The right small backyard landscaping ideas can help you squeeze a lot of use out of a little land. Those expansive, perfectly manicured, fancifully landscaped backyards you see in gardening magazines may be beautiful, but most of us don’t have acres of land to use as our canvas. Instead, today’s urban homeowner is more likely to be working with just 100 square feet or even less. That small size may rule out hedge mazes and topiary menageries, but it still leaves you with plenty of room for creativity.
If your small backyard doesn’t provide the space to expand outward, try going up. Vertical landscaping lets you make use of your yards vertical space, giving you a way to fit in your favorite flowers, ornamentals and even vegetables. Placing your plants on the vertical plane is also handy if you dislike bending or kneeling to tend low-growing plants.
Tiered potted plant stands and hangers make it easy to get started gardening upward. For more vertical options, try installing a trellis against a sunny wall, an arch or arbor over your entryway, or a pergola over your seating area. A bench with a trellis on each side or arch acing over the seat does double duty to provide a rest stop and space for more plants. These benches works especially well for aromatic plants, bringing the plant close to nose level, where it’s easier to enjoy.
One of the problems with a small backyard is that you can see the whole thing at a glance and then the experience is over, leaving you thinking “Is that all?” A solution is to divide the area into distinct outdoor rooms. This not only multiplies the uses you can get out of the area, it also breaks up the view and gives you the feeling of having more places in the yard to go and explore.
Use trellises or plant screens to section off one part of the yard from the rest, then design each section for a particular use. In one “room” you might create a partially paved dining area with a table and chairs, pots of aromatic herbs and efficient outdoor lighting for evening meals, while another other room might serve as a reading nook with a chaise lounge or hammock, rustling bamboo and small waterfall to create a relaxing ambiance.
Planting grass isn’t the only way to deal with a hill. If a hard-to-landscape hill or incline has been crowding your small backyard, reclaim your territory by terracing the hill to create level planting areas. Build retaining walls for each terrace with stones, bricks, wood or other sturdy material. Even on a terraced hill, water still flows downhill, but drip irrigation and soak hoses can help you water the area evenly.
For a less labor-intensive method of landscaping a small backyard hill, consider creating a rock garden. Ornamental stones and low-growing plants–Alpines, in particular–combine well make an attractive, low-maintenance hillside garden.
Good Things in Small Packages
If you crave the look of trees and shrubbery, but don’t have enough space to give these plants enough room to grow, consider bonsais. Trained to grow in small containers, bonsais look like miniature versions of full grown trees. In fact, that’s exactly what they are. Just like any other tree, a bonsai may take decades to mature. Fortunately, you don’t have to wait that long to include these mini trees in your small backyard. Many home and garden stores have bonsais you can pick up for as little as $30.
Keep in mind, though, that these plants take work to keep them at their compact size. You’ll need to leave them in their pots, and tie and prune appropriately. Buy several and group them in a corner of your yard or use them to liven up a rockery.
Popular bonsai species include richly hued trees like the Japanese maple, textured trees like the sugi and the Lebanon cedar, and flowering trees like dogwood and bougainvillea.
Throw Your Backyard a Curve (or Two)
Straight lines create visually “chop up” a space and make it feel smaller than it really is. Curved lines do just the opposite, creating the illusion of depth and space. As much as possible, design your flowerbeds and walkways with flowing curves instead of harsh straight lines. If you’re concerned about mowing and weeding around them, edge the beds and paths with interlocking pavers or a low-growing annual plant like lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina) or lobelia. These still require some weeding work, but they’re somewhat easier to mow around.
For an even greater benefit, extend the contoured look to your decor selection, too. Opt for round pots and planters rather than straight-edged ones. If you buy garden furniture, choose a round-topped table and chairs with rounded seats.
Keep it Simple
Simplicity is the key to an appealing small backyard design. A small space is easily overwhelmed by too many types of plants, too much garden furniture and decor and too many features like fountains and trellises. It all ends up looking more like clutter than design.
Instead of throwing in whatever you have the physical space for, add only a few select plants and other features. Choose just one eye-catching specimen species and then select three to five other plant species to compliment it. Add a single, matching set of garden furniture, such as a table and a few chairs.
That’s why planning is more important with a small space than with a large one. A big yard can absorb a lot of poor plant choices and pink flamingos without looking the Clampetts have moved in. With a small backyard, you don’t have a lot of room for error.
Looking at other successful landscaping designs can also provide you with inspiration for your own small backyard landscaping ideas. To get clear, professional photos of creative landscaping ideas to help you design a landscape that’s idea for you, check out this collection.
- Impressive Backyard Landscaping Ideas
- Backyard Landscaping Ideas for Water Lovers
- Easy Backyard Landscaping Ideas
- Accesible Landscaping: Landscapes for People of All Abilities
- Weekend Backyard Landscaping Ideas
- Creating and Landscaping a Backyard Fish Pond
- Backyard Landscaping Ideas: Photos to Inspire You
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