California garden designer Rebecca Sweet honed her gardening talents in Silicon Valley south of San Francisco where growing conditions are ideal but land is expensive.
Sweet, a foremost expert in vertical gardening, wrote the national best-selling book, "Gardening Up! Smart Vertical Gardening for Small and Large Spaces," which has redefined vertical gardening.
Vertical gardening has become a hot trend, whether it involves edibles, ornamentals or both, Sweet told he Boca Grande Garden Club March 6 in the Boca Grande Community Center Auditorium.
Jodie Pearah of the Boca Grande Garden Club, left, and Rebecca Sweet.
She illustrated how to work with vertical structures using tray or pocket systems. Improvise with architectural fragments or antique collectables, she said.
People with small gardens in awkward spaces have many products that can help landscape a wall or fence, Sweet said. Sweet illustrated her point with a slide of a fireplace mantel she rescued from a Dumpster and attached to a fence in her back yard, which she augmented with plantings.
Favorite objects such as a collection of weathered watering cans, shoe bags, rain gutters or ceramic discs can be assembled on a fence to hold the plants, which can be fed with "tea bags" filled with manure.
What: Garden Tour
When: April 4
Restriction: For Boca Grande Garden Club members and pre-registered houseguests.
You should know: Membership will be open April 1 on a first-come, first-served basis for $50, which will include membership through next year's tour. Mail checks to Treasurer Doe Flannery at P.O. Box 1246, Boca Grande FL 33921 no earlier than April 2.
Small projects are a lot of fun for a gardener with an eye for creatively repurposing cast-off objects. The do-it-yourself approach can result in a more attractive look than manufactured tray or pocket systems, especially in a rustic setting, she said.
What to do with a long path along the side of the house? Widen it with a curve or two to relieve the severity of a straight line, even within the confines of a narrow space. Allow the annuals spill out onto the path.
Soften ugly roofs next door within a few feet of the fence line with an Espalier fruit trees on the fence or wall. Build a pergola-like extension above it for a lush, flowering vine that obscures the roof or use tall, narrow trees.
Create depth by using plants of differing densities and height. In small spaces, the plants will be close to the viewer so variety in color, leaf shape and will make the garden more visually stimulating.
If you like to grow edibles, plant tomatoes upside down in pots attached to vertical structures and let them cascade.
Make your own strawberry "pots" by cutting holes in plastic pipes and installing strawberry plants. Suspend the pipes from the roof lines or soffits.
Walls and fences are good places to grow pole beans and peas.
Slugs, snails and bug problems are minimized with raised gardening and roots exposed to air do not become root bound. The pocket-and-rack systems are ideal for plants with shallow roots such as succulents.
If irrigation is an issue, use epiphytes that attach to other plants and snatch needed moisture from the air.
Don't remove dying trees. Once its foliage has disappeared, it can provide architecture for new planting creations.
Sweet focused primarily on narrow walkways along the sides of houses and tiny plots surrounded by unwelcome views, but gardening up can be used in large spaces, too, such as the walls of a large structure. Large buildings covered with luxuriant vines, for example, take on a soft, natural look reminiscent of the ivy-covered English cottage.
Women love this look, she said, while men hate it, thinking of the upkeep. Recent studies show, however, that ivy and other climbing vines do not destroy mortar or stucco. They do take advantage of deterioration already under way by attaching to crevices created by weathering. It's a pain, though, when you want to paint.