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Small Yard? Go Up!

If you have a small yard you might think you can’t have a big, splashy, colorful garden. But if you, like the architects in Inception, look at all your space and don’t allow yourself to be tied to just the flat surface of your yard, you will find a huge area waiting to be used. By incorporating fences, arbors and trellises into your landscape you can add lots of growing space for ornamental plants as well as berries, squash, beans and other vining edibles.

Plumbago auriculata

Some plants can be used in non-traditional ways to great advantage. This plumbago auriculata, for instance,  has been trained up into an arbor. The Lady Banks rose that is also on the arbor blooms in early spring. When the weather warms in early summer the plumbago takes over the job of adding color. The evergreen rose protects the plumbago against temperatures that dip below freezing in winter so that it doesn’t suffer much die back, allowing it to be ready for blooming early each summer. Ivy geraniums and even pelargoniums can also be intertwined with an evergreen arbor plant, adding to the color choices for summer blooms.

Passiflora caerulea

In the top photo Rosa Berries and Cream grows together with Solanum jasminoides, white potato vine. The potato vine blooms much of the year and for several months the color palette is pumped up by Berries and Cream.

Passiflora caerulea is a tropical ornamental that is hardy to 25 degrees, with flowers that are otherworldly and abundant. An unexpected bonus is the fruit that forms easily and in this, its second year, the vine is covered with fruit. Taste tests will occur when the fruit ripens!

Other fruits can also be trellised on a fence. Here, thornless blackberries grow alongside lavender trumpet vine, Clyostoma callistegioides. The trumpet vine then continues along the fence to meet with another Lady Banks rose providing that section of the fence with an extended bloom period.


Some vines require a bit more work to keep them under control. Wisteria is one of them but not much beats it for lovely, wonderfully scented racemes that are the hallmark of spring for many gardeners. With just a few prunings a year wisteria can be kept suitable for any garden; without them you could end up with one like the Sierra Madre wisteria, which covers more than an acre and weighs more than 250 tons. Probably not a good goal for your backyard, although you would make a lot of bees very happy.

Visit your local nursery, check the lists in the Sunset Garden Book, or go online for more ideas on growing vertically. See what’s up and try it for yourself!

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