Side passages: a forgotten paradise
Phyllis, July 2015
Images courtesy of Arthur Lathouris. The side passage is probably the most neglected part of the yard: a mere means to get from the front yard to the back. But in these days of shrinking building blocks, it offers the chance to not only expand the outdoor living area but also create a secret garden for the whole family to enjoy. It doesn’t need to take a lot of work either. Landscape and garden designer Arthur Lathouris says while side passages are generally the forgotten part of the garden because they are often limited in space or used as storage areas for bins or other unsightly items, they have untapped potential. “Even the narrowest side garden can be transformed into an interesting thoroughfare or a feature from certain windows of the house,” he says. “A side passage can become a peaceful secluded space away from the activity of the main parts of the garden. This might take the form of a special vista from a room of the house or somewhere to actually go to 'get away' from the busier part of the house and garden.” Arthur says there several potential uses for a side passage. “Depending on its width and aspect, a side passage can be planted to create an interesting pathway or even a small secluded sitting area if it's close to a door into the house or, for that matter, even it's inaccessible from a nearby door,” he says. “An appealing outlook can be created outside windows with plants, pots, water, ornaments or structures. If it's the main thoroughfare from front to back gardens, care must be taken to maintain easy access. This is particularly important for narrow spaces.” There are some relatively simple ways to transform a side passage into a pretty destination according to Arthur.
- Planting to suit the aspect. This simply means the direction your garden faces. The aspect of the side passage will determine the type of plants you can grow there. A north or west facing passage will need plants that can tolerate heat and sun, while a south or east-facing passage will need shade tolerant plants.
- A combination of interesting paving materials for pathways or decking will create interest.
- Pergolas attached to the house over windows can provide an interesting light and shade experience along the path as well as privacy and protection for exposed windows. Climbing plants on the pergolas will create a softening effect if the space is too narrow for other plants.
- Painting the fence/wall can reduce its impact and adding simple ornamentation or potted plants can also provide some softening greenery in a narrow space.
- Adding another structural material or panel to the fence can provide interest. For example, timber slats, ornamental screens or strained wire with climbers. Green walls or water features are not as simple but can be very effective.
- Veggie gardens, if space and sun allow, are another good use of a narrow space.