Small Gardens, Lush Ideas

Published in the March 2015 edition of Home and Garden.



Home show speaker shares how to create intimate areas on patios or nooks off a large yard.
By Vanessa Salvia

Melinda Myers, a nationally known gardening expert, TV and radio host, book author and columnist for Birds & Blooms magazine, starts off her 2005 book, Small Space Gardening, with a question: What do you see when you close your eyes and visualize your ideal small garden? In her five Lane County Home & Garden Show presentations, Myers will endeavor to help you answer that question and impart the knowledge to make it happen.

Whether you’re trying to create an entertainment area in the side yard or a secret garden where you can hide out, the principals are similar. “I talk about function and basic design principals but not on a scale of acreage,” she says. “What it’s about is creating intimate areas. That could be balcony, a city lot or a suburban lot.”

Myers was a small-space gardener for 25 years in the heart of Milwaukee. Now that she owns a home on a larger piece of property, her backyard is still her container garden. Myers will speak about small space gardening with an emphasis on utilizing the space and planting strategies such as “borrowing views.”

“Views extend the beauty without taking up space in your yard,” she says.

To illustrate borrowing views, Myers described her second-floor city apartment in which she looked south into a neighbor’s bathroom window. She looked at an alley to the east and to the north, an easement space. She potted tall plants to gently screen the view of her neighbors and to the east put hanging baskets. “When I sat down I saw the baskets,” she says, “but when I stood up I saw the garden below. So I’m going to talk about not only where to put your seating area but how to figure that out.”

One of her strategies for maximizing landscapes is incorporating edibles with other plants, to attract hummingbirds or to pluck produce for the kitchen. “I love all kinds of plants but I love fresh-from-the-garden produce and I was always looking for ways to squeeze that into my small space,” she says. “Now there are beautiful varieties out there of smaller, compact eggplants and tomatoes and peppers that work great in containers.”

Myers likes to help gardeners maximize their effort. “Not because people are lazy but because people are busy,” she says. “One of the things I talk about when I talk about small space is underutilized areas. How can you make the functional part accessible but better looking? You put two plants in one area so you’ve got a spring and a summer bloomer, or you mix your bulbs with your perennials so you get beauty in the spring and you don’t have to worry about the declining leaves because the perennials are coming up and masking them and then you get blooms from your perennials. You’ve extended the bloom time and reduced your maintenance.”

Though her talks overlap slightly—for instance, containers play a role in all her topics—she strives to keep each presentation uniquely informative. Her container presentation will explain how to select the right pot and vacation strategies for when you want to leave home and don’t trust your neighbors to care for your plants.

“It’s hard to ask a friend to water your plants!” Myers sympathizes. “They won’t let your cats die but your plants? Eh, not so much!”

Her “Low Maintenance, Big Impact Perennial Gardens” talk encompasses the critical step of soil preparation as well as design strategies using color and number of plants. “I’m going to talk about plants that give you long bloom period, that don’t require a lot of deadheading and that don’t have a lot of pest problems,” she says. “Gardening is not really about no maintenance because gardens are living things, but we can reduce the maintenance a little bit.”

Though based in Wisconsin, Myers has traveled the country for years and has taken several Pacific Northwest gardening tours. Talking to gardeners from around the country helps her to understand the unique opportunities and challenges of each region.

Myers says she “does her homework” before traveling to a different part of the country so she is prepared to address those gardeners’ specific needs. “I want people to walk away with strategies and some plants to apply to that strategy, but also really basic concepts and inspiration that they can actually implement in their garden this season.”

Melinda Myers’ speaking times:
Fri. 6:30 p.m. – Small Space Gardens
Sat. 11:30 a.m. – Containers for Every Size & Style Landscape
Sat. 4:30 p.m. – Low Maintenance, Big Impact Perennial Gardens
Sun. 11:30 a.m. – Small Space Gardens
Sun.  2 p.m. – Containers for Every Size & Style

Here’s a link to her Lane County Home Show presentation topics and schedule:

Melinda Myers’s Small Space Gardening book will be on sale at the Lane County Home & Garden Show, with signings after each of her presentations.


Melinda Myers


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