Posts in "Small Gardens"

Small, Narrow Garden Bed Makeover: Design Ideas


A small, narrow garden bed is not a design dilemna, it's a creative design opportunity!

Do you have a small, narrow garden and crave style but lack design ideas?



Watch my garden makeover segment as seen on the Home & Family show!


I recently presented a garden makeover for a tiny garden bed that measures 12 feet long by 4.5 feet wide on the Home and Family show on the Hallmark channel.

The garden bed is in a key area because you see it from inside the dining room where we tape lots of interviews.

Such is the case with many small, narrow garden beds- they are difficult to ignore, especially when they are ugly!


This is the condition the garden bed was in before the makeover.



A neglected artichoke falls among the roses.

All of the plants in this garden bed were in bad shape and the area lacked a focal point.


small-narrow-garden-bed-with neglected-potted-roses-and-artichokes-shirley-bovshow-edenmaker

I was determined to bring order to the garden by creating a focal point and an appropriate plant pallet.


The Garden Design Plan

My design goal was to:
  • Create a multi-level garden with elements that are tall, medium and short but not too busy looking for a narrow garden bed.
  • Create a focal point with an arbor that functions as a  hanging plant support structure so plants hang down from it instead of growing up it.
  • Create a sitting area with garden bench.
  • Create a colorful garden using low maintenance plants that have an extended bloom time.
Take a closeup look at the new garden!
A tall,  white arbor anchors the small garden bed and functions as a hanging plant structure.
The backless garden bench is in perfect scale for the small space and is a mid-height element.

This is the opposite view where you can see that the yellow daisy topiary trees are not planted in the ground, but in containers!

When planting a small space area, use containers to raise the level of accent plants and free the ground for other plants.


Arbor and Hanging Garden Details


Notice how the vinca major vine sits above the arbor and hangs down along the front like a pair of curtains?




This gives the arbor "instant coverage" and softens the look of the structure.







The area under the arch creates a framed alcove for the hanging plants that hang at different levels.

There is also a hanging metal planter on the lattice in the background for additional depth.



Hanging Plants From the Arbor



I selected three main plants and a few accent plants to hang and plant in the ground. 

Small space gardens should have less variety of plants and more of each variety.

Less is more.

Thank you to HortCouture for the beautiful selection of plants!


Geranium Glitterati, "Ice Queen"



On the arbor, I hung a stylish geranium with scarlet orange flowers and green and white variegated leaves, called, "Ice Queen."

It is a cross between a zonal and ivy leaf geranium.


What makes "Ice Queen" different from other geranium varieties is more vigor, garden performance, and they have much more flowers! 

I planted these geraniums in the ground, underneath the arbor to create a multi level effect and grow as a ground cover.


"Ice Queen" will be available in 2015 at independent garden centers across the country.

I have the good fortune of being able to preview these plants!


Petunia, "Glamouflage Grape"





Also hanging from the arbor and planted at the foot of bench is the glowing annual, Petunia, "Glamouflauge Grape."

I like how the petunia looks next to the broken ceramic mosaic stepping stone made by Kenneth Wingard on the Home and Family Show.


This special petunia has a vibrant purple flower on striking cream and green variegated foliage.  

The variety does great in sun or partial shade, in baskets or mixed containers. 

Petunia, Glamouflage Grape grows about 8 inches tall and spreads up to 12 inches wide.



Paired with lavender, this petunia has very good heat and drought tolerance.



Detail Plants in the Small, Narrow Garden


Yellow daisy trees, and pink petunias in wall planters round out the plant selection.



I tucked in the succulent, "String of Pearls" on the inside ledge of the arbor.
Nice texture and contrast to the flowers.
So much detail in this garden, yet so little space!
I really like how it turned out.

Maintaining a Hanging Garden

My new hanging gardens will need specific care in order to grow, thrive and look good for a long time.
Here's my maintenance plan:
  • Mulch to keep weeds down
  • Water the hanging plants when the soil feels dry to touch
  • Fertilize with a diluted  solution every week to promote new flowers.
  • Pinch off spent blooms to encourage new ones to grow.
  • Rotate hanging baskets for even sun exposure


More Narrow Garden Beds

Beyond the area where the arbor sits are more narrow garden beds along the Home & Family house.

I planted these beds with matching plants to add continuity to the back of the house.



Upright rosemary, (growing against lattice) geraniums, petunias, lavender and a fragrant, David Austin English rose tree fit into narrow garden beds.


EdenMaker, Shirley Bovshow


EdenMaker, Shirley Bovshow next to her small, narrow garden bed makeover.

I hope you enjoyed this detailed account of my project.

Please leave your questions below and watch my garden segments on the Home & Family show, weekdays at 10AM PST on the Hallmark channel!



Small Entry Garden: Tree Roses & Kangaroo Paws

Purple verbena ground cover


I designed a small entry garden for my brother and his wife based on three plants-

Red  tree roses, red Kangaroo paws (Anigozanthos) and purple verbena.

Add an evergreen compact Gardenia “Radicans,” shrub to the list and that’s all I gave them.


I know the plant pallet sounds skimpy but I had a strategy in mind!

As first time homeowners and gardeners, I didn’t want to overwhelm them with a bunch of plants to take care of.

I reasoned that if they had success with these four plants, they would be encouraged to plant others in the future.


“Time-released gardening!”


red tree roses and red kangaroo paws

Despite the limited plant pallet, the trio of plants pack  a wallop against their yellow ranch style home.


Garden cherub positioned in garden to catch the sunlight

Throw in a few carefully chosen ceramic glazed pots and a “magical” garden cherub that glows in a spectacular aurora at sunset…what more does a beginner need?!!

One of my design strategies is to study sun patterns in a yard so that “advantageous” plants can be planted for backlighting or highlighting by the sun.

Read my post: “How Does Your Garden Glow”

I do the same for garden decor.


Shirley Bovshow and her brother, a first time gardener

My brother Roland and I.  I’m wearing red, I must be partial to this color!


“Are there any plants that I don’t have to take care of,” my concerned brother asked.

“Yes,” I answered, “dead plants and your neighbors plants!”

I’m convinced he understood from my comment that even the most “easy care” plants need SOME care.


Three Plants for Beginning Gardeners

It’s important for new gardeners to feel empowered in the garden so I selected the following “low maintenance,” extended bloom plants for their small entry garden.

  1. Tree Roses- “Europeana”
  2. Anigozanthos- red kangaroo paws
  3. Verbena- purple ground cover


Europeana Rose in Tree Form


Tree rose-red Europeana

Europeana Tree Rose


Europeana rose in bloom

Close up of Europeana roses


Rose lovers, my brother and his wife were certain that they wanted roses in their garden.

The fact is,  most roses need a lot of room to grow and flourish with the exception of mini roses, of course.

(I designed a “miniature rose garden in a garden container,” in case you are interested in uber small landscapes).


In situations where you have a very narrow border measuring five feet deep or less, like this one, tree roses are a great alternative!


“Europeana” is a multi award winning red Floribunda rose that boasts dramatic, deep reddish purple foliage when young, maturing to a distinct olive green leaf.

As a regular floribunda rose shrub, Europeana is a prolific bloomer with huge trusses of red blooms.

Europeana is a mid-size grower, topping out at about four feet and nearly five feet wide.

Too wide as a shrub rose for this border!


Enter the “tree rose.”

Tree roses are products of grafting a flowering rose section unto a specially grown tree trunk for this purpose.

My friend Doug Green has a great article about tree roses if you want more details.


The resulting product is a compact, vertical profile Europeana rose that you can tuck into small spaces!

With tree roses, you have plenty of space to plant other perennials and annuals underneath them.


While rose books will caution that the Europeana rose  is prone to mildew problems, this is not an issue in my brothers, dry Los Angeles garden.

We can only wish for fungus with our drought challenged yards!


Rose Tree Maintenance


Keep it simple stupid!

Here are some basics for rose care in mild winter areas such as Los Angeles planting zone 10

  1. Water newly planted tree roses three times per week to help establish deep roots.
  2. Reduce watering to  one time per week after the three month period. Water more often if it’s extra warm.
  3. “Deadhead”or cut off spent blooms to promote more blooming on floribunda roses such as the Europeana.
  4. Feed the roses when they start to leaf out in the spring and then again a few weeks later when they bloom. Use a fertilizer formulated for roses and don’t fertilize plants in the dead heat of summer- you risk “burning” them!
  5. Prune or cut away any stems that grow along the tree trunk and are below the graft union.

The above are only basic instructions for rose care.

If you want expert, detailed instructions, I recommend the American Rose Society website.

Knock yourself out!


Watch Shirley’s Guide to Rose Selection




Anigozanthos, Red “Kangaroo Paws”


Anigozanthos red kangaroo paw

Kangaroo paws are native plants in Australia that thrive in warm,  dry climates!

Anigozanthos enjoy an extended blooming period in Southern California where the weather mimics native conditions in Australia.

That will put a smile on a new gardeners face!

These “workhorse”plants have found a special place in my heart and my gardens.

Colors range from pale to vivid yellows, orange, reds, pinks, pale greens and blends.


When the Kangaroo paw is not in bloom, the plant sports glossy green strap-like leaves that act as a punctuation mark in the garden.

Although the plants are low maintenance, they can be susceptible to Ink Spot disease and fungus.

Make sure you don’t drown these plants with too much water and ensure that the soil has good drainage to avoid disease.


Kangaroo paws are dramatic looking plants, especially when set in front of a wall where the velvety paws are highlighted.

I like to use Kangaroo paws as a light, informal hedge.

They are very airy looking.


Kangaroo Paw Care

I refer to Merv Turner’s five rules for Kangaroo paw care.

Merv was an early hybridizer and Kangaroo paw expert.

  1. Plant in a sunny and open position in the garden. If in a frosty area, plant under eaves on the south side of the house or under a high tree canopy.
  2. Provide these plants with excellent drainage.
  3. In summer dry climates provide these plants with regular water (providing the drainage is good) to keep plants evergreen.
  4. Fertilize, but not heavily, and keep Phosphorus on the low side.
  5. Annual clean up. After the flowering period remove the old leaves down to as low as possible. Fans only flower once and need to be cleaned out at the end of a season. Care should be exercised that the new emerging fans are not damaged.

San Marcos Growers in Southern California is an excellent resource for more Kangaroo paw information.

I copied the care instructions from their website because I couldn’t improve on the advice found there!


Verbena Ground Cover



purple verbena ground cover

Verbena doesn’t know when to stop blooming!


In order to create a multi-tiered garden effect, a ground cover plant was needed to carpet the bottom of the garden.

Purple colored Verbena was my choice for obvious reasons.

This low growing perennial is known for it’s cascading and creeping habit and it seems to bloom year-round except in cold weather!

Verbena is an excellent spilling plant for container gardens as well.


Verbena Plant Care

Verbenas are truly “Fa get about it” plants that even the most neglectful gardener can grow!

  1. Water three times per week when newly planted to help establish roots. After  a month or so, taper watering to once per week.
  2. Deadhead or trim spent blooms for repeat performance

I don’t bother to fertilize ground cover Verbenas though I’ve been known to feed them  infrequently when planted in mixed containers.

Allow the spreading Verbena to creep over the edge of the garden bed- it looks better this way and softens the edges.

I can’t stand to see this plant “trimmed” to stay within the confines of the garden bed.

Let it live a little!


Simple Design Details

Door painted red

Why stop with red plants, paint the door red too!

A small detail such as painting your front in a color that compliments your garden goes a long way.

It’s like putting lipstick on- instant lift!

A flowering easy care Mandevilla vine dresses up the entry as well.

Glossy, wine-red ceramic containers within the garden bed are called into service when the rose trees and Kangaroo paws are not in bloom.


Final Words

A garden plant scheme doesn’t get any easier than the one presented here.

If you are a new gardener don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to recreate a Chelsea Garden Show display garden!

  1. Start with a few plants that work well together and compliment the color of the house.
  2. Select plant varieties in odd number combinations- three or five different plants.
  3. Aim for a multi layer effect- tall, medium and low growing plants.
  4. Use rose trees in place of rose bushes in small garden beds.
  5. Add colorful garden containers within the garden bed for year round color.
  6. Take some time to study the sun patterns on your yard and place plants and decor where they will shine the most!

Treat yourself to an uplifting entry garden.

You deserve to come home to a happy place after a long day’s work!




Plants for Narrow Spaces

columnar cereus plant

Planting in narrow garden beds is as much an art form as a challenge for many garden designers, myself included!

The dilemma begins at the garden center.



plants in pots


Beautiful, petite shrubs in one-gallon pots and streamlined trees in 15 gallon containers can be deceptive.

All plants grow tall and wide, just like babies and puppies, so you better know what you are planting before digging in!



You need "vertical plants!"


If you have a small, narrow yard the trick is to find plants that grow taller than wide.

Think about it.


You can fit more NBA basket ball players and super models in a small yard than sumo wrestlers, right?



columnar cereus plant



Columnar Cereus is a great example of a tall plant that fits into a narrow garden bed.

Burglars beware!

You won't be entering through these windows!



Tips and  creative ideas for selecting plants and trees for your small space


  • Select tress that have a narrow ,slender, or columnar shape. Palm, Cypress, Gingkos and Crape Myrtle trees fit into this category. Research trees that are ideal for your climate.


palm tree trunk decor

Metal art decor dresses up a plain looking Palm tree trunk.




hawthorne bush transformed to small tree


  • Transform a tall, woody shrub into a small tree by removing some of the low, lateral branches.


Wisteria tree image from

  • Train a woody vine such as this Wisteria into a small, blooming tree!



metal support

This reinforced metal cage is used to support and train the "Wisteria tree"



golden goddess bamboo hedge


Need a privacy hedge?

Golden Goddess clumping bamboo fits beautifully into this very narrow planting space.



papayrus against wall

Cyperus papayrus is a lush, tall leggy plant that looks dramatic against a wall or in tight garden spaces like this one.



lavender against wall


Narrow pathways and tiny garden beds like this one are perfect for aromatic lavender.

Brush up against it and be rewarded with perfume!

Lavender is pliable and if it gets too wide, trim the outer stems back.


ornamental grass and sweet potato


Strappy plants and ornamental grasses are also ideal plants for narrow areas.

Remove foliage around the perimeter to control it's "girth size"

Girth Control!


plant a vine over an arch


Plant your favorite vine over an arch to direct the eye upwards in a small garden.



vertical wall garden


A vertical wall garden can make a huge impact on a yard that is mostly concrete or patio!

Plant cascading evergreen and flowering plants.



three tiered garden containers


Maximize the impact of seasonal or annual flowers by planting them in stacked containers that are placed within the small garden bed.

This is a great example of a three tiered container garden vignette.




Here's an example of one of my small garden designs with plenty of tall, vertical elements and plants.

A water fountain is flanked by climbing roses in the background, tall, airy, Kangaroo Paw hedges, strappy daylilies and white tree roses

Keep in mind that if you don't have room for rose bushes, tree roses are a wonderful compromise.


So, don't tell me your yard is too small to be interesting!

It's up to you, go out and garden and don't be afraid to be creative!


More resources for small gardens:

Garden designers, Rebecca Sweet and Susan Morrison tackle the issue of small garden design in their new book about vertical gardening:

Garden Up! Smart Vertical Gardening for Small and Large Spaces


Please visit the following blogs from members of the Garden Designers Roundtable which I am proud to be  a member of.

We're  all writing about vertical and small garden design this month!


Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK

Pam Penick : Digging : Austin, TX »
Rebecca Sweet : Gossip In the Garden : Los Altos, CA »
Scott Hokunson : Blue Heron Landscapes : Granby, CT »
Susan Morrison : Blue Planet Garden Blog : East Bay, CA »
Tara Dillard : Vanishing Threshold : Atlanta, GA »












Narrow Side Yard Makeover!

narrow side yard small garden


I nominate "side yards" as some of the most under-exploited areas in the landscape! What a shame, especially when every square foot of real estate is valuable, even in a down economy.  

Small, narrow yards can be perplexing to some homeowners who don't know which plants and trees work in a constricted space.

The good news is that not only can you find appropriate plants for small garden areas, you can also design a narrow yard to include walkways, sitting areas, sculpture (or garden art ), water features and  fruit trees!

Here's the proof.

Check out this "narrow side yard"  makeover  I designed for my client in Los Angeles.


With sustainable concepts in mind, we used lots of recycled materials.



The widest area in this "abandoned side yard" is 10 feet from the wall to the sliding doors, the average is 8 feet wide.

 I inherited an evergreen Pear tree, a noisy air conditioner and a used dishwasher.

Where was "Freecycle" when I needed them 5 years ago?



The view from the opposite direction. I had BIG plans for this underused space. All I needed was a good design plan.



I try to design "on site" whenever possible.

I used my up-side-down marking paint and drew a new 4-foot wide walkway and flanking garden beds that average about 2 feet deep.

 I earmarked a sitting area and lots of fruit trees!



We fashioned "steppingstones" from broken pieces of used and recycled concrete and mortared each individual stone to the ground.

We spaced each stone about a strides-length away (the homeowners' stride), installed tube drip irrigation between each stone, filled with some crushed pea gravel for drainage, and lots of decomposed granite to top it off.



After photo: The long narrow walkway is complete! The gardens include lavender, ornamental grasses, tree roses, vines and a romantic metal arch that opens to the backyard. I even included a hanging pendent light.



After photo: The opposite view. Scent-filled gardens, perfect for a leisurely stroll.

Who knew this "underachieving" piece of real estate could become such a valuable feature in this yard?



Creeping "Elfin Thyme" forms a carpet between steppingstones. Festuca o. "Elijah Blue" punctuates the cobble edging and the rest of the garden is filled with herbs and perennials.



The key to incorporating fruiting trees in the narrow landscape is to plant dwarf varieties (like this dwarf lemon) in containers and find a sunny corner for them. I have three more fruit trees in this narrow garden!



This lemon tree doesn't take up much space horizontally and is a prolific fruiter . It also functions as a focal point in this small garden bed.


We even found room for "garden art" in this cubby area beneath the evergreen Pear tree.

Small can be beautiful!



Did I mention the homeowner is a surfer?

This metal surfer sculpture and metal chair is fun and reflects the homeowner's personality.

Even if this chair isn't comfortable to sit on for long periods, you can see that there is plenty of room to substitute it for a more comfy one.

Don't tell me you don't have enough room to be creative!



We constructed a simple, recycled wood frame awning  to place above the sliding doors and add dimension to the tall, flat wall.

 The awning is home to a happy potato vine.



Antique, ornamental and rustic bolts lend a detail that can be appreciated from close up.

Since this yard is so narrow, everything is closeup!



The sound of water is a healing balm.

 As a final touch, we placed a petite fountain on the short  6 foot wall, a larger one would have been out of scale.



"EdenMaker" Shirley Bovshow's rule of thumb for narrow yards:

" When selecting trees for narrow areas, make sure the trunk has a narrow profile and that the lowest limbs are higher than 7 feet" so that the average size person can walk underneath it.

Sorry Kobe!

You can still create a dynamic garden in small spaces.

If you are a rose lover, opt for rose trees as they don't take up bulky horizontal space like the bush form does.

Layer your garden with perennials, bulbs, flowering ground covers and vines, or play up contrasting foliage.

You don't need a huge variety of plants to make an interesting garden!"


Want some more inspiration?

Visit these Garden Designer's RoundTable member blogs:

Jenny Peterson, J Peterson Garden Design Laura Livengood Schuab, Interleafings The Hegarty/Webber Partnership Susan Morrison, Blue Planet Garden Blog Susan Schlenger, Garden Design Viewpoint Carolyn Gail Choi, Sweet Home and Garden Chicago Tara Dillard, Landscape Design, Decorating Styling

And, if that's not enough, check out these great articles by David Beaulieu.

To learn more about narrow side yard design, fellow blogger David Beaulieu, the Landscaping Guide at at has some great articles:

Photo Guide to Walkways

How to Build a Stone Walkway Walkways and Pathways

How to Make and Use Garden Steppingstones

Supplies for Stone Fountain Project

Varieties of Apple Trees

Interested in seeing before and after photos of some of my garden designs for HGTV and for my "Garden Police" show?
Select projects from the menu on the right side column of my blog.
You can also view excerpts of some of my television appearances on the "widget" in the left side column labeled "EdenMaker TV!"

The “Hanging Gardens” of a Desperate Apartment Dweller!

apartment balcony garden


Garden in Santa Monica, California

I've heard people say, "I can't have a garden because I live in an apartment with no patio or balcony."

Ok, here is the proof that when there is a will, there is a way to enjoy even the smallest garden.

Hang those plants!


purple greenbo balcony planter hanging on railing

On the subject of hanging plants from whatever vertical wall or railing you have, do you know about the Greenbo Planter?

Designed to fit on top of a balcony railing, the Greenbo planter is stylish, space efficient and doesn't need any screws or nails to attach to your railing!

The Greenbo planter self mounts onto your railing- up to 6" inches wide.

Read more about these planters on my Garden Center TV site!


Before and After: Country Garden Retreat on Small Budget!

stacked concrete garden wall in country garden

Before Photo

I had an instant design vision for this backyard the moment I saw it.

I envisioned a romantic gazebo in the corner, a new handcrafted wood fence, and a raised tumbled stone wall with a swath of Geranium incanum cascading over it.

A country garden retreat!


In a flash, it all came together in detail and just as quickly, the elements started to disappear as I spoke to my clients about the budget.

Board by board, stone by stone my lofty design was deconstructed and faded into the thin air whence it came from.

The only thing left was the geranium and my positive attitude.


“Great, I’ll just have to get creative with materials,” I thought.

Up to the challenge, I assured my clients that they would have the beautiful garden they always dreamed of and I would do it on their small budget.

Take a look at the results which they were delighted with:


After- English Garden by Shirley Bovshow

The concrete block wall had to stay, so I had the homeowners paint it themselves to save money on labor.

The cost of paint was a lot less than a new wood fence and the dark green color made it less obtrusive.

Instead of the shady gazebo, I opted for two Cassia leptophylla “Golden Wonder” trees to form a natural shade canopy and crown the sitting area with it’s golden yellow flowers in the summer.



After- New sitting area and raised stone planters.

I had a stacked stone wall built along the entire backyard, creating a second level for plants.

Instead of expensive natural stone, (like in my vision), we used recycled concrete for a fraction of the price without compromising on charm and good looks!

The broken concrete pieces were also used to build the small pad for the garden bench.


Before- Diagram your new path and garden beds to make sure you like the flow before digging in.

The side yard was used to house trash cans but my plan was to reclaim the space as an outdoor dining and barbecue area.

Whenever I see an unused area, my instincts always prompt me to investigate if the area can serve a function, instead of just, “stand there and look pretty.”



After- The plan comes together just as I imagined it.

The white arbor stands at the entrance of the new dining area and creates a romantic transition between the backyard and new outdoor dining room!


After- A second level in the garden adds depth and interest.

A variety of perennials soften the stone walls on the bottom and top levels.

The raised area near the dining room is planted with veggies and herbs for convenient access.

I’m a firm believer in year-round color through perennial plants that flower different times of the year.

I do use annuals in containers and focal areas, but I don’t rely on them to “carry” my gardens.

In this zone 20 garden in Los Angeles, I am fortunate to have the type of weather that supports a year-round garden.



After- Garden art is always a welcome feature in an English garden, as are cute little dogs!

The “workhorse” plants that I selected for this garden were chosen for their extended bloom time, low maintenance and low water needs.

Alas, Paradise has its shortcomings- a drought issue!



Cassia leptophylla- (yellow flowers)

Citrus trees- variety



Tibouchina urivellana “Princess tree”- (purple flowers)

Lavatera “Red Rum”

Rose Trees- (coral)

Iceberg roses (white)

English Roses-(whites, yellow, dark red)

“Golden Shower” climbing yellow rose

“Joseph’s Coat” climbing multi colored rose in apricot/pinks/yellow

Hardenbergia vine (lavender flowers) a good wisteria replacement

Hydrangeas (pink)

Argyranthemum (white)

Hebe (purple)

Polygala fruiticosa (fushia)

Bay Laurel

Bougainvillea tree (fushia)

Salvia chiapensis (red)


Artemesia (silver)

Teucrium (blue)

Daylily (yellow, cranberry, apricot)

Gaura (pink and white)

Cuphea– (pink and white)


Ground Covers

Ornamental strawberry,Festuca, Erigeron “Santa Barbara daisy”, Rosemary, Scabiosa, Armaria, Huechera, Colombine


I invite you to visit my website to view other projects I have completed.