You might be surprised to learn how much more potential little gardens have. The possibilities are unlimited, whether working with a long, narrow space behind a historic home, a small backyard that lacks privacy, or a scruffy garden at the back of a brownstone. Therefore, before you dismiss your 40 by 20 foot outside space, consider how amazing a garden it could be with the appropriate layout.
BE AWARE OF FUNCTIONALITY
According to designer Karen Chapman, “The size of your outdoor space need not limit beauty or usefulness, but it is crucial to prioritize your wish list in order to make every square inch count.” She provides the following guidance, recommendations, and pointers:
Do you enjoy hosting relatives and friends? How many guests do you need to accommodate? Hosts and visitors alike always seem to enjoy entertaining outside more. Two people for a private lunch? Eight for a sit-down dinner? Twelve or more people for a casual BBQ?
The secret to maximizing the potential of small spaces is to use versatile elements that can fulfill multiple functions.
- When not in use, folding bistro tables and chairs are conveniently stored and are light enough to assemble quickly.
- When you need to host a variety of visitors, extending patio tables are versatile.
- An occasional ottoman or stool can be created by adding a padded cushion to a solid low table.
- Raised beds and walls with caps can serve two purposes if they are padded with cushions or a folded blanket and placed at seating height (about 17″).
- Instead of using individual seats at a rectangular patio table, use benches to seat more guests—this is perfect for families with young children.
- Consider a gas fire table as an alternative to a classic wood-burning fire pit, which may be unsightly and take up a lot of space. Due to the sturdy rim, these are perfect for serving as a coffee table while also serving as a lovely focus point when not in use.
What do you hope to develop?
Are you planning to cultivate some vegetables, your favorite herbs, or cut flowers? Determining which of these are worth cultivating yourself and which are preferable to purchase seasonally from your local farmer’s market is especially crucial when space is limited. Concentrate on cultivating expensive, difficult-to-find, perishable, or something you use frequently.
Is there a space limit for in-ground planting?
Limited in-ground growing can be easily accomplished with container gardens, but their size and design should be taken into account.
- On a deck or patio, wide, rounded containers will leave a significant imprint. Look for shapes that can sit closer to a wall or railing, such as rectangle, oval, or elliptical.
- One large, tall container will have far larger impact and be easy to water, so avoid cluttering the ground with numerous little pots.
- You can move your containers about to provide room dividers on a long deck, a private reading nook on an exposed patio, or simply to follow the path of the sun during the growing season by placing saucers on wheels under them.
TIPS FOR DESIGNING SMALL SPACES
Here are some designer pointers to help you fully optimize your space’s potential and provide the appearance of a much larger garden after taking into account its practicality.
- Look or compact plants. Select vegetation that won’t crowd the ground plane, but don’t be hesitant to add columnar or moderately big trees to get the right scale.
- Consider novel ideas. Consider vertical gardens. planters that rail? strawberry baskets that hang? (See below for an illustration of a vertical succulent garden/living wall.)
- Create a sturdy foundation of foliage. Before adding flowering plants, stack intriguing plants with colorful foliage.
- Count each and every square inch. Concentrate on high-value trees, shrubs, and perennials with interesting leaves, seasonal flowers, unusual textures, colorful bark, and/or excellent fall color that may be enjoyed throughout the year.
- Establish privacy. Large evergreen trees and bushes that provide privacy may not fit in your yard. But might a row of one of the numerous columnar types that only offer height work? Perhaps thin, columnar, deciduous trees or shrubs might be adequate if only temporary screening is required? Or maybe the ideal approach would be to grow well-behaved climbers (like jasmine or annual vines) on a vertical trellis.
- Is a lawn really necessary? Does your lawn visually divide your space too much? Does extending the patio make more sense?
- With care, select outdoor furniture. Avoid extra-deep chairs with wide armrests in favor of chairs with more streamlined forms.
- Including a water feature. A garden is usually better with water features. While a waterfall and pond would not be practical, a straightforward wall fountain that circulates water or a bubbling pot on a tabletop might be the solution.
- Put things in order. The garden feels more organized thanks to its simple lines. While organic flowing curves can be used to soften uncomfortable angles, a crisp rectilinear design can be used to define areas.
- Put the diagonal axis to use. Typical suburban gardens are frequently shallow but wide. Looking directly across the backyard highlights the smallest dimension as a result.
- The patio, planting beds, and sightlines can be rotated 45 degrees to align with the diagonal axis to change the viewpoint and give the impression that the area is much larger. (An illustration of this design tactic is provided below.)
- Keep the color scheme basic. Green with two or three other colors in various tones will provide a less congested visual effect than an explosion resembling a jelly bean.
- Take in perspectives from areas outside of your borders. Give the appearance of additional depth by framing a distant tree, mountain, or distinctive architectural feature.
- Include illumination outside. While extending the garden’s use into the evening, create drama and mystery.
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