Small spaces, big resultsFisher’s garden makes the most of its limited Area

Published 11:00 pm Friday, August 3, 2012

Much of the world has gardened in small spaces for centuries. More Americans are discovering that a garden is possible and can be productive no matter how little space is available.

The lot where Dr. Janet Fisher’s home sits has very little room for traditional flower beds or vegetable plots. A little creativity has created an abundance of color to welcome guests and allows a modest number of vegetables to be grown there.

Fisher’s house was built in 1872 by a niece of Jefferson Davis and her husband, a physician, Dr. Charles Mitchell. It sits on the corner of Crawford and Monroe streets and is considered a significant historic building in the community.

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The lot slopes down dramatically on the Monroe Street side merely a few feet beyond the house. Three huge old magnolias were planted on this side near the front of the lot. According to rumor which Fisher has yet to confirm, they were in honor of the three Mitchell children.

The opposite side of the lot is completely paved as a driveway and parking area for this property and that of the adjoining next-door neighbor. Just a strip of grass beyond the front porch and shallow flower beds filled with boxwood and accented with bright caladiums and marigolds define the front yard.

A 500-foot brick patio occupies most of the backyard with a black wrought iron fence stretching along much of the property line in the back and along the sloping side yard leading down to Monroe Street. Connecting the back patio area with the front yard is a brick walkway that occupies much of the space between the house and the fence. This space might be small but cherry tomatoes are producing in abundance in a narrow sunny bed along the wall of the house.

Fisher and her fiancé, Tracy Kirkland, who spends a lot of time helping with Fisher’s gardening activities, are participating in many aspects of what Better Homes and Gardens has reported as major 2012 gardening trends. Small gardens packed with lots of urns and containers and filled with green plants, vegetables and brightly blooming plants is a major trend for both urban and suburban gardeners.

Fisher’s lot is similar to many found in larger cities where houses have little to no green lawn, so containers offer the best opportunity for gardening.

Home food gardening can fit into any landscape design, according to Better Homes and Gardens, if the gardener is creative. Plenty of tomatoes, bell peppers, banana peppers and onions have been produced in pots placed on the concrete parking area this spring and summer.

Around the front and near the back door entrances are containers of bright petunias and Profusion orange zinnias, a Mississippi Medallion Plant that is tough, disease resistant and blooms throughout the growing season.

Fisher recently trimmed back the petunias and fertilized them to assure plenty of late season blooms. Coleus in shades of wine, chartreuse green, gold and orange, sweet alyssum, mandavilla, Titan Mix vinca and Sweet Coral dianthus burst with color in a variety of pots and hanging baskets.

Intimate cozy outdoor rooms where gardeners can take a break or entertain a special friend or two are another of the top current gardening trends. Fisher has several of these in shady nooks and crannies around the perimeter of the house. Most have colorful seat covers, numerous personalized accessories and lush foliage tucked in here and there.

The shady spot near the back door, what Fisher refers to as the Zen Area, is accented by a grouping of large and small pots of foliage plants normally used as indoor house plants such as arrowhead, schefflera, Chinese evergreen and ferns plus bright flowered impatiens.

The soothing sound of water from the fountain hidden among the foliage bids one to sit and relax with a cup of coffee or glass of wine when the weather is a bit cooler.

Flower planters built by Kirkland contain bright marigolds, Homestead Purple verbena and petunias to brighten the back patio where another small table and chairs are located. Tall sunflowers that promise an abundance of seeds as their blooms mature stand guard with old-fashioned zinnias around the perimeter of this outdoor room.

Small spaces necessitate more emphasis on vertical gardening to maximize space.

Butterbeans are as happy as they can be on the back iron fence. Layered below them is an eggplant which has sprawled rather than grown up and boasts at least 20 blooms of baby eggplants attached.

Roses, sweet potato vines, Confederate jasmine, mandevilla and morning glories climb on the fence and supports in other areas of the garden.

Every inch of available space has been used including the slope leading from the house down to Monroe Street.

Knockout roses were planted near the foot of the slope with day lilies, rudbeckia, verbena, vinca and sweet potato vines growing on pretty rough territory.

Kirkland built steps this year leading down the slope where large rocks protrude from the soil to help keep the slope from washing away. Earlier this year, pumpkin vines grew there also but got out of hand as they often do and had to be pulled out but not before they had produced several small pumpkins.

“It’s been trial and error, but so much fun,” Fisher said.

She cautions others to be sure and read labels about sun and other cultural requirements when they purchase plants from the nursery. The wrong spot can be very disappointing. Shade lovers cannot tolerate full sun and sun lovers generally do poorly in too much shade.

The best thing about a small-space garden is it takes fewer plants to have a dramatic effect if gardeners choose carefully, and this garden definitely proves that point.

Miriam Jabour, a Master Gardener and Master Flower Show judge, has been active in the Openwood Plantation Garden Club for over 35 years. Write to her at 1114 Windy Lake Drive, Vicksburg MS 39183.