Small-Space Gardening

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

Step into Susan and Neil Rector's pint-sized German Village garden, and you'll be delighted to find a lush urban oasis cleverly packed with plants spilling from charming window boxes, climbing iron trellises and lining brick walkways.

According to landscape designer and author Tracy DiSabato-Aust, the Rectors are part of a growing trend of small-space gardening.

"As the built world continues aound us, gardening is gaining in popularity, especially in small urban places," she says.

When Susan was looking for a designer to update the overgrown and outdated landscape, she turned to DiSabato-Aust for help. Susan challenged her to create a design that would make the most of their 25-by-30-foot space and complement their 1895 brick Italianate home.

As Susan studied the bygone styling of German gardens, she learned they were typically orderly, with an emphasis on produce as well as a love for flowers. She gained further insight from DiSabato-Aust's colleague Denise Adams, author of "Restoring American Gardens." Adams uncovered an old South High Street nursery's plant list that served as a guiding force for plant selections.

Today, the finished garden is filled with many old-time plant favorites and space-savvy ideas that offer inspiration for other small gardens.

DiSabato-Aust chose upright plants to take advantage of space and minimize shade for the area. European hornbeams form a narrow privacy screen along the sidewalk. Espalier trees including pear, apple and evergreen magnolia are smartly trained to grow along walls enclosing the brick patio. Vintage variety flowering vines such as sweet autumn clematis, moonlight Japanese hydrangea vine and Graham Thomas honeysuckle climb trellises, patio walls and fences.

Details count in not-so-big spaces. A scrolled design from the home's window lintils was harmoniously replicated on the newly crafted window boxes. Mirrors were added in the garage windows to bring more light to shaded areas. DiSabato-Aust even fashioned four pocket gardens with classic annual flowers mixed with ornamental vegetables like kale, chard and cherry tomatoes.

"Before, we would sit in Schiller Park across the street rather than stay home and look at the overgrown English ivy and plants in our backyard," Susan says. "Now, we enjoy dinners on the patio."