that hasn’t come up yet. What colors are the clematis that are already there? How does the sun change throughout the growing season (is there a permanent shady spot, or a blistering hot area)? Take the time to learn to get to know your own space, and see what others in the area are using. Take pictures. When is your current garden blooming, and when is it blah? Which plants bloom beautifully for a week, or for at least six? How can you extend the season? Use this year (until a killing frost) to gather information. Then see someone who can help you plan. There might be things that you love that you don’t even know are there! I know that it is hard to wait, and I’m not seeing others telling you to do that. But I think it will help you to find things you love and things you don’t want in there at all. Good luck!ReplyCancel

  • Ggaye - April 21, 2021 - 10:25 AM

    I’ve gardened all my life, but in the Deep South. But I read New England gardening books. Like many, I encourage you to spend first year in test mode. You have that fountain, so you’re ahead of the game. Find a local gardening firm so you don’t waste time and $$ on mistakes. Think pots. Seek weeping-form Japanese maple(s) that will survive Boston winters in pots. Look at Japanese gardens, for economy of space governs their design as does the effort to suggest broader nature in limited space. Boxwoods always provide good bones and are look Boston. Best advice: get to know local gardening firm. Talk to gardeners. Good luck!ReplyCancel

  • Susan K Kayden - April 21, 2021 - 10:25 AM

    Your boy is very cute, and he likes ballet? My daughter is 23, beautiful, single and dances with State Street Ballet in Santa Barbara. Just putting it out there in the Universe…ReplyCancel

  • simply cheryl - April 21, 2021 - 10:22 AM

    Also, Bobo is a smaller hydrangea and if you are considering boxwood, make sure you like the way it smells first. It’s one of the few bushes that I can smell before I see it.ReplyCancel

  • Simply Cheryl - April 21, 2021 - 10:18 AM

    I feel about gardening the way you feel about decorating. It’s my passion. The first thing I always tell people is to go outside and look at the spots at 9am, 11am-2pm, and 4 pm. Are they getting direct sunlight? Is it light but the ground isn’t getting direct sunlight? Is it in the shade. Once you know the lighting you can go forward. In Evansville if your are getting direct sunlight from 10-2 its full sun plants (cookable plants). Then: do you want color? For large areas I do a mixture of perennials and annuals. Since perennials only flower a short time I think of them as the “filler” in a bouquet and their blooms as a bonus. In very small gardens you may want mainly annuals if you want color (blooms). So first, watch your lighting and then decide how you want to “decorate” your garden: colorful or calming. Also, if you see an online photo of a plant that looks like and “awesome blue” be aware that it might have been enhanced. Go to Davesgarden online and most gardens will take pictures from their garden of the same plant that hasn’t been enhanced.ReplyCancel

  • Susan K Kayden - April 21, 2021 - 10:18 AM

    I have a tiny garden too, and almost everything is in pots, including climbing roses, clematis, hydrangeas and a lemon tree! Remember it’s just like designing a room: Choose a color scheme – all white? pink/purple? reds/yellows? and stick with it. I so envy your brick! Follow @small_magical_gardens, @clausdalby, and @romanticgardendreams for inspiration. Have fun!ReplyCancel

  • Amy - April 21, 2021 - 10:15 AM

    P.S. To keep geraniums from looking ratty, make sure to deadhead them. If you don’t know how to do that, I’m sure there’s a YouTube video somewhere. And, again, fertilize!ReplyCancel

  • Susan B - April 21, 2021 - 10:08 AM

    Quickly skimming so many wonderful comments, so perhaps someone has already suggested – hostas. Without having to worry about deer munching, these are fabulous – so many, many sizes and color combinations of green with white, and shades of green. Gorgeous with anything, and they can easily be divided and spread around. Where I am in mid-coast Maine, they have done fine even with a good amount of sun, but when I was in Westchester, they were happiest in shadier areas (until the deer found them). Also, triple echoing the comments about having a watering system. If you aren’t a gardener, you won’t want to be remembering to water!ReplyCancel

  • Pamela - April 21, 2021 - 10:05 AM

    Teak table and chairs, green with white flowers in4 big pots for seasonal flower replacement.
    get rid of smaller items like small pots or plants. easy peasey.ReplyCancel

  • RK - April 21, 2021 - 10:01 AM

    So much potential to add beauty to your space! Improving your soils and knowing your sunlight conditions are key to success. Put compost in your beds not potting soil. Potting soil is for pots. There’s a wealth of gardening information available on YouTube: GardenAnswer, Claus Dalby (Danish gardener who uses many containers), The Impatient Gardener, Soils and Margaritas, Jim Putnam of HortTube, How’s It Growing, and YGarden are some of my favorites.ReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth Ellis - April 21, 2021 - 9:56 AM

    And green velvet boxwood is greatReplyCancel

  • Lynda - April 21, 2021 - 9:55 AM

    What a lovely task to have. Consult a designer for sure. Think tall as well as ground level. Virginia creeper is less damaging than ivy and turns vibrant red in fall and. Could work on one of your walls. More plants than patio as in some of the garden pics you sent us too. And lastly. A water feature if you can get it. Is that one on the wall? So refreshing in a hot Boston summer.ReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth Ellis - April 21, 2021 - 9:54 AM

    I would recommend to get some plants with really cool foliage. Like some coral bells, escargot begonia, hollyhocks for vertical interest, clematis, dianthus has pretty foliage and flowers that smell so wonderful, can’t go wrong with any type of sedum, and one of my favorite shrubs is a blue shadow fothergilla. Midwinter fire dogwood shrub is also pretty in the winter. There are so many beautiful coral bells/ heucherella.ReplyCancel

  • Jill Farmar - April 21, 2021 - 9:48 AM

    Hi Laurel, Your son is adorable and you’re so lucky to have a great helper. Many great comments and I have gardened on 1 acre all the way to a highrise balcony.
    I would definitely get an outdoor cat to control the rodents. My old cat was an outdoor trained cat and was much cheaper than Orkin coming every month. He rarely came in the house as I am allergic.
    As far as plants, I always think in terms of what type of light you have and use lots of perennials and vines for the lowest maintenance possible. Lastly, in a small space, don’t use too many different types of plants or make it too busy. A calm, visually cohesive garden is relaxing no matter how small. A sleeping cat on a garden bench with chirping birds is magical no matter how small the garden. I can’t wait to see what you end up with!ReplyCancel

  • Tricia Hartner - April 21, 2021 - 9:47 AM

    Laurel, as an avid amateur gardener and having installed many gardens in the various houses I have lived in, design is important(and I live for it), the two most important element are sun and soil. I didn’t look through all the comments but knowing which way your garden faces and how much sun the various beds get is important. Do whatever you can to make sure the soil is riche, well drawing and healthy for the plants. then the rest is easy. You can take a sample of your soil and send it to UMASS or Uconn to have it’s nutrient content analyzed. It’s not expensive and worth it. Also you have great walls for climbers, again depending on sun you could do early colorful clematis (purple/pink) and then end the season in Sept with Autumn Clematis which blooms a perfusion of white flowers. Good Luck!!!ReplyCancel

  • Amy - April 21, 2021 - 9:46 AM

    From a horticultural perspective, it would be best to spend 2021 learning more about the exposure, the type of soil you’re working with, what plants might be hiding underground, how much time you have to putz around in the garden, how much watering you would need to do. Talk to neighbors with similar patio situations in Boston to learn about dos and don’ts that are specific to your situation and location. In the mean time, pot some gorgeous flowers. Little Lime hydrangea is good but just keep in mind that shrubs and many flowering plants are perennials, which means they won’t be in bloom all season. Hydrangeas keep their flowers longer than some shrubs but those photos you posted of the gorgeous hydrangeas? Those plants look like that for a few weeks, tops, before the flower heads begin to dry out. You can achieve a similar look with lots of white geraniums. Those plants are incredibly forgiving when it comes to light, temperature, and soil moisture. Put a small trellis in a large garden urn, plant a fast-growing annual vine to grow up it (I can’t think of a type offhand, sorry), then surround it with tons of white geraniums and boston ivy trailing down the sides. Pots of lavender would be gorgeous and would smell great. Tropicals look great potted. Small palm trees, elephant ears, cannas. A trick when it comes to caring for annual flowering plants (geraniums, for example): fertilize the sh!t out of them. Get a fertilizer that promotes flowering (Jack’s Blossom Booster is what I use) and use it way more than the instructions say. It makes all the difference in how your display looks. Ok, I’m way too excited about this. I’ll stop now.ReplyCancel

  • Jean - April 21, 2021 - 9:45 AM

    Dear Laurel,
    I’m thrilled to think I might be able to help you for a change as you have been invaluable to me and so, so, so entertaining! My two cents: 1. Listen to the landscape designer…draw it up exactly as you would a room. 2. Better the rodent houses than the rodents. I would take great pains to keep the ground clear so you can see if anything is running around before you settle in with your cup of tea. I have a little dewalt blower that I like to use to get the corners clean without all the sweeping. The boxes can be shielded from view but keep in mind the exterminator needs to check them monthly. 3. The Frontgate outdoor furniture that you link to is amazing. I have a love seat, two chairs and a coffee table that were purchased about 15 years ago. Extremely comfortable and still look brand new. 4. Never underestimate the power of an umbrella to add height, privacy, shade and maybe color. Good LuckReplyCancel

  • Toni - April 21, 2021 - 9:40 AM

    Hi Laurel!
    I’m so excited for you to dig into your new garden! You’ve got so many wonderful ideas here in the comments I’ll try not to repeat! Here are a few things that come to my mind: if you replace the door, consider a 1/2 door (a Dutch door?) for versatility. There are soooo many hydrangea varieties, you will find the right size, light requirement and color, no problem. The white color palette you’re drawn to will be gorgeous at night, the white will glow. A little bit of outdoor lighting makes all the difference, lanterns, string lights, spots, candles. They make citronella votive candles. Consider bloom time. Some plants put on a short show, some keep going. One of my dislikes is messy looking foliage, i.e. day-lilies. Consider winter interest. Skip anything too precious, it’s not worth the trouble. And finally, remember that nature usually won’t adhere to your carefully planned symmetry! Every slight difference in exposure will mean different growth rate. And finally, just enjoy 😊ReplyCancel

  • Marsha Stopa - April 21, 2021 - 9:34 AM

    Great suggestions here. A couple more:

    Hire a pro who has designed many tiny Boston patio gardens. Just like you, the garden designer will have a go-to list of the plants that perform well in certain light conditions. And the pro will be able to see beyond those narrow beds and visualize what can be done. Buy the furniture first.

    All gardens look sad in the spring before things start to grow. As someone else said, be patient and wait. Or, plant annuals everywhere and enjoy the color while you decide and design what you want and get started in the fall.

    I’m sure you know this, but it’s a bait box. Mice and rodents don’t live in it. They eat and leave. Which means it’s likely empty and needs to be refilled. Do you have a pest control company? Ask your neighbors what service they use and let a pest control company handle it. Once you have evergreens, like boxwoods, you can hide them.

    Pots are wonderful but make sure any evergreens or perennials planted in them can safely overwinter without the roots drying out. Again, a pro knows.

    As one reader mentioned, decide first how much time you want to spend tending your garden. The gardens you adore are ultra-high maintenance. You don’t get blooms like that without lots of TLC, not always but at certain points in the seasons. If you have to water selectively and daily, that could be more than an hour or two a week. Add in weeding, deadheading, fertilizing, checking for pests etc. and it could be another hour or more. That can be enjoyable in such a small garden but plan on spending the time.

    With all those windows above the garden, I would investigate whether you could build a pergola to provide privacy and, depending on the sunlight angle and heat, provide shade. I’m sure you could find a design that works with the architecture but it would likely require approval. But if it’s a hotbox out there in the summer it might be worth it. I’d do it for the privacy.

    Oh what fun and excitement! So thrilled for you!ReplyCancel

  • Colleen - April 21, 2021 - 9:33 AM

    More bed space? Take out 3 rows of bricks and add more soil. Easy.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 21, 2021 - 3:52 PM

      I was thinking about that possibility, too. Frankly, I wish the patio was blue-stone.ReplyCancel

  • Cynthia Novotny - April 21, 2021 - 9:31 AM

    Just as some or most of us would love to have a professional help with our interiors, may I suggest you hire a professional to help you get started in your garden. It was the best investment I ever made especially when it came to planting things correctly and spacing and eye appeal. New Englanders have quite the eye for their gardens.ReplyCancel

  • Ana - April 21, 2021 - 9:31 AM

    Hi Laurel,

    First, if the door works, just rent a power washer. It will clean that right up. If my kid still lived in the area, I’d drive out with mine and do it for ya! :-).
    If you’re going to do some pots of herbs or flowers, I have another “we” project for you and your sweet son, Cale. Turn the pots into sub-irrigated pots so you don’t have to water 3x a day in the heat of summer.
    Can’t wait to see what you do!ReplyCancel

  • Cindy - April 21, 2021 - 9:30 AM

    I have a couple of tried and true plants that you will love and are low maintenance and pack a punch as well.
    Ground Cover: https://www.monrovia.com/angelina-stonecrop.html chartreuse with golden flowers in the spring, I have some growing in a huge pot with a limelight hydrangea and it is spilling over the sides with it’s golden flowers and is a show stopper.

    Next ground cover: Scarlet Flame Creeping Phlox. In my front bed I have the creeping Phlox and in between I have the Angelina along the front of the bed, such color in the spring can’t be beat.
    https://www.thespruce.com/limelight-hydrangea-plant-profile
    If you need to buy pots buy resin pots, last a longtime and are fairly light weight, also if a big pot you can fill the bottom with packing Styrofoam, so you don’t have to use so much potting soil. Also buy potting soil with moisture control, the pellets hold water so less watering.
    I think if you had the gate power washed and then stain it and polyurethane it, you will have quite a few years before it needs it again or have to replace it.
    Your son is a hunk, hopefully some nice girl will latch on to him!ReplyCancel

  • Jane - April 21, 2021 - 9:28 AM

    What a beautiful space for a garden, Laurel. You’ve already received lots of great ideas, so I will just add a couple of thoughts. If you change your window guard, it would make a beautiful accent on one of your garden walls.

    When designing gardening spaces, put in your foundation plants first……hydrangea, tall boxwood on either side of the gate. Those can all be in large pots. In a small garden, annuals are your friend! They can be place in your small garden beds and in pots. (When planting annuals, add Osmocote fertilizer to your pots, after a month, begin fertilizing with a liquid soluble fertilizer every other week).

    If you keep your Rose, repeat that same color as accents in a couple of other spots in the garden.

    Some white annuals include Impatiens in shade; Geraniums, Supertunias, Petunias, Alyssum and Sunpatiens for sunny areas.ReplyCancel

  • Martha - April 21, 2021 - 9:25 AM

    Laurel, this can be beautiful. From the pictures you posted, you really like hydrangeas. They can do wonderfully in your space. The Macros like dappled shade, but they love a maritime climate, so they would do well there. The panicle hydrangeas do great in full sun and will look full and about 5 – 6 high in a few years, like Incrediball or limelight. Little limelight doesn’t get as large. For great hydrangea advice look at Hydrangea happiness Facebook page. Best, MarthaReplyCancel

  • LMR - April 21, 2021 - 9:24 AM

    -Consider painting the door, windows, iron guards and garden gate all Benjamin Moore Black Forest. It has just enough green to create more continuity with your future garden while maintaining some contrast.
    -Remove all plants and pots, trellises, etc. and give it all away except for the stone planter that contains the rose. Yes, give away the pink rose. You want 2 colors – green and white. Let someone else love the pink rose.
    -Do you use the grill? It’s using valuable space.
    -Buy your garden furniture and place. Teak weathers beautifully and doesn’t look dirty. White is going to need frequent wiping down.
    -Enlarge the beds as suggested and add Black Cow compost and work all existing soil.
    -The 2 existing lights are fine, but you could replace them with 2 new electric (looks like you don’t have any gas running to your new place since your stove is electric too) taller copper lanterns with clear glass. The clear glass with reflect light better than the rain glass that is there and the copper will quickly weather to make your garden look like it’s been there for a hundred years. Bevolo is the gold standard but Visual Comfort has some nice copper exterior lighting too.
    -Now you are ready to add plants. Boxwoods, boxwoods, boxwoods. You received some good suggestions on varieties in the comments. Buy large pots to hold white flowering annuals which you can place with your boxwoods as the backdrop.
    -Post pics for us all to enjoy!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 21, 2021 - 3:56 PM

      Hi Leslie,

      This is a historic district and you can’t sneeze without asking for permission. The building trim is already a beautiful dark green, so that would need to be the color used. Yeah, not crazy about the glass in the lanterns.ReplyCancel

  • Julia Bologov - April 21, 2021 - 9:23 AM

    Boxwoods, white hydrangeas (maybe a climbing hydrangea or clematis for the wall) and potted white petunias. Start small, you will know later if you are missing something! There are always seasonal flowers in pots.ReplyCancel

  • Barbara Francis - April 21, 2021 - 9:22 AM

    Laurel, First of all I Love following your journey of your gem of a home. Secondly your writing is worthy of a best seller and lastly……. you had me at first photo with white hydrangeas and ivy on the wall! Heart stopping. I think you would be outdoors as often as possible!! Thanks for sharing your transformation, inspiration and experience with us!!! ❤️❤️❤️🌱🪴ReplyCancel

  • Terry Booth - April 21, 2021 - 9:20 AM

    You have so much potential here. I’m in Nashville, so zone 7A. Not sure if you have an HOA or some other restrictions, but to me, your garden space seems very dark. If possible, I would paint the interior brick white or light creme ( again, don’t know what type of restrictions you have). And I would definately add a mirror to the brick wall to reflect light. I’m a HUGE fan of hydrangeas and I would recommend that you use Little Limelight Hydrangeas as they are smaller than most varieties. Make sure they are little limelight and not just limelight. These paired with boxwoods will provide a very classic look to your garden. Add a metal trellis and plant clematis. It is a slow grower but by year 3 it will be beautiful. Place various shades of green and white plants in pots. The key is just like in interior design….layer, layer, layer. Groupings of pots in 3’s. Small bistro table with 2 chairs; add a few outdoor LED candles. Perhaps even an old sideboard (small of course) that can be used as a serving piece if you were to have dinner and wine in the courtyard. Treat this space like any small room in your home…just instead of throw pillows, use plants. I’m sure it will turn out lovely.ReplyCancel

  • Jean - April 21, 2021 - 9:16 AM

    I am amazed with all the great garden suggestions. Laurel, your new place is absolutely fantastic inside and out! Maybe I missed it, but what is on the other side of the wooden door?ReplyCancel

  • Shirley Graham - April 21, 2021 - 9:15 AM

    I love the brick walls & just think what it will all look like later!! Exciting!! Have fun & enjoy all your area.ReplyCancel

  • Deb - April 21, 2021 - 9:15 AM

    Loving your posts about your gorgeous new home in Boston. Quickly read some of the comments about designing your patio landscape. Dwarf Limelight Hydrangeas are beautiful and perfect for a smaller space. I have several standard Limelight in my landscape in the Philadelphia area that bloom late July/early August. For more inspo highly recommend Deborah Silver’s designs, a talented landscape designer in the Detroit area. She uses a lot of boxwood and Limelight hydrangeas in her designs. She also creates gorgeous, dramatic containers. Would recommend not using ivy for climbing on the walls; in my experience, once established, it takes a LOT of effort to keep it pruned and within bounds. Have fun!ReplyCancel

  • Renee Marr - April 21, 2021 - 9:13 AM

    A lot of good comments. A few more things to consider:

    Consider the furniture you require first and then the garden design. You may have very little space left. Or, you may be able to remove some hardscaping.

    I also think a designer would be very important for you. The nursery centers already know all the right plants for your area and situation.

    How much time do you want to spend working on your garden? It is small, but choosing high maintenance plants may still require more constant effort than you want.

    Know the sun exposure for every side of your garden through the season – probably the most important consideration. Your small wall-enclosed area is actually an extreme kind of gardening, yet another good reason for a professional.

    Ivy on walls can be destructive – are those your walls? Are you allowed to have ivy on them? Other climbers are more brick/mortar friendly.

    An espalier may require more maintenance than desired. And since your garden in small, will the sun exposure on your espalier be equal — if it’s sunny at one end of the espalier and shady on the other, you’ll never get the uniformity you’re looking for.

    Pots are definitely in your future, but keep in mind they require water more frequently than plants in the ground, and the winter freeze is harder on them as well. Watering issues can be mitigated with a diy drip system, though.ReplyCancel

  • Terry P - April 21, 2021 - 9:11 AM

    First, I have NO green thumb and am a BLONDE – so what the heck is a “rodent motel” ??ReplyCancel

  • Gemma - April 21, 2021 - 9:11 AM

    Always impressed by your saavy followers….. all marvelous suggestions! Perhaps incorporate a mirror in the design? e.g. architectural mirror surrounded by ivy to mimic a window? Or….. paint garden door (verdigris?) and hang enchanting mirror on it? Come to think of it, “ enchanting”. Is the operative word for your garden plan. Will love following this thread as we move through summer!ReplyCancel

  • Bee - April 21, 2021 - 9:09 AM

    I am not a gardener and I really am not good at choosing plants etc. The only advice I can offer is to do like Maria Killam, and hire MaryAnne White to design your garden. She will take into account EVERYTHING and her work and advice is amazing – for all areas and climates. Hire an expert. You won’t regret it.ReplyCancel

  • Merri - April 21, 2021 - 9:05 AM

    Follow your own very very smart design advice and hire a professional to come out and view, measure your space then come up with a solid design plan! A landscape designer, connected to a nursery can design a plan that can be implemented all at once or in stages. Stick with native plants and plants that will flourish in your temperature zone. All of us have great ideas for your space but this is another ROOM in your home. You need a pro, they are worth the time and money in the long run.ReplyCancel

  • Maggy - April 21, 2021 - 9:04 AM

    Hmmm…my first thought is: It’s Boston! Where are all the ivy covered walls I have always heard about? I would plant some climbing ivy to soften the hardscape of the brick wall.ReplyCancel

  • hedy cerwinka - April 21, 2021 - 9:02 AM

    I’m intrigued by the small hanging pagoda(Is it a light or decor?) in the photo with the wooden door. Also agree with the commentor to keep the wooden door. Clean it up and it adds a nice organic feel to all the hard surfaces- metal, brick stone.ReplyCancel

  • Aurora Vanderbosch - April 21, 2021 - 8:56 AM

    Ok…I skimmed the first batch of comments and didn’t see anyone asking what is, to me, the most critical question:

    What’s your exposure?

    Living in Boston for 20 years, I’m VERY familiar with these tiny yards…and many are like my balcony here in Pittsburgh: insufficient sun.

    So you need to use a compass app on your phone, first of all, and figure out what direction your yard faces.

    Then you want to figure out how many hours of direct sunlight each area in your yard gets. I noticed long, deep shadows created by your walls—and that could really affect what you can grow in those areas, depending on how many hours of sun or shade they get.

    Then there’s the houses around you—they will also tend to cut off light.

    So—that’s the FIRST thing you MUST do: figure out hours of direct sunlight.

    Once you’ve done that—you combine it with Boston’s zone, you probably replace some soil, and you visit a good garden center and talk about your goals and your working conditions.

    Or you hire a landscape architect to do the work for you (once you know your sunlight/exposure). I know you follow Maria Killam—she’s got a landscape architect who worked for her remotely—she mentioned her in her blog every so often! 🙂

    Hmmm…now I’m wondering why *I* haven’t hired someone to address my teeny tiny, east facing, very very very shady balcony! LolReplyCancel

  • Liz Hennessey - April 21, 2021 - 8:55 AM

    Consider painting the inside of the gate.. black!
    We painted our entire fence and the wood looked like your gate and it looks new. If you can just do it.. you can get a new gate at a later point. Also have a back city garden. Small boxwoods are the best and very “English Garden looking. Also symmetry is great in a small space. Two or four pots or urns or in a pattern. Boxwoods in the beds would last year round and pots for color changed annually. The first few blocks of Comm Ave has some beautiful small gardens.ReplyCancel

  • Noni - April 21, 2021 - 8:55 AM

    What a lovely space! You’ll enjoy it so much. You’ve been given lots of wonderful advice and I can’t wait to see what you’ll do with it! My only suggestion would be to WAIT. It’s the hardest thing in the world in a garden but it looked like the previous owner had some lovely ideas and many of those plants are in there waiting to show up. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Janet - April 21, 2021 - 8:48 AM

    Seems like it would be easy enough to remove 4 rows of bricks on the side where they run parallel to the 7 inch bed. Whats underneath may make it impossible but I would investigate.

    I don’t grow shrubs/perennials in pots so someone else in New England should chime in. If you leave ceramic pots outside in the winter with soil, they freeze and crack. GNC has all annuals and in baskets or you can put a plastic pot inside the ceramic pot so expansion doesn’t crack it.

    I think those trellis are clematis vines – they like feet in shade leaves in the sun. They are perennials, can grow pretty large and come in white.

    Do check how much sun each side gets. I think a couple of dwarf evergreens are a great idea. Various hostas, white phlox, white astilbe, candy tuft which is green most of the winter, and white salvias are all easy to grow in the ground. Artemisias and lambs ears are gray foliage perennials to provide interest too. Then containers or annuals.ReplyCancel

  • elle - April 21, 2021 - 8:44 AM

    For more drool-worthy ideas, check out Mark Sikes Hollywood Hills Garden project. Not small, but it beautifully incorporates blue and white pieces and potted boxwoods.

    https://markdsikes.com/project/hollywood-hills-garden/ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 21, 2021 - 2:05 PM

      Hi Elle,

      Yes, Mark’s unbelievably gorgeous garden is linked to in the post via the post that talks about how to get his look, at least with furnishings.ReplyCancel

  • Trish O'Carroll - April 21, 2021 - 8:40 AM

    I suggest you plan on going to the Back Bay Garden tour for ideas of urban gardens. It is usually held the end of May.ReplyCancel

  • Heather - April 21, 2021 - 8:39 AM

    Laurel, your brick walled garden is beautiful and has so much potential! As others have said, consider which direction your garden faces and watch the light throughout the day. Which areas get the most sun, and when? Which areas tend to remain shady? Hydrangeas, when young, need a lot of water and intense sun will make them droop.

    Deborah Silver, a landscape designer in Michigan, has a blog and is a wealth of information, especially about hydrangeas. She is truly an artist. I used her tips and advice when I planted hydrangeas in our yard last year. Yes, some hydrangeas get very big, so you’ll need to be aware of what variety you’re getting and its mature size, not the size it is when you first bring it home. Generally, I don’t think that hydrangeas can overwinter in pots up north, unless you “heel” the pots in the ground over the winter. However, I had great success this winter with 3 boxwoods in large pots near my house foundation (I’m right outside Chicago). I wrapped the pots in white frost blankets and they came through like champs. So maybe that would work with hydrangeas, too.

    After researching plant types, sizes, light needs, etc. you can start drawing up some designs. You will be a natural at this! Don’t rush this…consider how you will use the space, seating areas, paths, etc. Don’t forget to add some evergreens so you will have some winter interest (boxwood, arborvita, some ferns). Some may hate this idea, but you can get outdoor faux evergreens, too. They are becoming more popular and can look very nice in pots without having to worry about winter. I also leave the dried flowers on our hydrangeas all winter for the visual interest. I don’t remove them until I do the spring pruning, where you are also shaping the plant to help it grow into a pleasing form.

    Many roses can be picky. I discovered drift roses, have them, and love them. Super easy and they give lots of flowers. But, they don’t seem to overwinter well in pots.

    I think someone else mentioned an espalier tree. This would be stunning against your brick wall!

    Have fun and enjoy your gorgeous space – a garden is an ever evolving journey.ReplyCancel

  • Kristina Larson - April 21, 2021 - 8:23 AM

    How about using the walls to add more color with pots and flowers/greenery. My husband and I went to Spain in the fall of 2019. One of our stops was Cordoba where we toured The Patios of Cordoba-they have a Festival of the Patios every year. While you may not want quite the volume of the pots these patios have it may provide you with some inspiration. You should check out images online. Using a variety of plants/vines that drape over the pots and are various heights could really create a spectacular patio garden.ReplyCancel

  • Linda - April 21, 2021 - 8:23 AM

    First thoughts – ground cover in the planting beds. I love liriope, but I don’t know how well it would do in the Boston climate. If using liriope, I would also plant some bulbs – probably daffodils – among the liriope.
    Center the large trellis on the wall. (I suspect the previous owner placed it there so they could look out of the glass door and see whatever was growing there.) I like the idea of the white climbing hydrangea. Confirm that the hydrangea will do well in shade.
    Space the two smaller trellises on either side of the large one. I would consider the white climbing hydrangea on them as well.
    Container plants require more maintenance. I would consider planting them each year with white annual flowers of your choice. See what grows best. My Mom always loved petunias because they are easy to grow. Or consider using larger planters with evergreens for color during the winter.
    Power wash the door, but keep it. It adds character. Either seal it to preserve the natural color, or paint it out. If you like, you could have a rectangle cut out on the top section of the door and overlay the opening with some style of decorative wrought iron – but then, of course, you would lose some privacy.ReplyCancel

  • April Clark - April 21, 2021 - 8:23 AM

    Think of all the reasons an interior designer is a great resource for clients doing their own interiors. How much money and time they save clients and the knowledge banks they bring to the table. Now apply that same reasoning to landscape designers – continue to gather your dreams and wishes and preferences and then sit down with a designer who knows your area and give it a hard go together. One of my favorite resources is “Small Spaces – Beautiful Gardens” by Keith davitt. He’s highly published and a truly inspired landscape designerReplyCancel

  • Linda in CT - April 21, 2021 - 8:23 AM

    Your inspiration photos are very rhythmic, using repetition and monochromatic elegance to give a feeling of serenity. The greenery dominates and it will take careful planning and selection to create that feeling in your space. As a retired landscape designer I would start with a measured drawing showing every dimension, light, water source, and electric outlet. Second is sun exposure. You need to know, with accuracy, when the sun hits each area and for how many hours. Of course, this changes throughout the year, but this is primarily a summer landscape. The amount of time you’re willing to devote to watering is a large factor. Hot brick will bake everything, especially pots, which may not be connected to an irrigation system. I lived a few years on Beacon Hill and in summer went home on my lunch hour to water the window boxes as they needed it 2x per day. I’m not sure how you approach interior design, but in this defined space I would start with actual furniture and it’s placement. The ‘wall coverings’ can be chosen to enhance your seated view.

    Once you have the above in place, it’s just a matter of getting proper recommendations for plant material that will be successful there. The varying sun exposure on each side is the challenge. A good plant person can recommend things for sun and shade that would have similar ‘feeling’ – through leaf texture, habit, bloom shape, etc. This is a way to get that serenity of your inspiration photos. The hunt for fabulous wall decor, planters, and accents will translate from your interior work – you need to find great sources.ReplyCancel

  • Patricia Stone - April 21, 2021 - 8:21 AM

    Agree with many of the comments from other gardeners. If you can remove at least two or four courses of bricks from the outer edges and perhaps also in the nooks that don’t serve any purpose, you can have shrubs and perennials in the border, otherwise it’s pots. Agree that watching the sun and shade placement throughout the day is important to know what shrub structure and what plants go where. The first thinking to do is to amend the soil you have with some good muck-rotted manure or compost (not potting soil). If you get the soil and sun requirements right, anything is possible. I have a 20-year old climbing hydrangea and it is a perfect for the wall with the stone (water?) feature…you won’t need trellising with that plant.ReplyCancel

  • Leah - April 21, 2021 - 8:07 AM

    Stick to just a few varieties of plants/shrubs. And a colour palette of green and white. Boston is 7a so you will be able to plant shrubs in pots that will overwinter. Climbing hydrangeas or white clematis on your brick wall. Boxwood, hydrangea and yew in multiples. Or dwarf evergreens. As someone else mentioned, you’ll want to have some greenery year round. Plus you can put fairy lights on them for the holidays. Check your light throughout the day and take note of how much sun/shade your garden gets and if it’s morning or afternoon. A garden centre will draw up a plan for you if you use them to purchase your plants. Plus they will deliver soil, plants, pots and even do the planting. Your wee garden has a lot of potential!ReplyCancel

  • Kate - April 21, 2021 - 8:04 AM

    Hi Laurel, I skimmed—as you said many do—forgive me if you said, but what direction(s) does the patio area face? I seem to recall that the front face South? Anyway, I won’t assume—start by adding compost to the existing soil. When I have a better idea about the sunlight the area will get, I’ll have a better idea for what will work for work. My brother in-law is moving to a new condo in Avon Hill- Cambridge so this is like a preview for what I can help him with. Also—get the vines off of your walls—they become critter ladders giving them access to upper levels of your home, hold moisture against the structure which causes deterioration, I could go on and on, but trust me, please.ReplyCancel

  • Carin Battaglia - April 21, 2021 - 8:01 AM

    Just a suggestion a climbing Hydrdrangea would be beautiful on one of your brick walls….alittle slow at first but wonderful for years and yearsReplyCancel

  • Donna Purdy - April 21, 2021 - 7:58 AM

    One word: containers. You will have to garden in containers. I would study up on this if I was you.ReplyCancel

  • Christine Pajonas - April 21, 2021 - 7:55 AM

    I have been growing two very large hydrangeas in pots on my patio for color, and several round boxwoods for the past four years in CT by the shore. In addition, two Quercus palustris Green Pillar Oaks flank the pool planted in circles into the bluestone patio. I would agree with planting some climbing plant, hydrangea, for example as a backdrop. These also grow very well in CT, so assume the same for Boston. I would also start with a blank slate and remove most of what you have there excluding your grill and table. What fun to dream up something beautiful.ReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth Cassidy - April 21, 2021 - 7:51 AM

    Since you tend to be drawn to white in the garden, based on the photos you shared, stick with that as your main color. You should avoid anything that clashes with the brick; oranges and yellows but I wouldn’t even put pink there (never been a fan of pink and red together). The garden could feel very hot in the summer so the whites will give you a sense of coolness. Daffodils in pots (shown in one of your photos) would work but they aren’t beautiful for long and then they’re just dead looking heaps that you can’t touch until all the foliage is dead because you risk losing next year’s flowers if you cut them back right after blooming. Creeping phlox could be a good choice in the beds because 1) beautiful flowers that are enjoyed by butterflies and bees; 2) low maintenance; 3) they don’t mind neglect and dryness and 4) they don’t have deep roots. You can get them in white. But honestly, your best bet is to hit up your very local garden center, preferably a Mom & Pop one, not a big box store. Tell them what exposure your garden has, what you like and ask what would do best there. That soil may need to be amended and I’d bet they have bags of compost or manure you can add in for nutrients. Finally, ask your neighbors! They likely have the same issues you do and can offer advice for what would do well there.ReplyCancel

  • Kathy - April 21, 2021 - 7:48 AM

    Hi Laurel,
    Love your blog and sense of humor! Well, first thing to do is sun and shade exposure. I set my alarm for every hour and take pics if the whole area or jot down what’s going on where. I do this from 8am- 5 pm.
    Then go from there. Take your pics or notes to your local nursery and they are the experts as well as your neighbors who have lived there.
    I moved from NY to Florida and then north of Atlanta. All 3 I had to learn zones but I do have lovely hydrangeas like those pictured.
    Mostly, have fun and then enjoy!ReplyCancel

  • diane - April 21, 2021 - 7:43 AM

    This is a lovely space an as a designer you must be chomping at the bit to get this done quickly during the spring time so you can enjoy it through the growing season. I’ve read most of the comments, which include many of the comments I would have also made. Definately increase the width of the garden beds especially if you wish to grow any bushes (hydrangeas, which I personally love). You can hire a landscaper to make out a landscape plan if you wish to do the work yourself. They may be able to use some of the perennials you already have in the design. I only use easy care perennials that thrive in my zone 4 area. Your garden area is well protected so you may be able to use some less zone s pacific plants. Remember the old adage if you start from scratch. The first year they sleep, the second year they creep and the third year they leap. Have fun with it.ReplyCancel

  • Barbara - April 21, 2021 - 7:35 AM

    I would first decide how much brick floor space i really want/need then enlarge bedding space accordingly. Plan out space before starting. Design with some anchoring plants leaving space for more colorful and flowering items. Maybe soften the straight lines of the bedding edge just a bit to allow for highlighting a special plant. Go vertical on wall and maybe climbing plant on that window guard you hate- something loose so you can glimpse your garden from inside. A plant to screen the grill? Possiblities are endless but only you know how large/small the space is. Small Japanese maple? Perenials with place for flowering annuals on the walls..small fountain for water sound? Run small tubing up wall to planters for watering those plants. Enjoy the journey!ReplyCancel

  • Leasa Brown - April 21, 2021 - 7:34 AM

    Are you allowed to expand the beds? That will define what you can grow. Be sure to discuss bed width and depth, (use a broom handle or similar). Sometimes courtyards are built on top of previouse structures and depth is limited. No problem if you are limited to larger shrubs/ trees in pots. Constraints spur unique and creative gardens.

    I’m sure you will plan your furnishings first. Furniture and walkways seem to take up more room outside and can quickly use up space. Take those plans with you when you visit the nursery. Ask around, many nurseries, at least near me, will offer basic design services for free/ low costs. It is a good place to start.ReplyCancel

  • meg bush - April 21, 2021 - 7:24 AM

    You really have your readers pegged! What wonderful ideas they are. I second the micro climate. It could get blistering hot against that wall. the idea of a espalier pattern on the wall is great. if the plant can take it. you will note that a lot of your gardens have different heights. you can do that as well. with pots of different heights. Some pillars. This first year I might do a lot of pots so you can figure out the climate. leave the mice. name them. it mist be hard living in the city. enjoy. ps. at least paint the door black if you can’t replace!ReplyCancel

  • Nancy - April 21, 2021 - 7:16 AM

    I was coming here to say exactly that. You can remove bricks, use them to make an edge, dig out the soil, replace with fresh soil, and use that space to grow something that climbs. I think you should ditch the metal grids on the walls. If you have a sunny wall, try clematis trained on wires. Definitely pots. There are some amazing pots that look heavy but are a composite material that won’t weight a hundred pounds. I think your son will appreciate that. Pots are so much easier to garden in at our age. Just watch your light, figure out what’s the sunny walls and where the dark corners are, and play. There’s surely a hydrangea you can grow there. Even if you treat them as annuals, grow what you love, and you obviously love preppy plants.ReplyCancel

  • Julie Shuchman - April 21, 2021 - 7:09 AM

    https://www.flowershopnetwork.com/blog/plants-repel-mice/

    Plants can be an excellent rodent repellent so check out which you like. You’ve gotten some excellent advice about soil tests and watching the light and covering the brick walls, but since you have a small space, choose plants that won’t be invasive or that won’t pick up disease . Like everything else, you have definite taste when it comes to gardens- for instance you appear to like green and white rather than color and formal structures- so you need to consult a garden designer to help you make choices- altho boxwood is lovely it has become disease prone so you may need substitutes like ilex. A 7 inch bed is not a bed – it’s a margin and containers would be the way to go unless you want to enlarge the 7 inches and lose some of the hard space – your patio needs some softening …..good luck with it all.ReplyCancel

  • Em - April 21, 2021 - 7:07 AM

    I’m sure there are greener thumbs than mine here, so I’ll defer to their expertise.

    What a lovely space, Laurel. I picture you having morning coffee out there at your little cafe table, reading happy emails from the Laurel Legion.

    My only thought: a lot of nurseries will do a landscape plan for you for minimal $ that they will give back to you in plant credit. While anything you plant will look lovely, why not consider a professional in EXterior design.

    😘ReplyCancel

  • Carolyn - April 21, 2021 - 7:06 AM

    Here’s a link to an example of espaliered ivy.
    https://www.1010parkplace.com/wp-content/uploads/Espalier-Ivy.jpgReplyCancel

  • Deborah - April 21, 2021 - 7:05 AM

    First thing: remove every plant and start with a clean slate!…. enjoy eating out there al fresco in a blank palette..it’s ok to study awhile and think!… is it possible for you to remove 2-4 bricks to give you deeper depth in your beds?..looks like it might be easy ???.. next thing:…start with the nines…I would not even think about pretty until I had my bones correct…bones = height…HUGE pot with a tree x 2 for balance…I would keep the fountain but REMOVE every other plant the previous owner had planted..even the rose bush ..maybe you can locate a match to the pot…take your time…gardens evolve over time and so what if it’s not “all done” right away…enjoyReplyCancel

  • Carolyn - April 21, 2021 - 7:03 AM

    It’s a lovely space! I would ditch the trellises. They are too skimpy for the space. I would replace the dirt in the garden beds first, then add espaliered ivy. Diamond pattern is classic. And it can surround the fountain and cover the cord. It will take a couple of years, but will provide 4 season interest. I’d add boxwood in big pots too. The ivy and box wood will provide structure and background for flowering annuals and perennials that you can swap out as you wish.. that and a comfortable place to sit and enjoy a glass of wine 🍷— perfection.ReplyCancel

  • rosemary - April 21, 2021 - 6:54 AM

    Start with a budget and a plan, know how much seating you want and decide on a color scheme. Be realistic about how much time you’re willing to devote to upkeep-no doubt you can find someone to do weekly maintenance-they will recognize any garden pests and take remedial actions. You’re an interior designer not a landscaper-call in a professional to develop a design. They will assess light conditions and recommend plants that will suit. They will assess soil quality and make any necessary amendments. They will give you a fertilization schedule and recommend specific products. Developing a lovely oasis may take a few years for plants to fill in.ReplyCancel

  • Chris - April 21, 2021 - 6:52 AM

    Consider a retractable awning for privacy. If you go to the nursery every other week and buy only what is currently blooming, your garden will always be in bloom.ReplyCancel

  • Kjersti Aagaard - April 21, 2021 - 6:42 AM

    I have so enjoyed your posts while we are building our dream equestrian home in a flood plain in Houston….talk about interesting challenges in landscape design!

    Having Grown up in the far north/Seattle and lived my adult life from Minnesota to Utah to Texas (been a Gardner across these zones), I agree with pots, pots, pots. About 6 years ago I discover beautiful plain concrete pots and horizontal planters at Lowe’s for 29-69, and they look like a thousand buck equivalent. You can stain them to patina, and are perfect for boxwood. I might pick 3 varying in shape and height and fill every corner in layers with boxwood. I then plant at the boxwood base ivy and blue daze for some “thrill and spill”.

    In the beds, I have come to love the Peggy Martin rose as my favorite climber. She has a neat story about survival in Katrina, and is the perfect prolific climber with a canopy of roses, so you can plant in narrow beds with others at her base. In small spaces and the far north, borders entirely of hosts interspersed with bleeding heart and columbine would spill simply and beautifully. By putting in these basic repeating patterns around the borders and layered pots of hydrangea and boxwood, you will be able to come in with electric overtime.

    Don’t overthink it…..it’s like building a house. Get the foundation and walls up then worry about the decor.ReplyCancel

  • Sunny Penner Cox - April 21, 2021 - 6:39 AM

    Hi Laurel, First time poster, here – but longtime avid reader. Before you even showed the first photo I thought of a potted arrangement that would be lovely against all the brick: a very similar color s heme to those you are enjoying, too. It is this: I have a charming small native Fringetree, and below it, two each of Hydrangea Little Lime, Cornus Ivory Halo and Amsonia BlueStar. All these can take to potting and would be lovely with any kind of hosta, evergreens, (tasteful – white) geraniums, or white roses.ReplyCancel

  • Jayne Rogers - April 21, 2021 - 6:22 AM

    The advice you’re being given is all very good. First check the pH on the little soil you have and amend as needed. All healthy plants start with good soil. Light and sun is everything; know what the plants requirements are. It’s a fabulous space – treat it like you would a room – that’s your expertise.! I can see you need height, you need texture and a way to move your eye around the space. Once you figure out the seating and outdoor furniture, I have no doubt you will end up with an oasis!ReplyCancel

  • Susan Hijazi - April 21, 2021 - 6:15 AM

    Hi Laurel,
    Lovely peaceful space!
    Ditto to checking out your sun exposure, that’s very important. As the space is enclosed it creates a little micro climate, so you may get away with some slightly more tender plants than those with open yards.
    If you cannot widen the borders, I would plants climbers such as clematis in the narrow border.
    If I were starting this garden I would take out everything already planted and temporarily pot it up…Dig out several inches of the old soil, and put in fresh soil. Soil can become depleted after some time and who know how long it’s been. A fresh start for fresh plantings.
    Yes to potted plants as well. The hydrangeas are gorgeous, but some get quite large…always check for eventual size. Also yes to ground cover and/or mulch, which will help keep weeds in check and the soil retain moisture. ALSO, check when it rains a lot if rain puddles and gathers anywhere. Many plants don’t like wet feet. You can definitely Do this! Desire is half the battle.
    PS Those window and door grills could be so much worse, they’re not so bad actually 😉ReplyCancel

  • Paula - April 21, 2021 - 6:14 AM

    Laurel, you obviously love hydrangea! However, your beds are just too small. You might consider a climbing hydrangea. They love a warm sunny spot (and a warm brick wall!). Only proviso, they may not bloom for a year or two after planting. They thrive up here in coastal Nova Scotia (about the same latitude as Bangor, Maine). As noted by several other commenters, it’s important to watch the light and determine where the sunny/shady spots are. Also, unless you’re a dedicated barbeque user, get rid of it. They are fairly unsightly and take up too much room in such a small space. I got rid of mine and was amazed at how much I didn’t miss it.ReplyCancel

  • Lilli - April 21, 2021 - 6:07 AM

    The sunny brick wall looks perfect for climbing roses. An old standard, Iceberg, is white and would be lovely at night. See also David Austin roses. Try Nicotiana for night, white, scented. If you try to overwinter anything in pots, they must be very big. You could also maybe have like a 4×4 raised bed for veggies or just grow veggies/herbs in pots.. Think height, scent, annuals in pots.ReplyCancel

  • Kat C - April 21, 2021 - 6:05 AM

    Some great advice from everyone so far. My two cents use pots as much as possible – even for hydrangeas – so you can move them around as necessary to keep them happy. You can also place pots in the garden to hide the mice motels. Use dwarf evergreen whenever possible so the shrubs don’t get too big too fast.

    if you have a shady spot (morning sun only is ideal) under an overhang or against a fence, you can’t go wrong with a zephyrn druin rose. It’s thornless, easy to care for and smells like heaven. It isn’t care free though so if you can’t commit to deadheading and pruning then it isn’t ideal.

    Best tip – watch the light as the days get longer so you’ll know where you have the strongest sun through the day and then plant accordingly. Use of dwarf evergreens will give you some color year-round. I think it’s so important to have something green to see during the winter.

    Finally, I would start slowly. Get your furniture placed out there first, watch the light, invest in some larger parts and those pot sitters with wheels so you can move them around, and enjoy!ReplyCancel

  • Ceci - April 21, 2021 - 6:03 AM

    What a beautiful sanctuary this will be! Boston is in a 7a gardening zone. A general rule of thumb is you can put any plant in a pot vs the ground that is two zones below and it should survive there just fine. Most hydrangeas are zones 3-8, so pick your favorite and go ahead. Garden Answer on YouTube in a wonderful source of information. I love your blog, thank you for all you do!ReplyCancel

  • Pamela Bolton - April 21, 2021 - 5:56 AM

    First, get some time-release rose food and feed your rose. The new leaves should be a deep vibrant green not the wimpy green that they are now. Potted plants need small amounts of nutrients often.
    In the picture where Cade is trying to identify the plants, I think that you have a fescue and an Autumn Joy sedum. Maybe some hostas down by the gate.
    I think your 7″ bed is a perfect place to espalier ivy. If you want you could center the fountain in one of the diamond voids in the planting. This would repeat the X shapes in your ideal bedroom door and window guards. Then plant various miniature hostas and small flowering annuals such as allysum or lobelia, below to hide the edges of the brick. Pinterest has instruction on training fig ivy 9n a wall. It is really easy and grows fairly quickly. However, to cover the wall in diamonds is a multi-growing season project.
    I would take everything out of your larger bed. You don’t want to plant in ones. Grouping of 3 or 5 or 7, etc are more pleasing to the eye than one fescue grass. I would lose all those metal trellises.
    This fall before the ground freezes you can tuck in some bulbs around the garden such as tulips and daffodils for color next spring. Remember to plant them in informal groups not like soldiers in a line.
    To me, your tall wall is more problematic with the door opening out onto it. Small, mounding boxwoods would soften the wall and possibly a miniature tree in center such as a Japanese boxwood. If that wall gets at least 6 hours of sun, ground cover roses (Drift roses) would also be beautiful in your garden. This will give your garden four-season structure.
    Finally the pots for color and variety. If you are not in love with the pots, bin them and get new matching pots. If you want hydrangea, big pots are your best bet in your garden.
    Other than green, I would limit your color palette. You don’t want a riot of color in such a small space.ReplyCancel

  • Kristi - April 21, 2021 - 5:29 AM

    Laurel, boxwood in pots and boxwood even in the 7″ border will do wonders. They grow in almost nearly every situation. (Your positive is that you probably won’t have deer to contend with. Out went my dream garden when them moved into my Virginia neighborhood) They (the boxwood) do not like to be watered from overhead. You can find varieties online that stay small and or get very large. Hydrangeas can get overwhelmingly large, so choose carefully, and remember when they aren’t flowering they can look cumbersome. I have friends who love “Boston” ferns and hang them from their porches. They also look fetching in urns. I would start collecting some fabulous pots that can withstand your very cold winters. I once lived in North Easton and Springfield, MA. Good luck.ReplyCancel

  • Margot von Muhlendahl - April 21, 2021 - 3:59 AM

    Patio garden: 1. Maybe stain the wooden door black while waiting to replace it? It will disappear. 2. Think of some raised beds, the edges of which can be used as extra seating or a place for flower pots. 3. Door and window grill patterns: custom make in black iron and then can be repeated as trellises on the brick walls. https://pin.it/3zZbiwR Some very simple Chinese—could be Chippendale-like.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 21, 2021 - 2:00 PM

      Hi Margot,

      Thank you, I’ve saved dozens of those pins with the cool patterns. But, good for others who may not have.ReplyCancel

  • Dorothy Smyth - April 21, 2021 - 3:52 AM

    I do not agree with your comment Kimberly about native plants. Non native plants also create biodiversity and attract bees and butterflies. Native plants can be difficult to grow in an inner city lot since the growing conditions are far removed from the conditions in nature where these plants originate. My experience in trying to grow native plants in a small city garden is that they are short lived. Good in the first year and then gradually fail.ReplyCancel

  • Kimberly - April 21, 2021 - 3:42 AM

    Watch the light, because it will determine what will grow best in what part of the garden. Full sun is going to be hot if the heat reflects off the brick walls and if it is shady in the garden, you won’t be able to grow plants that require full sun. If you want your garden to be alive and not static plant native plants. They will attract bees and butterflies. They desperately need habitat. You can just google native plants for the Boston area. I agree with Jennifer about widening the garden border if you are allowed. It will add lushness and softness to all of the hardscape. It is hard to tell but it looks like you have clematis growing up the large trellis. And you have hostas at the other end in the larger square. One final thing is to think in layers. Do a ground cover, ornamental perennials, shrubs, and if you have room a small espaliered tree or just vines up the brick walls for height. And make use of containers. Have fun and thanks for all your excellent design advice over the years!ReplyCancel

  • Anna - April 21, 2021 - 3:34 AM

    Check out Marie Viljoen’s blog “66 Square’
    https://66squarefeet.blogspot.com/p/about-this-blog.html?m=1
    She is a brilliant and talented NYC gardener. The title of her blog refers to the size of her first garden in Brooklyn. She has since moved a couple of times but always in NYC and always to an apartment with a small city garden.ReplyCancel

  • Donna Reich - April 21, 2021 - 3:21 AM

    See this great article for the differences and similarities of the hydrangea and snowball viburnum. The article also discusses climate, light and water needs. https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/shrubs/viburnum/telling-snowball-bushes-apart.htmReplyCancel

  • Alannah - April 21, 2021 - 3:21 AM

    Laurel if you like hydrangeas, Annabelle old fashion white very easy to grow. Would soften the brick wall. Check out what direction your location is, is it south, light etc, then the soil. Has a lot of potential, gardens always a work in progress. Hostas very easy to grow also, beautiful varieties.ReplyCancel

  • Donna Reich - April 21, 2021 - 3:18 AM

    Here’s a very helpful article on the difference between hydrangeas and snowball viburnum. https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/shrubs/viburnum/telling-snowball-bushes-apart.htmReplyCancel

  • Donna Reich - April 21, 2021 - 3:06 AM

    Hi Laurel,
    To get the boxwood background in your little patio, try
    Green Tower Boxwood, “The perfect hedge plant for tight spaces with strong topiary value. Very columnar form produces lustrous dark green leaves with lighter underside. Medium to fine texture foliage does not brown-out in winter.” This and lime washed brick on your fence wall could give you the backdrop you need for the snowball viburnum or hydrangea. Someone may know if snowball viburnum can be trimmed or comes in a smaller size, which could look great in a tall planter. I enjoy your blog and all the wonderful posts!ReplyCancel

  • MLH - April 21, 2021 - 3:03 AM

    This comment is suppose to go under Liz O’Connell’s note on watching where the light is at different times of day on your patio.ReplyCancel

  • MLH - April 21, 2021 - 3:01 AM

    It is so important to do this before buying anything or before talking to anyone about what you want.ReplyCancel

  • Jennifer - April 21, 2021 - 3:01 AM

    What a wonderful space! One thing you could use is more soil, unless you want to garden only in pots or hanging baskets. Are you allowed to remove some of the brick along that seven inch bed, to match up to the little square corner bed by the gate? Removing about four bricks wide would make a continuous bed along that wall the same size as the square. And that gives you more room for bigger plants. You might be able to repurpose the removed bricks into a raised bed edge. Also, watch how the sun travels throughout the day in different seasons…you need plants that are happy and will bloom with whatever level of sun you get there. The skinny bed looks like it doesn’t get much sun.ReplyCancel

  • MLH - April 21, 2021 - 2:58 AM

    Go to an independent plant nursery and talk to someone about getting a plan. You may can get it discounted or get the plants discounted. Or find a landscape architect. Don’t try to do it all at once. Use cheaper plants and hard-to-kill plants at first because it is a learning curve on how much to water and how to take care of them.

    Be sure to get flowers that bloom the longest. And get the varieties of hydrangeas that bloom the longest. Try starting some annuals from seed because you will have a lot of expenses at first with pots, etc.

    Plan for the winter as well as the other times, otherwise, your patio will look really depressing in the winter. You may want to start with some evergreens in pots against the wall and then put blooming plants in front.

    The main thing is to get a plan for your plants. Also, get a plan for your pots and containers. Similar-looking ones go a long way on making your patio look coordinated.ReplyCancel

  • Danielle M - April 21, 2021 - 2:45 AM

    Google diy garden wall bar. Like a shallow cupboard mounted on the wall, and opens out to put drinks etc on it. Saves space. Folds up flat again, and you could have lovely art on the front for when not in use. Saves valuable table space when entertaining. Or not. Haha
    Just a thought. Danielle.ReplyCancel

  • Liz O'Connell - April 21, 2021 - 2:31 AM

    First thing is watch the light on your patio. Where does it fall throughout the day? That will guide what will thrive.ReplyCancel

  • annemarie thomas - April 21, 2021 - 2:14 AM

    i forgot. get some chimes!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 21, 2021 - 2:23 AM

      I’m not a fan of wind chimes, and it’s possible they aren’t allowed because of so many people living in close proximity. It would drive me nuts if I had to listen to them all day. Different strokes, I guess.ReplyCancel

  • annemarie thomas - April 21, 2021 - 2:11 AM

    you could maybe use a raised flower bed where the skinny one is. this way it can come out more and won’t affect the bricks. as to hydrangeas. the ones in the picture are mop heads and much too big. go on line and look at white flower farm (allandale buys from them). they have great hydrangeas wff is the rolls royce of mail order. variegated hosta would look great back there and the ones that are white with green trim will sparkle. i don’t remember the exact name but there is a mail order in vermont for hosta. they sell really small ones and they are like $4 a pot. i bought a ton and after 4 years they are a good medium size. with the size of your garden the scale might be perfect. i buy impatiens at home depot. they’re an annual so who cares. they spread if you pinch a part off, flower or none. sedum is a great plant for fall, late summer. a small azalea would look great. and lilies. buying lilies in those catalogs you get them cheap and they duplicate. you just have to dig them up and split them. pick a color scheme! i have one all white garden and love it, my driveway garden is mainly blues/purple with white interspersed. google things like ‘longest blooming plants’ ‘blue plants’ if you go to pinterest you can see ‘small gardens’ i like, for decoration, stakes, well thin metal ones, with things on the end. animal, ballerina etc. just stick them among the flowers. i sometines spray paint them gold, red, whatever. etsy has a lot. fyi. i was at Allandale today, i live just down the street on the vfw pkwy. they don’t really have a lot yet. but their perennials are the best. good gardening. oh if you want, i can share plants with you. i have a few now but the fall is best when i split a lot. annemarie thomasReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 21, 2021 - 2:14 AM

      Thanks so much for all of the great advice and kind offer, Annemarie!ReplyCancel

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.