My Small Space Urban Garden

My Small Space Urban Garden
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Some photos of my small space urban garden in July 2010. The garden is located on the West Side of Chicago and this is where I grow the annuals and perennials I blog about here and on the MrBrownThumb garden blog. I like to describe my gardening style as ghetto because of my haphazard approach to placing plants. Basically, if I find a plant I like I will add it where I have space without taking into consideration things like height and color combinations. The space is around 13 feet wide by 33 feet deep. 


Take note of all the weeds. Yes, that’s burdock in the foreground of the picture above. I really do have a live and let live approach to weeds in the garden. I don’t believe in a full-sale eradication of weeds because they sometimes help fill in bare spots, attract cool bugs I get to blog about and provide cover for plants I don’t want stolen. 

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Yes, people steal plants. A lot of the plants here I either propagated from cuttings, divisions or seed, but some of them actually cost money. Can you tell which ones cost money? No? Good! When the garden was neater it was easy to spot the perennials I actually purchased and people would walk into the garden and pull them out from the roots. The last plant thief to visit my garden didn’t walk away with any purple coneflowers, s/he walked away with a handful of weeds. Ha! This is the view into the garden from the fence in June 2010. 

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Here is a view of the garden from the top of the stairs, also from June. The garden path is made from cement squares salvaged from a construction site. No, salvaged isn’t a euphemism for stolen. The section on the far right is against the house and doesn’t get much light so I haven’t planted much there. I basically allow a few weeds, like dandelions, to grow wild there and keep it green until I figure out what I want to plant there. The most expensive plant I own is a Cimicifuga racemosa that I purchased for $15.00 back when it was still called Cimicifuga racemosa. Can you spot it in the picture? No? It is in the top right section. See what I mean about using weeds to hide your valuable plants? 

Along the iron fence is a section the daylilies that have really outgrown their space. Every year I tell myself I’m going to remove them and add some espaliered fruit trees. The daylilies remain because they were gifted to me by an gardener I met on the internet. Right now some sunflowers and a few annual vines cover a portion of the fence. Along the same fence you may be able to make out a nearly wild rose bush. It is one of two that the garden really started with along with that broken fountain that now serves as a container for a few succulent ground covers, also gifts from an internet friend. 

There’s a small strip of the garden that can’t be seen in the pictures that I refer to as the badlands. It is home to a tree and some perennials that I plan to someday move into this area, but always seem to forget to get around to it every year.

I’m the first to admit that the garden isn’t much to look at, but when I look at it I realize how so many good memories these plants are associated with. People I’ve known who are no longer with me, people I’ve met because of them and people I will likely meet because of them. The garden has also served as a living classroom of sorts. Biology, botany and entomology lessons take place in it every day and some days I even pay attention to what nature is trying to teach me. 

Now that I’ve shown you my small space garden, it is your turn to show me yours. Add a picture of your garden to the Chicago Gardeners flickr pool




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  • I think it's perfectly lovely. I find that plants and flowers remind me of people in my life, too. Gardening is comforting in so many ways. If I figure out how to post pictures, maybe I'll post some of my gardens one day. Always works in progress.

  • In reply to jtithof:

    Hi Jackie,

    Thanks for commenting. It is really easy to upload to flickr and if you figure it out please add some pics of your garden to our group. Always like to see what others are doing in their gardens.

  • Construction sites are awesome--I've gotten some really cool rocks from these (I asked because I needed help loading them, lol!). Your garden reveal looks wonderful, it's nice to finally see it non-macro. Xan told me all about people stealing plants in Chi, which I still can't grasp. Love the idea of camouflaging plants with weeds. Burdock should be great for that.

  • In reply to gardenfaerie:

    Among the weeds to the left are two pieces of concrete that you can barely make out. I found those at a demo site and picked them up after I saw the repurposed steps at the Bayless garden a year ago. Someday they'll be steps too. for now they just block out some weeds.

  • Your garden is so cool! Cracks me up that someone stole your weeds. I leave most of my weeds, too - unfortunately they're some of my most successful garden plants.

  • In reply to bintie:

    Ha, there's a couple of weeds that grow in a nice spherical shape growing in the garden now. I wish I knew what they were because they really fill out some bare spots and I'd like to grow them on purpose.

  • right now is a really good time to buy cheap fruit trees, if you want to go for the espalliered apple tree thing. I got my 3 apple trees from Menards last year end of season for about $15/each which is a pretty good buy. And all of them survived the winter yay! PS: I think your garden is beautiful.

  • In reply to snappyjdog:

    You're right. Right now they're putting them on clearance and it is a great time to get some trees dirt cheap. I have my eye on one at HD that I'm just waiting for the price to drop on.

  • In reply to snappyjdog:

    I love your garden, MBT, and am thrilled to see it, as Monica says, non-macro. Your easy-going approach to so-called weeds seems to be netting substantial benefit, and your wild and cultivated plants seem to be playing together nicely.

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