This is part of a Chicago Tribune article.
The tiny dooryard of a townhouse. A balcony on the 12th floor. Or the 20-foot space between deck and garage behind a cottage.No question, small gardens have different challenges than a sunny half-acre. There's no space to waste, Every square inch is important. That doesn't mean every square inch should be packed with plants. In tight quarters you have to edit, to focus the experience of the garden, to make space for people and to rest the eye.Like any garden, a small plot needs layers: the lowest layer of perennials, annuals, ground covers; the middle layer of knee- to head-high shrubs, vines and tall grasses; and the high, often overhead layer of trees.The walls that define many small gardens offer vertical space to create the mid-layer. Clematis and other vines also can climb a trellis or wires along a wall or scramble over a screen or fence between gardens.Those walls or screens serve another purpose: Creating the sense of enclosure that lets us feel like our gardens buffer us from the world. Begin by examining the garden from all angles, including inside the house. How much of your neighbor's yard are you seeing?How much does it impinge on how you feel when you are inside your house as well as outside? Harmony matters. If the home and garden hang together, both feel larger. So choose every piece of furniture and pot, as well as the overall style of the garden, in light of your architecture. Too much harmony is boring. There's always room in a garden for surprise, for a sense of a destination, A small garden requires careful choices. Too many different colors, textures and shapes are overwhelming and cluttered. You have to be much more selective, Avoid plants that will burgeon beyond bounds. The wide range of plants available includes many smaller species and cultivars that have been bred to stay compact.No matter which plants you choose, there will be pinching and pruning. It's almost easier to have a large landscape,It's harder to have something small and keep it in line.Containers provide wiggle room. They can create a whole balcony or roof garden of pots. You can move them around to escape migrating shadows or switch out the plants during the season. You can tuck pots away to make room for a dinner party or use them to fill spots in beds where a plant didn't work out.It may require a bit more thought and discipline, but you can still have a full landscape even though you have a tiny garden.
Oprah had a program about neighbors last year. She said that she didn't know her neighbors at Harpo. She took the camera men and went to visit and told her neighbors that she wanted to fix up their balconies for them with plants and furniture etc. They were all suited to the tenants. It was amazing what could be done with a very small space. I don't have a balcony, but would like to spruce up my tiny gardens. So, I will get to work and see what I can do.