Designing A Small, But Elegant Garden
Having a small garden certainly puts limits on what you can do with it. However, that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice too much in the way of creativity and comfort when you’re looking to redesign your back yard. If you approach it the right way, even the smallest of plots can be made into wonderfully elegant havens for you to enjoy. Whether you want a space for a specific purpose, or a garden that’s more versatile, here’s a list of some the most effective design techniques to consider.
Use Lines Wisely
When you don’t have the huge, sweeping lawns that we associate with prestigious, formal gardens, a lot of the outcome of the design is down to the way you organize lines and contours. When working in a limited space, it’s often better to go for a more minimalist and contemporary layout than the more extravagant, frills-heavy look of older gardens. Firm, landscaped lines are one of the easiest ways to create a crisp, contemporary look that can really bring out the best in a small garden. You can create eye-catching, interlocking zones in your garden using materials that stand out next to each other. Think dark, wood-stained decking next to some patio slabs in a pale stone, and then a border of decorative stones or wood chips. Once you’ve established your lines, add in some plants that will create an interesting foil to the artificial materials in other places. Small patches of structured flora like this are easy to control and maintain. Love the Garden has a handy guide on setting up your own outdoor decking.
Be Smart About Storage
One of the most challenging aspects of having a small garden is storing everything and keeping the space from looking and feeling cluttered. This is especially tough when you’ve got kids who spend a lot of their time in the garden, and are constantly leaving their toys scattered everywhere! You may have one little storage shed in the corner that you’re using, but you’ll probably need much more flexibility than what this offers. One great way to create more space is thinking vertically; adding shelves and hooks onto your fencing for things that can be stored exposed to the elements, and to the walls of a shed for things that need to stay sheltered. There are other ideas, like decorative wooden structures with hidden storage, that will allow you to make your garden prettier and more convenient with a single addition. You may also want to opt for garden furniture with storage compartments to make organization easier. From there, make sure you’re keeping storage in mind whenever you’re buying something new for the garden. For example, Portable Tubs HQ reviewed the Intex Pure Spa inflatable hot tub, a garden accessory that can be compacted for easy storage. The more convenience you can get out of the actual items you keep in a small garden, the better!
Simple and Symmetrical
As we’ve mentioned, small spaces can be made to feel much larger simply by making organization a priority. With this in mind, you may want to take some inspiration from the layout of large, formal gardens, where symmetry is always used to make a big space feel even bigger. Create a classic layout with an unbroken, central lawn, and borders that mirror each other. This will create a garden that will feel much more elegant, but more importantly spacious and organized. You can also use the structure of your planting to draw people’s eyes to a single, central element, like a bench or an interesting sculpture mounted on your fence. For a really eye-catching effect, try planting the same two types of flower in both the opposing borders, but set out in a contrasting sequence. Growing two of the same kind of tree on each side of a focal point can also have a very potent result. However you do it, symmetry makes any outdoor space look more refined and tied-together, regardless of the size.
Revive a Neglected Space
Even the smallest of places can be turned into decorative and comfortable areas of your garden. If there’s a little alley running between the side of your house and a fence, and it’s become a place for all those miscellaneous outdoor items that don’t have a home, you’d be surprised at what you can do with it after a good declutter. Try enhancing yours with a chain of concrete slabs, and a narrow, rustic bench or table to create a focal point. You can keep these kinds of spaces both appealing and easy to maintain with some gravel, along with clipped topiary, and some bright flowering plants. Stone planters in a similar color to the gravel can be a great foil to the eye-catching color of these plants. When you’ve got through all this work, you may want to tie the elements together even more with a carefully chosen decorative piece, such as a rustic, metal lantern or another quirky ornament.
Get the Most Out of Furniture
By picking out the most interesting objects, and placing them at the far end of your garden, you can create a potent illusion that the space is much bigger than it is. This is especially effective when you use white garden furniture, and position it at the end of a paved area. Obviously, the color and texture you settle on is going to depend on the surrounding plants and décor elements you already have, but white tends to be more flexible, and meshes well with a wide variety of shades. The Spruce has a useful guide on buying outdoor furniture you may want to look at. One great way to make the most of the furniture you have is planting shrubs strategically, so that they’ll obstruct the view slightly. This can subtly divide your small space into separate zones, making the whole yard feel much more extensive. If you’re planning to bring more shrubs into your garden, try to cover many different areas, and use plants that will grow to a variety of different heights. This will make your garden feel more varied, and suggest that there’s more to explore.
Perhaps you live in an urban area, and have an especially small outdoor space; one little courtyard that’s heavily walled in. In these cases, the garden’s more for decoration than an actual extension of your living space. With this in mind, you should be leaning more on the plants than any other features to wow people. Buy a few tropical species that are tough enough to live in the climate of your area, and arrange them to create your own compact, but effective, tropical oasis. Towering palms, feather-leaved dicksonia, and strappy phormium, can all add instant interest to your garden, and make it feel like a valuable segment of your house, even if it’s just for show rather than relaxing in. Just be aware that some of these are going to need a little more protection through the winter. You can use slate clippings and other materials to help retain more moisture, and make the maintenance of your plants so much easier.
If you simply need to have an outdoor space you can come to relax in, there’s still a lot you can do with a small courtyard, while leaving room to gather and entertain company. One increasingly popular design method is growing a tall, yet tactile living wall. These kinds of natural focal points are super contemporary, and will inject huge amounts of interest into a space that’s otherwise drab and constricted. Aside from bringing in the greenery that makes a garden a garden, you’ll be able to keep all that much-needed floor space for furniture and other decorative elements. When you restrict all the actual plants to the very edges of the garden, you’ll find it easy to create the space for comfortable, sociable seating, and a convenient station for a barbecue.
Smoke and Mirrors
As we’ve touched on earlier in this post, sometimes the best way to make the most of a compact garden is tricking the eye, and creating strong illusions of more space where there isn’t any. One of the easiest ways to do this is by mounting a contemporary outdoor mirror on a fence or hedgerow. This will visually double your available space, and spread natural light more effectively into darker areas of the garden, which will also make a smaller space feel more breathable. Long sheet mirrors, mounted horizontally, can help to maintain an urban look, and will make a wonderful complement to linear styles of fencing. If you’re afraid it looks too minimalist and cold, surround your mirror with potted evergreens, ornamental grasses, and pretty climbing plants.
If you were struggling to get your small garden just the way you want it, we hope this guide has been a big help. Achieving a garden that’s both small and stunning is tough, but it’s far from impossible when you use the space as efficiently as possible.