Ellie's Alley

Wouldn't it be great to come home to this colorful alley every day? Ellie does. This is the alley beside her house. Originally intended as a (very narrow) driveway, it is now an immense planter. She added brick on top of the surface and made "planters" by creating raised-beds over the pavement. Narrow walkways of dapple shade can get you lost (mentally) in this minuscule magical forest. This is a popular stop every July on Garden Walk Buffalo.

The water feature. It's small, but it's there.

Her little back alley has a small sitting area (big enough for a small table & one chair), window boxes, trees, shrubs, flowers, strings of lights and what is probably the smallest water feature I've ever seen. She didn't want to miss out on the water feature craze, so she created a pond (puddle?) that is about the size of a canned ham–enough to qualify as a water feature on the Garden Walk Map. I think it takes a lot of looking for the birds to find.

The front of Ellie's charming Civil-War-era little cottage. The alley is behind the gate to the right.

Ellie's house has been featured in a variety of national and regional gardening magazines, including People Places Plants, Great Backyard Gardens and Garden Gate's Backyard Retreat.


Ellie just sent me this most recent shot. Okay, it's not the romantic magical retreat year round.


  1. That alley is indeed wonderful. I want to create something like that on the south side of our house, and incorporate a couple vegetable beds. And I love the water feature, too cute. Thanks for sharing Ellie's paradise. And thanks for visiting me! I'm of to look for those grasses you mentioned.

  2. Narrow driveway? Looks like it was intended for a horse! Perfect example of how you can make an imaginative garden no matter how little space you have.

  3. Very nice. She did a great job in that small space. Proof that you can garden just about anywhere!

  4. Gardenesss,
    Welcome to the blogging world. Urban gardeners are challenged by many obstacles other gardeners don't have to think about.

    Linda Luna,
    If you think this is stunning, you should see her hellstrip between the sidewalk and road in front of the house during full bloom.

    Ms. Wis,
    It, being a Civill-War era cottage, was built for a car smaller than an SUV. She's done a great job with this tough spot (shade, narrow, paved, brick walls that hold heat, etc.)

    Ellie is particularly gifted when it comes to gardening, especially with challenges. She's also working on some of the world's ills and is making progress with those too.

  5. Narrow side yards are often neglected hidden gems. This one proves that a long narrow space can be made into an interesting garden that makes you want to move through and interact with it. Bravo!

  6. Beautiful use of space! The plantings blend so well and with the juxtaposing hardscape (brick). It has a friendly "come hither" look. At least for me it does. Kudos to Ellie and to you for posting. What a treat.

  7. Susan,
    I may do a post in the future of just narrow alleys. There's dozens of them on our garden tour and they're unique to urban gardening.

    Ellie's been to visit this post and even sent me the (current) winter shot. I'm sure she appreciates your comment!

  8. That is just gorgeous. Shows you what a little thought, and a lot of creativity can really do.


  9. It's great to see that you don't need a lot of space to have a beautiful garden. I really like the water feature.

  10. That is really so pretty - lots to be learned from her example. The little lane is a perfect introduction to the garden beyond. What's with all these fellow bloggers in southernish climes wanting snow?

  11. Your'e right Jim ... It is magical!

  12. Muddy Boots,
    Actually I think it was a LOT of thought and a lot of creativity.

    I should do that post on small spaces. There's more than 300 gardens on our tour and there's some special small spaces throughout them all.

    Yeah, did you catch that? Someone wants to trade a week in the snow with me? Fireplaces, hot chocolate and comfort food all sound nice, 'till you have to shovel 10 inches of the stuff and warm frigid limbs.

    The magic is for kids too. For the walk, she has dragonflies (fake) perched all over the garden & challenges kids to find how many are there. Not sure if she awards prizes, but it keeps the kids busy. And there's nothing worse than a kid being dragged around o a garden tour!

  13. Ellie is my kind of gardener. She made use of every square inch in her small yard with beautiful results. I would walk down that alley anytime!

  14. Jim, I was stunned to see your last photograph. I began getting cold chills. I had to turn up my heater. I almost started sobbing. What a dreadful end to a lovely start.

    I was so shocked by that winter alley scene that I think I'll be visiting again just for your dose of reality.

    (Thanks for visiting my blog.)

  15. Jim, this makes me feel guilty that I've neglected the one side yard that isn't paved over in concrete. My old lumber and a kayak aren't nearly as scenic as this seriously cool space--Even Ellie's frozen "after" picture looks more like something I'd like to look out onto.

  16. that first photo of the alley just made my day. the last photo...not so much. when will it all melt?

  17. Shirley,
    When you're working in square feet, it's easy to think in square inches. It is one dark alley I'd like to meet Elie in and have some lemonade and listen to her talk about the neighborhood, the grandkid, the pre-retirement years at the post office, or what local and national protests she'll be organizing or attending next.

    My goal this winter was to NOT show any photos of my winter garden. You all have shown enough and after you've seen a few shots of snow they all start to look the same after a while. But Ellie emailed that to me after I had posted and I just had to add it. Sorry!

    Start planning now. The kayak could make an interesting planter. Thanks for visiting.

    Here, it will melt in March. We never had our January thaw, quite the opposite. The southern bloggers are teasing us with bulb growth already. Spoiled rotten gardeners.


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