Urban gardens are notoriously problematic, from poor soil, to too much shade, to limited growing space. However, with the right plants, there’s one thing that can be improved upon – colour.
Whether your garden sits on a balcony amongst grey concrete and skyscrapers, or it’s a patch of lawn in the suburbs, you can easily turn it into a colourful oasis with the use of summer bedding plants, such as begonias. Even the smallest gardens can come alive with the rainbow hues of begonias! Here are my tips for brightening up an urban garden.
Hide ugly walls, fences and railings with plants
Urban walls are often made with concrete or other materials that may appear cold or lacklustre, doing your garden no favours at all! There are several ways to hide these walls:
- Hang up some wall planters (if renting, make sure you have the landlord’s permission). Get creative with materials, shape and placement to make your walls into a feature rather than something you want hidden away.
- Buy a trellis attached to a planter. This way, you can grow plants in the planter while the trellis hides the wall – there are some beautiful trellises available with more intricate designs, if you don’t like the traditional lattice patterns.
- Attach a hanging planter to a roof overhang, pagoda or wall (again, you’ll need the landlord’s permission if you’re renting). Hanging planters take the attention away from the wall, and can even make your space appear taller by making use of vertical lines.
Alternatively, if you have a balcony garden, you may find that your railings are perhaps old, rusty, discoloured or just plain unsightly! Spruce them up with balcony planters, which sit over the railing and can be fixed into place to prevent them from blowing off in a strong wind.
Begonia Groovy mix
Benary’s semi-trailing variety of begonia are perfect for wall and balcony planters and more, with tonnes of pretty blooms cascading over the sides of containers, instantly brightening your garden! Begonia boliviensis F1 Groovy, and ‘Santa Barbara’, ‘Santa Cruz’ and ‘San Francisco’ from the Sun Cities Collection are my recommendations for these areas for a high dose of colour.
Be smart with shade
As I mentioned, shady urban gardens can leave gardeners in the dark about what they can plant. Firstly, it’s important to identify what kind of shade you have, as there are different plants that suit different types. Here’s a handy guide:
Light shade – an open area that is cast over by an obstacle such as a fence or tree.
Semi-shade or partial shade – this area will receive three to six hours of direct sunlight per day in summer.
Dappled shade – the light in this area may be reflected or diffused, likely by a deciduous tree, where the sunlight can filter through its branches.
Moderate shade – an area that receives around two to three hours of direct sunlight per day in summer.
Deep/full shade – this area will receive less than two hours of sunlight per day in summer. The light is likely blocked by a building, or thick tree or shrub cover.
If you have any type of shady garden, you’ll need well-draining soil to prevent waterlogging; if the existing soil in your garden is too heavy, create some raised beds or stick to container gardening.
Once you have established your shade and soil type, you can pick your perfect plants! In terms of shade loving summer bedding plants, there are a surprising amount to choose from, including: sweet peas, busy Lizzies, geraniums, petunias and lobelia. However, begonia always comes out on top when it comes to shade tolerance! An incredibly versatile plant when it comes to light, and will grow in full sun all the way through to full shade with the right care.
Begonia Illumination White
For shady borders, try Benary’s Begonia tuberhybrida F1 Nonstop®, Begonia semperflorens F₁ or Begonia tuberhybrida F₁ Illumination®. These colourful varieties will bring joy to your beds and borders while tolerating shade!
Begonia Illumination Scarlet
Plant big to make a colourful impact
Whether you’ve got a big or small urban garden, using large-sized plants saves time and money, and also makes gardening less stressful as there’s more to do (if you’ve got a busy lifestyle, big plants are a lifesaver!).
There are so many shrubs, small trees and other foliage to choose from when you want to ‘plant big’, but we’re talking about colour in this blog post – and there’s nothing more apt than Benary’s iconic Begonia x benariensis F₁ BIG! Currently available in eight enticing shades, this plant produces huge 3” flowers which are held above the foliage for maximum impact. You really don’t need many of these in your garden to brighten your beds, borders, hanging baskets or patio pots (as I said, they’ll actually save you money!), and again they’re shade tolerant and work great in vertical planting layouts too.
Which colours do you want to see in your urban garden? Let me know in the comments section!
Michael has been involved with gardening and plants since he was just five years old. He is a self-professed Plant Geek, and was listed in the Sunday Times top 20 most influential people in the gardening world, thanks to his plant hunter role at Thompson & Morgan.
Michael was responsible for new plant introductions such as the Egg and Chips plant and the FuchsiaBerry and keeps busy travelling the world in search of new plants as well as lecturing worldwide, including stints in Japan. He is very active on social media – so why not give him a follow at @mr_plantgeek or Facebook – and writes a plant-focused Substack called Grow This, Not That.