Small gardens are enchanting. It’s no accident that Frances Hodgson Burnett’s captivating childhood classic, The Secret Garden
, told a story of transformation against the backdrop of a little garden that could. With heart and hard work, children nurtured this neglected space until everyone and everything inside the enclosed walls became the best version of themselves. That’s the promise of a garden—a joyful place where we can use the power of the outdoors to refuel and reconnect with our friends and family. With a little thought and planning, small spaces in particular can serve as the most livable and lovely garden rooms that truly expand our living space and fulfill that promise of beauty, joy, and connection.
Whatever your space—an urban balcony, a postage stamp patio, or a suburban backyard—this book will help you define and refine your bit of earth. Maybe you’re looking for a full garden makeover or you simply want to fluff the porch with new pots that complement your house and reflect your indoor style; we’ve got your back.
Containers are a great way to try out new garden tricks before moving onto larger spaces. They can also play a starring role in a well-designed small garden. They can add architectural interest (without hiring an architect), soften a space to make it feel like a warm hug after work, or define a confusing entry so your guests stop wandering in through the side gate. Containers accomplish all of this and have the flexibility to move with you if you move on.
However small in square footage, your garden can be as brilliant and transporting as possible, and we will get you there. Like any project, the magic is achieved with a little thought and planning before stepping foot in a garden shop. Heading to the nursery without a plan is like going to the grocery store hungry. You might buy heaps of beautiful ingredients, but you can’t cook a balanced a meal when you get home, let alone impress your dinner guests. Just as a beloved cookbook is a reassuring guide for the kitchen, we hope this book will become your garden confidant, your source for continued inspiration translated into real recipes with professional tips and tricks to streamline the shopping and spruce up the garden, while giving answers along the way to those inevitable questions.
When we first brainstormed this book, recipes were front and center. Much like you’d build out your dinner from scratch, we wanted to start with a small, manageable space—or even the smallest garden planter—and provide a step-by-step guide full of how-to tips, winning combinations, and the design thinking behind why certain plants work together. We also wanted to pull style into the conversation to connect your personal point of view and secret lifestyle aspirations (how you dream to live!) to your own outdoor space. Small Garden Style
is all of that, sharing our best secrets and plant recipes along with other easy, accessible ideas for a range of small garden styles.
Some of you might be seasoned pros looking for insider secrets—you’ve come to the right place! Or you might be a garden novice reading these pages with trepidation—no worries, you have nothing to fear! Because guess what—we are all of you. Your two authors, Isa and Jenny, are friends, writers, fellow moms of three each, and nearly neighbors, living a mile apart in Santa Barbara. We have lived in the Northeast, Midwest, and Northwest before landing permanently in California. We understand first-hand what it means to garden small—from potted herbs on the San Francisco fire escape, to seasonal shrubs on a Minneapolis front porch, to winterized boxwoods on a Boston brick patio, to our own Santa Barbara gardens with a bit more sunshine. Even the professional Isa Bird Landscape Design projects that cover several acres still require smaller, defined, outdoor rooms to make the gardens comfortable for living.
One of us is seasoned and one of us is a newcomer, and together we keep it real and keep it fun. Isa, the pro, launched Isa Bird Landscape Design as a natural extension of her graphic design and letterpress business, combining her deep knowledge of plants with a career understanding of visual communication that makes her real-life designs graphic, layered, and lush whether big or small. Isa’s gardens have also been photographed for Better Homes and Gardens
, HGTV Magazine, Garden Design
magazine, and Santa Barbara Magazine
. Jenny, the enthusiastic rookie gardener, is a design writer who has spent two decades covering homes and gardens across the country for publications including Better Homes and Gardens, Condé Nast Traveler, Domino, House Beautiful
, and Sunset
. She can reupholster living room chairs in vintage fabric or confidently match tile and wallpaper, yet the garden store to garden bed crisis was real. Learning the ropes from a pro came with a lot of laughs, coffees, and croissants in Jenny’s secret olive garden, and homegrown salads and fizzy drinks on Isa’s treehouse deck (sensing a food theme here?). Under the blue sky, we talked about how to relay the best garden advice to others in a fresh way that feels like those favorite cookbooks and design books, not like a plant encyclopedia. Our common goal? How to break it down without having a breakdown.
Together, we hope this book helps you think about your small garden as another room of your home. Just like the interiors, the outdoor space should be defined with garden “floors” covered with gravel, gorgeous ground cover, or creeping herbs and “walls” made of a leafy hedge or a striking row of potted trees. In this book you’ll find easy ways to get started right away on everything from the design process (yes, you can plan and spray paint a pathway like a pro) to getting your hands dirty arranging striking plant groupings. Trust us, you’ll never wind up in a nursery nightmare again with this strategy. We have weekend projects from vertical gardens to instant orchards, front-door wreaths to easy water features. Call your guests: you’ll be throwing that magazine-style garden party before you know it. Small gardens, big style, that’s our promise. Loving and living in your garden—just like your other favorite rooms inside—is what it’s all about. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get started; we’re here for you.
Isa + Jenny
Copyright © 2020 by Isa Hendry Eaton and Jennifer Blaise Kramer. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.