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When you own a historic brick home, you are often challenged to create curb appeal in little squares of real estate locked between concrete and brick. There are those who imply that these yards which are "postage stamp-sized" cannot be styled well - but that is a great disservice. With an urban garden suitable for your small outdoor space, you can combine high impact with low maintenance using the existing exterior masonry, retaining walls, patios, walkways and steps as an integral part of your design. Think hardscaping instead of landscaping before you plant. With some well-placed details,  and perhaps a few visual tricks, you can have an urban garden that plays to the strength of your home and reflects your personality. So…you may ask “What’s an Urban Garden?” We’ll answer that, as we share some tips to help you figure out a new way to beautify your outdoor space in DC.

Hardscaping: The Backbone of Urban Gardens

If you have a walkway in front of your historic brick home, it likely runs in a straight line. If there is room for a slight curve, it can be modified to create a more spacious  feeling, providing a relaxing walk to the front door. If configuring your walkway in a wider curved pattern isn’t possible, consider lining your existing concrete pavers or brick pathway with easy-to-care-for plants that can soften the edges and provide a more inviting journey towards your front steps.

Concrete driveways can be softened with edging plants and planters that draw the eye out and up, making the space look more spacious.  Depending on your hardscaping design, you can place small plants between the pavers, such as hardy mosses which tolerate foot traffic well. 

Keeping the same materials throughout the hardscaping will make the space feel more expansive and like an extension of your home. A small concrete walkway could be edged in the same brick as the house; and a custom circular historic brick patio will feel intentional and well-designed. How you accessorize the space will add interest as well, perhaps with outdoor furniture such as a wrought-iron garden chairs and table, reminiscent of the sort used at the time when your home was built. 

Urban Garden Features and Focal Points

Retaining walls make great backdrops for smaller-sized rambling roses or topped with long horizontal planters with long, trailing vines cascading from them. Always be careful to avoid any plants that will grab onto the brick or mortar and cause damage, for instance, climbing English ivy, which often has to be removed from old brick.  You could opt for an eye-catching structure, such as an obelisk, but make sure it’s placed away from your brick walls if you want climbing plants.

To elongate the space and add a serious wow factor, consider creating a statement with a firepit, topiary, weather-safe art piece, sculpture, fountain or even a koi pond. Urban gardens are highly flexible when it comes to statement pieces, but it is important to keep the surroundings from being overwhelmed by their impact. Consider opting for repetition and make sure the colors are harmonious with the brick in order to keep the surroundings welcoming and pleasing to the eye.

The expert team at Renaissance Development will provide you with a complimentary consultation and help create a beautiful hardscaping plan, no matter the size of your outdoor space. Whether it’s a patio, brick walkway, retaining wall, or another custom-built feature, we can help you realize your vision for your urban garden.

When it comes to planting, think simple but high-impact, lush but not cramped. A few large planters can have more impact than a collection of small ones. You may want to hire a landscape gardener to help choose appropriately-sized perennials, trees, and shrubs that will fit within your space and be the best complement to the hardscaped features, providing privacy and shade. You’ll want to ensure that the trees and shrubs you choose aren’t the varieties that have the potential to do damage to your home’s foundation.

Any Historic Brick Home Can Have a Beautiful Urban Garden

The use of repetition in materials and color will create a classic look for your urban garden, and the symmetrical features can help to make the space feel larger than it is. Complete the look by using the same color scheme and bringing planters onto the front steps or the porch, for added curb appeal. This continuation fools the eye into thinking it is looking at one continuous space - even a small yard can be transformed into a more expansive urban garden than you might have imagined. No matter what size, your beautifully hardscaped outdoor space will be a private oasis for you and your guests all summer long, and for years to come.

Contact the experts at Renaissance Development to learn more about hardscaping, retaining walls, and brick walkways. We'll be happy to come out and provide you with a complimentary consultation to help you achieve your vision for an urban garden.

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Post by Christina Wilson
Jun 22, 2023 8:15:00 AM