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Sitting area in the house: surrounded by a colorful summer community of perennials and plant pots in gravel beds.

A place that gives a feeling of happiness doesn’t need a lot of space

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to: Gisela Bush

Sitting Area with View: Surrounded by a colorful summer community of perennials and plant pots in pebble beds. © Soeren von Hoerschelmann

The garden should be our green living room. An extended part of the house and a haven where we can relax and explore nature – tailored to the tastes of its residents. But what to do if the oasis is only the size of a towel? Garden architect Soeren von Hoerschelmann knows what to keep in mind to make sure that even a small garden is unmistakable.

Fortunately, even pieces of towels can be turned into garden oases, knows Hoerschelmann, who studied landscape planning at the University of Kassel. subordinate landscape architect in hamburg He likes to compare garden design with musical composition. It is important to have a harmonious triad of plants, water and stones. “Differences are most evident in a small garden,” says the garden author, explaining in an interview how a small plot of land can become unmistakable.

Soeren von Hoerschelmann from Hamburg is a landscape architect
Soeren von Hoerschelmann studied in Kassel and is a landscape architect in Hamburg. © Private

Gardeners should pay attention to spaces, sight lines, and zoning elements. How do they work?

Counter question: what is the size of a house with an area of ​​\u200b\u200b200 square meters? Exactly: Not at all. Just as in the house, the small garden is also about structuring the space and making it comfortable. Instead of opaque walls, design elements such as plants, stones and water are used – depending on the terrain. The steps, for example, are basically very low walls and subtly mark the rooms. The more rambunctious the terrain, the higher the steps/walls, the clearer the space configuration. Hedges serve a similar purpose. Even a secluded tree or bush or bed – all these things can catch my eye.

A green oasis of 90 square metres: cobbled walkways between beds invite you to explore, and trumpet columns form the structure.
A green oasis of 90 square metres: cobbled walkways between beds invite you to explore, and trumpet columns form the structure. © Soeren von Hoerschelmann

Nothing can be changed about the size of the park. What is the optical effect of the “zoom by default” principle?

“Expand by reducing” means: Small gardens in particular, which have much less “room” space, benefit from clever spatial zoning as it makes them appear larger. With luck, elements outside the property can also be incorporated into the visual design. The so-called “borrowed landscape” can be a large tree in the adjacent garden. For all the creative joy, pauses are also important, as is composition: non-stop music is noise. So if I have a lush bed in the house and another at the end of the garden, there must be a break in between. This is the point where I find consensus with all builders who believe in lawns. The brave also understand that the balcony does not necessarily have to be attached to the house and later look forward to sitting in the middle of nature. A chipboard, gravel, or wooden surface represents the fracture.

What tricks cause surprises and which mistakes should be avoided?

What makes your property unique? The towel garden seems random at first, but there is also a neighborhood, high-rise architecture, celestial orientation, trees, soil and terrain conditions as well as residents’ wishes: this creates a core theme: herbs or flowers? Pebbles or grass? Tree or shrub? The rooms are important, the proportions must be correct. Beware of “striped gardens”: So hedge, then bed, then path, then garden, then bed, then hedge again – it couldn’t get any more boring. There is no spatial layout, everything is instantly controllable. But surprises are not called: “Here!”. If curiosity draws me to the garden because I can only guess something, I have to find out and walk into the room, which is why it seems bigger to me: ‘in front’ is ‘behind’, which ideally ‘in Introduction” again. If I only hear the water stone, I’ll go look for it. If I sat next to him in the back garden and looked at the house, I would have a change of perspective in the truest sense of the word.

Greywacke clumps act as benches next to the mother-of-pearl bush.
Greywacke clumps act as benches next to the mother-of-pearl bush. © Soeren von Hoerschelmann

How to make a harmonious triad of plants, water and stones?

We use stones to divide the space and as a cobbled area to stay. The material should have a pleasant feel and be allowed to age to increase its value. Something that doesn’t have to be kept “clean” at great cost, but looks good on lichens, moss, and plaster. If the wall looks better with moss than without it, then a lot will be gained. Water is the ultimate turbo of life in the garden. A bubble stone is enough to bring this magical element closer to us: it sparkles and scatters, the sun’s rays penetrate it, insects come to drink, and birds are bathing.

Book Tip: Small, Green, Gorgeous – Ideas for Small Gardens

Grass with a sad fence border – this is what many small gardens look like. Her message: Look how boring I am! Often property owners simply lack the ability to imagine how this narrow desolate green can be turned into a well-planted place. Graduate biologist Ulrike Aufderheide provides a wealth of cleverly researched design concepts for horticulture for various problem plots – including plant lists and garden plans. We learn how property boundaries are “blurred” and diagonals are emphasized to simulate width and how the smallest of angles can be gently equipped. Shared vegetation makes the paths come alive, and the water features delight the people as well as the animals.

“A Small Garden Close to Nature” by Ulrike Aufderheide, Bala Verlag19.90 euros.

Plants are the soul of the garden. With them I can create the mood and define the seasons. I attract animals that are native and rich in nectar and fruit, and therefore find plenty of things to note. If the bed consists of a few uncomplicated perennials abundantly planted, then small gardens seem more spacious and maintenance is also possible for ordinary people. So: a fairly small number, but a large family. The smaller the space, the more important the constraint. Ornamental lawn monoculture works just as well as an array of colorful flowers – especially if you have little knowledge of plants, a mixture of a few competitive perennials is recommended, then you can’t go wrong with too much care. Otherwise, the motto of the great English garden lady Beth Chatto applies: “Right place, right plant.”

What role does the so-called “layering”, that is, the intelligent gathering of plants in one place, play?

The smaller the area, the more important the vertical area. If there is no space for large groups of shrubs, I have to combine woody plants with perennials. The wood should allow perennials to be grown under it i.e. it should not have any branches directly above the ground and it should be allowed to develop its typical habit. For example, pears can be wonderfully trained to form loose canopies and can also be easily controlled in length and width by pruning. You don’t even have to try it with Bloom Bloom. If the need arises to quickly close them, then “offering plants” can also be depicted, which first give mass, but after a few years give way to what you really want. So grooming is the ultimate styling tool.

Waterstone on a gravel road in a small town park.
The water stone on the gravel road is full of magic: glitter falls in the light, birds come to bathe, and insects to drink. © Soeren von Hoerschelmann

Farms survive and change over the years. What do you have to look here?

I was recently in a small garden that, believe it or not, had two sweet cherries, two apple trees, and a magnolia, plus a few shrubs. When I said that the apple tree could survive, there were tall faces at first. Most ordinary people (and unfortunately many colleagues too) completely ignore the time factor. Trees are planted there, as if one were to equip a federal garden show. A few years later, the “gardener” is called and the wood is mercilessly abused. Effect: Exactly where there should be less, but more growing due to this wrong care, everything goes out of shape and eventually the gardeners get frustrated.

In your opinion, what should not be lacking even in the smallest garden and what can be completely dispensed with?

Stone, water and plant – the three basic elements. The second bench is certainly always good, it does not need to be specially installed and can also be located somewhere under the apple tree. Apple trees are great anyway because they don’t grow huge and bloom beautifully and bear fruit. There is no better place to sit than under an apple tree. And of course, grass isn’t really necessary. Plastic is indispensable in any way in the garden: be it in the form of WPC plastic panels or mole nets. We reject both outright.

(by Gisela Bosch)