Sometimes, good things really do come in small packages. Having a compact yard means less maintenance and lower plant costs, and it doesn’t necessarily require you to sacrifice your vision of the perfect yard.
In fact, Cassy Aoyagi, president of Los Angeles-based firm FormLA Landscaping, urges homeowners to look at the positive side of having a small backyard.
“People often ask how to make the most of a petite outdoor space,” she says. “Keep in mind that your small space has advantages! Outdoor living spaces should have a coziness factor, which is much easier to create in a smaller space.”
So, yes, having a postage stamp of a yard can be a good thing, if you know what to do with it. Here’s how to approach landscaping your small space.
Maximize Square Footage
Don’t waste precious space with oversized chaise lounges or Adirondack chairs with big footprints. Aoyagi suggests building custom seating to suit your yard’s specific needs.
“Built-in seating can define small spaces and even be used to claim otherwise unusable space,” she says. A contractor can create bench seating against walls or fences, giving you and your guests a place to hang out and enjoy the yard while leaving most of the space free for greenery and flowers.
Your house itself can be a part of your landscaping plans, too, says Desiree Thomson, expert gardener at Gardening Services London. “Window boxes not only provide you with additional room for growing, but also beautify any part of your home. In window boxes, you can grow everything from flowers to herbs and vegetables,” she says. “Even if you have zero outdoor space, window boxes are the perfect solution to give your home a bit of greenery and let you enjoy gardening.”
Be Strategic About Layout
You have lots of landscaping options to consider, even if space is tight.
For instance, you can plant grass in the middle of the yard and use flowers and shrubs as a border. But because having a small patch of grass is almost more trouble than it’s worth (do you really want to pull out the mower every week?), many homeowners opt to devote their small yards entirely to other plants. How you lay out your chosen plants can have a big impact on how spacious your yard feels.
Design on a diagonal, suggests Theodore Beasley, a professional landscaper at Landscaping London. “A diagonal pattern visually elongates dimensions and makes tiny spaces look expansive,” he says. “Paving stones and tiles laid in a classic diagonal or herringbone pattern – even better if extended from the ground to the walls of a deck or a patio – will draw the eye across the space, making it appear larger.”
He also suggests bringing levels and layers to your yard to create visual interest and fit more plants and decor into the space. “Raised decks, walls and plantings easily break up the mundane and liven up a dull rectangular plot,” Beasley says. “With different spatial and textural effects, a small space has a more diversified appeal and won’t look cluttered or crowded if you decide to incorporate various elements.”
Choose the Right Plants
Making your specific plant choices requires a chat with the experts at your local nursery, because not all plants are right for all climates and conditions. Your yard’s sun exposure will also affect what flowers will be workable in the space. But don’t worry about having enough choices: Plenty of beautiful and hardy plants can thrive in small spaces.
Our experts suggested a range of plants and flowers, including:
- Cheddar pink hybrids
- Avens hybrids
- Crimson pygmy barberry
- Dwarf boxwood
- Western redbud
- Silver spear
- Sweet peas
- Hummingbird sage
Don’t limit yourself to flowering plants, bushes and trees, though. Thomson suggests thinking outside the box. “A succulent garden will provide lush beauty and require little care,” she says. These low-maintenance plants are perfect for someone who has little time or interest in yard work. They typically do best with very little interference, and they provide a cool, sparse, southwestern vibe.
Succulents are also great for vertical planting, Thomson says – perfect for a yard where ground space is limited. “Plant them into frames to hang over the side of your home or your decking, or build an entire wall of succulents for a splash of color that takes up very little space,” she says.
Add Decor to Scale
In a small yard, a huge planter or large chaise lounge eats up room and makes everything look cramped. Decorate the space with smaller pots in bright colors to add pizzazz to your yard without sacrificing square footage. Add more accents at eye level or above by stringing twinkle lights, lanterns and sparkling charms in trees and along fences.
You can also add whimsy with unique and eye-catching objects. Thomson suggests repurposing old items from your home into new containers for backyard plants. “From old buckets and bird cages, to suitcases, bottles, or even old furniture and bicycles – there’s just no end to the options you have to diversify your landscape with container gardening,” she says.
Bonus: You can move small, portable containers around the yard to change the look at any time or to create extra room when company’s coming over to hang out. Worried about how or where company will sit? Take a look at some of our ideas for small patio spaces and let us know how you’ve transformed your backyard space in the comment section.
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