Editor’s Note: This is a guest post.

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need,” so said Roman orator and philosopher Cicero. Having a little green space in the city, be it a cozy, downtown apartment, a spacious loft or an old-school co-op, can be a welcome and eco-friendly retreat from the constant imprint of screens, apps, and online overload. But how?

Apartment living doesn’t always mean a concrete jungle with a scattering of succulents. Whether you’ve just landed a job in the big city or are looking to upgrade your space, there are options. Consider the woodland method– shade-loving plants plus low maintenance equals the ultimate urban oasis.

Building a Sustainable Space

For city dwellers, space may indeed seem like the final frontier, however, fret not, it’s not impossible. Consider the advent of urban gardens and urban farming initiatives. Think of NYC’s Greenline and Michelle Obama’s White House Garden for example. Gardening offers Instagram worthy beauty, peace of mind and it’s good for the environment.

Even Ikea is getting into the business of sustainable gardening by offering specially designed containers and contraptions that work well with small indoor and outdoor spaces. When considering building your own urban garden, it is first important to look at the space you have. Does it have enough sunlight? How many plants will fit, what kind of design do you want, and so on. Rooftops and patios are a good place to start.

Photo Credit: architecturaldigest.com

The Winning Ways of Woodland

Woodland gardens are named appropriately. The term originates from gardens that use the leafy cover of trees to build up a layered space consisting of shrubs, bulbs, and other foliage that favor the shade. It’s an optimal garden design for an urban space when sunlight and time aren’t always on your side. And what’s more, it is sustainable.

Once you’ve figured out the perfect space for your urban garden, it’s time to think about plants. Think local. Think non-invasive. Think about what types of plant thrive in your area. Combine potted plants with plants grown in flower beds for a modern edge and more of a layered effect.  If you have a color scheme in mind, think about the flowering bulbs first. Daffodils and crocuses are always favorites especially as they are usually first to peek out of the winter frost. Spanish bluebells, or bleeding hearts, with their purple and pink pop of color, also add a bit of flair and foliage to any garden.

For that leafy green touch of foliage, think hostas such as plantain lilies or the ever-reliable fern plant. Starting from trees, to shrubs, plants like ferns offer the third layer in the woodland design. These plants offer a third layer of protection for the bulbs and help maintain the overall ecosystem.

Maintaining Your Woodland Garden

Your urban woodland garden can be a great oasis in the city, but it still needs to be maintained. Since the woodland environment is made up of easy to manage and low maintenance plants, be sure to treat them to a nice, sustainable home environment. For example, create your own compost. Your plants will love it and it’s a gift that keeps on giving. Check out local cafes. Often they will give out their coffee grinds for free.

Also, explore sustainable watering systems that will automatically reuse water and water your plants on a schedule. Think out of the box. If you want a water feature to accompany your woodland escape, consider a natural pool. A natural pool is eco-friendly, using its surrounding plants and land regeneration zone to filter the water back into the pool. Plan your garden for a year wide schedule.

Photo Credit: wpmea.org

Often, woodland plants will disappear underground come summer, so look for plants that grow in between or that will grow year round. Plant such as the Daphne variety and ivies are always a good choice for a year-round plant to keep your garden fresh throughout the seasons.

If you want to take advantage of that burgeoning green thumb, or are already a gardening pro with a small space, an easy to maintain and sustainable urban garden is always within your reach. Not only does it provide you with a hobby, but it also provides you with a kind of urban retreat and one that is actually good for the environment.

Author Bio 

Jennifer Hill is a freelance writer who volunteers with a number of wildlife charities. When she isn’t writing or campaigning, she relaxes with long walks through the woods with her family.

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