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The Best Plants for a Small, Dark Courtyard Garden

This lush little haven shows how even the most unpromising of plots can become a pretty, relaxing space

Believe it or not, this leafy oasis started life as a gloomy, empty basement overlooked by a car park – until, that is, designer Roberto Silva of Silva Landscapes worked his magic and created this inviting gem of a secluded small garden.

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Garden at a Glance
Who lives here
A single professional woman
Location Islington, north London
Property A basement flat in a Georgian house
Garden dimensions Around 8 x 15ft
Designer Roberto Silva of Silva Landscapes

The owner of this basement flat isn’t big on gardening, but she does love to sit amid flowers and foliage, and chat to friends in a welcoming outside space.

So her brief to Roberto was to create a low-maintenance but leafy, evergreen garden in her tiny basement plot.

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The flooring in the empty space was plain concrete, so Roberto laid these concrete pavers for more of a rustic mood. “They have a terracotta feel,” he says. The decorative white table and chairs complement them nicely.

The retaining wall gets no sunlight at all, so the plants – which are entirely in pots – are all happy in the shade.

Trellis covers the large, formerly blank white space, and Roberto chose Photinia ‘Red Robin’ for in front of it and Trachelospermum jasminoides to grow up it and, in time, create a green feature wall.

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Roberto has contrasted colours, shapes and heights for maximum movement and interest. “In a small space, people tend to use small pots, but you need to think big: the smaller the space, the bigger the plants, the bigger the pots. You need to create interest above eye level,” he says.

In this corner, the tall, spiky Phormium tenax is softened by the lower, gently sculptural Fatsia japonica.

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The garden is overlooked by a car park, so Roberto included large, leafy Eriobotrya japonica trees in each corner to screen the view, as well as creating a pleasing canopy and dampening the noise for anyone enjoying the garden below. “The trees make it quite secluded,” he says.

The house wall does get some sunshine, so Roberto took advantage with the planting and left some pots free for sun-lovers such as the yellow Osteospermum.

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The hanging baskets were already in place, so Roberto used these and large window boxes to create a lovely view from inside the flat, as well as adding levels of interest outside.

“In a small garden, you have to make the most of every space to introduce colour,” he says.

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The hostas along this wall add sculptural foliage amid the delicate flowers.

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Roberto made sure none of the plants on the house side, apart from those in the window boxes, were above windowsill height for a neat look.

Box balls (Buxus sempervirens) are alternated with the yellow Osteospermum and tangerine hibiscus to add colour up the steps.

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The delicate Brugmansia, with its pretty, trumpet-shaped flowers, has to be taken inside for the winter, but all the other perennials can stay put and provide greenery year round.

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The window boxes, tumbling with Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’ and Osteospermum, add colour indoors and out.

Tell us…
What do you think of this small basement garden? Share your thoughts in the Comments section.
www.houzz.co.uk

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