In some of the newer urban housing developments the block sizes are getting smaller, but not the houses that are built on the block. This can dramatically reduce the green space that remains. In some cases the side and back ‘fence’ is now a 1.8 meter painted metal screen to provide some sound and visual privacy. The frontage area and the distance from the front door to the street in some house designs can be measured in a few meters.
So when it comes to the landscaping, the selection of suitable plants for these smaller lots becomes somewhat restricted due to the growth habit of some or the trees and shrubs the new owner would like to use. Incidentally this also applies to what type of lawn grass is needed so as to cope with amount of shade cast not only by the building itself but also the metal screen fence.
As with any new landscaping work, careful consideration is needed when it comes to the underground utilities and the roof drainage pipes that generally go out to the road guttering.
Sustainable gardening on these smaller lots is still achievable by the use of dwarf fruiting trees and raised garden beds for vegies, along with pot culture. The entertainment zone generally at the rear of the house can become sustainable and decorative zone by the use of potted dwarf citrus along with tubs containing herbs or even tomato varieties. Along the metal privacy screen that receives the best sun, reinforcing mesh can be attached and this will make a trellis suitable for growing passion fruit varieties and other climbing plants, thus softening the harshness of the screen. This concept requires very little space and offers a backdrop to the rest of the rear zone.
Starting with this article and in future articles I will inform you of many of the plants, new and old, suitable for smaller house blocks.
To start with, the popular Murraya paniculata ‘Mock Orange’ has often been used for hedging or screening. My own ‘Mock Orange’ hedge I use to hide the garden shed and give me privacy from the neighbouring property has grown to 4 meters width 2 meter spread. (I will need a ladder to prune the top). Now available is a cultivar Murraya MPOI called ‘Sweet Privacy’ that will be good for the smaller garden or where space is limited. Grows to a controllable 1.8 to 2.5 meters with an unclipped width 1.5 meters, still has the sweet smelling white flowers during spring and summer. The dark green leaves are much smaller than the original form. Pruning is suggested at twice per year or three times to create a very tight dense hedge.
If you like the foliage colour of the Olive tree with its silver green underside, the highly ornamental dwarf non fruiting form of Olea europena called ‘Piccolo’ will handle our zone well due to its frost and drought tolerance, can be maintained in hedge form about 1.2 meters, or as a container subject. Marries in well with the foliage colour of lavender or rosemary.
For the sustainable garden or as mentioned the entertainment zone, the fruiting olive ‘Green Harvest’ is a small growing olive suitable for large pots and smaller gardens. Prune after harvest to maintain the desired form. Once again tolerant to frost and drought.
Just remember fruiting trees grown in tubs need feeding more often to maintain their ability to produce good harvests.