Garden design for small spaces requires some ingenuity and a lot of creativity. There are some advantages to small gardens that larger spaces don’t have. Small gardens usually have a distinct shape and defined boundaries. You’re basically working within a distinct area and are able to plan the entire space. Having a small yard does not prevent you from having a beautiful outdoor space.
When creating a landscape plan for a small space it is important to determine the shape of the space and what the garden is to be used for. A patio or courtyard space adjacent to a house can be viewed as an extension of the architecture, for example. The garden could be used as an outdoor room where guest can congregate. A space such as this will have a more formal feel.
The opposite is true for gardens which are designed using curving lines, here there’s an informal feel. Using curving lines and shapes adds a sense of flow and movement to the space. You can integrate curves into your garden by creating a brick or gravel walkway that curves through the space of by creating curvilinear planting beds.
Determining Your Needs
Determine what your needs are. Small gardens and courtyards which are to be used frequently should have sitting spaces & paths as well as plants. Low free standing or retaining walls are great features for a small garden. Defining the edge of the garden with a wall will provide seating without needing to add chairs to the space. Creating raised beds which create different levels can also add seating to the garden. Raised beds provide a sense of depth in a small space as well.
Does the space need shade? The plants you will use need to be carefully selected so that they will grow properly with limited room and be suited the light exposure and drainage of your space. Depending on the actual size of the garden limit yourself to one small tree to provide shade, and act as an accent. If the space is too small avoid planting a tree, a large shrub may work better. If you do have a tree, make sure it not one that drops a lot of twigs or seeds. Otherwise, you could find yourself saddled with daily yard cleaning.
Plant color is extremely important in the small garden. Colors have a dramatic effect of how a space is perceived. Dark-colored plants contrasted with light-colored plants create focal points and juxtaposition in a planting composition.
It includes the color of foliage, flowers, fruit and bark. Colors can be used to create feelings of coolness and warmth. It can also change the visual dimension of a garden. Cool colors, such as blue and purple, recede and can make a small garden space seem larger than it is. Warm colors, on the other hand, create a sense of intimacy in the garden. Though flower colors are important, shades green are the dominate color the landscape, especially through the summer. Choose a variety of greens rather than a uniform shade of green. A common mistake is to use too many different colors so try to stick with a small color pallet and an overall theme.
Mapping Out Your Space
It is a good idea at this point to start mapping out your space using grid paper. Be sure to include features like trees and make space for patio furniture if you will be using it. This simple step can save you from making costly mistakes.
The plants you will use need to be carefully selected so that they will grow properly with limited room and be suited the light exposure and drainage of your space. Depending on the actual size of the garden limit yourself to one small tree to provide shade, and act as an accent. If the space is too small avoid planting a tree, a large shrub may work better.
As with any garden design be sure to choose plant which will look attractive year round. This means selecting plants with interesting form, striking colorful bark, berries and colorful fall foliage. A well planned perennial and annual border can provide your garden with color lasting from spring through the fall. Deciduous trees and shrubs offer colorful fall foliage displays and many garden shrubs form red, blue or purple berries in the fall and last through the winter. Also, consider using trees and shrubs with interesting, colorful bark, such as birch or red twig dogwood.
Avoid any plants that may, over time, out grow the space. Keep in mind pruning of the shrubs you select is important since in a small space, these can end up taking over the entire space. Shrubs, small flowering trees and bulbs can add color to your garden in the spring.
Container gardens are a great way to add color and fragrance to a small garden or patio. Just about any plant; herbs, flowers, evergreen shrubs and even some small trees, can be planted in a container or planter. Though often used on a patio or deck, planters come in different styles and can be used in the landscape as a focal point in the garden. The planters are a wonderful decorative element and which can act as an accent in the garden.
Though designing a garden for a small space can sometimes be difficult, there are advantages as well. With some forethought and creativity, a small outdoor space can be transformed into a beautiful garden.