Search For:

Share This

Stunning Small Spaces

This summer I began renovating a very small formal space in my garden. This space is almost a perfect square, surrounded by a garage wall on one side, a 6-foot-tall privacy fence on two sides, and a Prague viburnum ‘Pragense’ hedge on the fourth. The area is at the very back of my garden, with many nicknames over the years—the secret garden, the private garden, Shelly’s garden, one year it was France, the next Spain, and another year Italy.

Small spaces can sometimes be the most difficult to design. The smaller the space the more important it is that every aspect of the garden be perfect and working in sync with each other.

Major move
Since the start of this garden, there has been a beautiful concrete urn on a pedestal directly in the middle, with a very small planting area around it bordered with cobblestone. Many years it sat empty into early June because I could not decide what to plant in it.

I finally took the suggestion of a friend and moved the urn to the side of my house in a very narrow garden space where you enter the garden from the front yard. It looks perfect and is right at home in this new space. I can now see that the urn is beautiful all on its own and that I never really needed to plant anything in it. By moving the urn, the renovation was officially under way.

Bye bench, hello table
There was also an old, iron side table with a marble top in the formal garden that was placed up against the fence. Above it was an iron rectangular wall hanging, and on the table I placed a few pots with agaves or succulents. This table always seemed very Spanish to me and right at home in the formal garden. I never thought I would move it, but I did. I put it on the opposite side of the garden at the end of a small walkway where an old iron and wooden bench used to sit. I don’t think anyone had sat on that bench in the 12 years it was there, and in the last year I was afraid that if they did it would break into pieces and they would find themselves sitting on the ground. It is now gone.

The side table and wall hanging are perfect in the old bench’s location and the new arrangement actually draws your attention to this tiny space. Located in full sun before, but now in shade, it was necessary to switch my plant selections for this new area. I had wanted to try growing a few more tropical ferns, especially the Australian tree fern, and now I have a beautiful place to do just that.

Two Italian terra cotta containers also had to be moved out of the formal garden for the renovation. One has a gardenia in it, which is a must for me every year just for the fragrance. The second container has a bird of paradise. I am still trying to figure out where these two beautiful containers will be at home.

Oasis of style
So what is the plan for my old formal garden now stripped of all its decorative elements? It is becoming an Asian- or Japanese-style garden. I chose this because of the complexity and eccentricity of the main portion of my garden, and felt that just one space within that garden should be an oasis for all who enter.

As I began to study this type of design, I quickly learned that this garden was not going to happen overnight. I have kept the main plant elements in the space—a Japanese maple, Carolina jasmine, and Boston ivy—and the design process continues.


by Angie McManus

When we moved into our house, we inherited a well-established grape arbor. I think they are Concord grapes, the ones with dark purple skins that you pop open to enjoy the juicy sweet interior. The past two or three years we have not enjoyed the grapes. The vine leafs out, flowers, forms lots of green grape bunches, but before they can ripen they turn brown and shrivel up into raisins on the vine. How can we save our grapes?

The best advice is to take a sample to your County Cooperative Extension Service. The horticulture/agriculture agent will be able to give you a more specific answer. Take a sample of the actual fruit as well as the foliage. It sounds like possible black rot, which is very common here in Kentucky. The Concord variety is highly susceptible to this disease, which is caused by a fungus (Guignardia bidwelli). It over-winters and when the spring rains arrive, the spores are blown to different parts of the vine and infection is spread. Have you noticed any damaged foliage? It is typically first apparent on the leaves of the vine and then as the fruit is forming it turns brown and eventually turns hard. This is a problem that will occur year after year if not controlled. Keeping the soil around your plants free of dead/damaged plant debris is always a good idea. This disease can be controlled with fungicide, good sanitation, and annual pruning. To read more about growing grapes in Kentucky, go online to, scroll down to “G,” and you will find Growing Grapes in Kentucky, Black Rot of Grapes, and several other articles for the care of grapes.




Go to, click on Home & Garden, then “Ask The Gardener” link to ask a question.

Share This
Don't Leave! Sign up for Kentucky Living updates ...
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.