Have a Small(er) Backyard? The Art of Petite Gardens

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All too often, homeowners think that because they have a small or moderate backyard that they are limited to just a patch of grass and perhaps a bird bath.  Not true. In fact, to really enjoy gardens, they need to be right under your nose, and smaller backyards are just the place to get closer and smell the roses.

Some of the most memorable gardens are on a smaller scale. True, flowers can be breathtakingly beautiful in abundance, (the sweeping lavender fields in France, or the color-blocked tulips of Holland) but not many folks have the 100+ acres needed to get "the look".

It's been noted that many of the most show stopping gardens in the country are actually comprised of smaller and more intimate spaces linked together by a walkway or garden path.So take a cue from these and plan a unique garden around one "section". A meandering cobblestone walkway that takes you past flowers that are fragrant and visually interesting will always be remembered by making you feel connected to nature. Or, how about a narrow garden path that opens up to cozy reading nook for a secretly special space?

Before you Break Ground

Know Your Limitations

  • Start by measuring your property lines, and always sketch out a basic design before you begin. By outlining boundaries on graph paper you'll ensure that your chosen garden elements fit. If you're envisioning a walkway with flower beds on either side, you need to make sure that your available space can accommodate both.
  • How do you want to use the space? Are you an avid gardener who delights spending hours watering, weeding and pruning? Or, are you looking for a private outdoor dining area or meditation space? Either way, you'll need to delineate flower beds, table area, or other design components to complete the look and feel you are after.
  • You will want to incorporate some kind of Hardscaping™ into the layout. Concrete pavers come in all kinds of styles and finishes; including brick pavers, cobblestone, and slate.
  • Be realistic about how green your thumb is. If you love roses, but aren't dedicated to their upkeep, your garden will become an overgrown eyesore in no time. A container grouping with healthy plants and flowers is just as attractive and can easily be replaced or changed out in the seasons.
  • Know what size your plants will be when they mature, and space accordingly.
  • Smaller gardens typically have less sun exposure due to walls and fencing. Look for plants that prefer shade to partial shade.

But Don't Limit Yourself

Pictures of gardens can be found on-line, in magazines, and in books. Clip or bookmark images that appeal to you. Notice neighbors or commercial garden center's layout and design. No matter what their size, some ideas and elements can be scaled to fit. Love the town square brick pavers? By use of creative patterns and colors in your garden path, it becomes stunning, inviting and uniquely yours.

The Sky's the Limit

Because smaller gardens are often flanked by walls, fences, trees or shrubs, it's only logical to go upward. Vertical gardening, the practice of planting, well… vertically, is perfect for urban dwellers or the land-challenged.  This method allows those with very little land soil (or none at all) to incorporate plants and greenery into the design. Grouping smaller containers together makes a huge impact with very little upkeep.

For those who are ambitious, there's "Espalier", the ancient practice of pruning trees or plants into decorative, flattened patterns.

backyard garden

Most often, smaller yards are part of a moderately sized home; so why not take advantage of the space and treat yourself to another "living room" this summer.