One advantage of a small yard is less mowing, less mowing, less mowing.
But it might take a little imagination and effort to get everything you want out of your tiny yard.
“Go for vertical,” advises Dennis Flynn, owner of Valley Farms.
It’s advice you’ll also find on a number of websites, should you go cruising for tips.
And it helps to start with a plan.
I like to use Extension publications from a variety of states because they have sound advice based on their research, are often free -- and typically available for download from the internet.
This publication, “Designing Your Landscape for Maine,” by Maine Extension https://extension.umaine.edu/publications/2701e/ has good tips on designing your yard that you can alter for Montana.
Keep in mind we are Zone 4 and get an average annual precipitation of 11-13 inches, when picking and choosing the hardiest plants for your yard.
“Be careful where trees are placed,” advises Flynn.
One reason to have a plan is it’s smarter to put trees and shrubs where you really are going to want them for a very long time -- rather than trying to move them later.
You also need to pay careful attention to the size a tree or shrub is going to grow and its diameter at maturity.
A common landscaping problem you’ll see all too frequently in Helena is the placement of trees and shrubs way too close to the house.
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Thus, you have large trees clinging to the sides of houses or tree roots that are buckling sidewalks.
Dwarf trees can grow to 25 to 30 feet tall, so that might not be what you envisioned when you bought a “dwarf,” cautions Flynn.
It’s a good idea to buy from a local nursery that knows its plant material and has all of the plants clearly labeled with pertinent information on mature size and ideal growing conditions.
“In landscaping, plan particularly for width,” says Flynn.
However, in a number of neighborhoods you need to look straight up before you plant, so you’re not planting a tall tree beneath electrical wires. It could result in the energy company doing a very unattractive “pruning” of your tree top.
Some plants Flynn particularly recommends include: his favorite --the Princess Cape Plum, which has light pink flowers, purple bark and purplish foliage; serviceberry; Hot Wings Maple and Sensation Maple, both of which are attractive, compact and easy to grow; tree lilacs; and dwarf fruit trees that only grow 8 to 9 feet tall.
Flynn is also a fan of espalier -- training trees to grow on a trellis or scaffolding, which turns your three-dimensional tree more into a 2-D version of itself.
Once again, you can get some good ideas and see videos of how to do this on the internet.
Also, explore the world of vines and all things that climb. A few options to consider -- clematis, climbing roses, honeysuckle, hops, grapes, trumpet vine, ivy, Virginia creeper, and, of course, sweet peas and morning glories.
Some of Flynn’s other plant favorites he recommends are azaleas, heliotropes, hydrangeas and spireas, as well as Bridal Wreath Spirea and Tiger Eye Sumac.
There is a wealth of clever ideas to borrow that others have shared online, such as hanging a variety of pots and baskets of flowers along a fence or side of a building to produce some charming and colorful results.
One online gardener had suspended children’s brightly colored rubber boots along a fence and had them spilling over with flowers and vines.