Small gardens have a lot more potential than you realize. Whether dealing with a long narrow space behind a vintage home, a cramped backyard that lacks privacy, or a shabby garden at the rear of a brownstone the possibilities are endless. So don’t write off your 40-foot by 20-foot outdoor area just yet — with the right design, it could be an incredible garden.

Design Ideas

Small Gardens That Feel Big

Design tips:

  • Remember the importance of negative space, even a tiny courtyard or lawn can provide balance to a small garden.
  • Include built-in seating in a corner to keep your garden from feeling crowded.
  • Use a living wall to add lushness where ground space is limited.
  • Step back and look at your yard with fresh eyes, then simplify and tidy.
  • Even if your outdoor space seems overwhelming, pick just one thing that you most want to change.
  • Think big. Ample pathways and gathering spaces are inviting, and large features are engaging in any size space.
  • You can maximize the livability of a small yard by taking advantage of changes in terrain to segment the space into different living areas. Dividing a garden, even when small, often has the paradoxical effect of making it seem larger.
  • In small gardens where space is too limited for major focal points, compose a series of mini views within the garden itself, offering interest in every direction while using plants to provide a framework.
  • Divide the garden into outdoor rooms that echo and expand upon the home’s interior, giving both inside and out more purpose and making everything feel larger.
  • If you plan to entertain groups, keep the furniture and plantings along the perimeter of the garden to allow for mingling in the center of the space.
  • When selecting plants for a relatively small space, don’t go color crazy — stick with a more monochromatic scheme of cooler colors (such as blues, violets, yellows and silvery greens) — otherwise you may end up with a garden that feels close and confined.
  • Don't forget lighting to extend the use of your yard well into the night.

RELATED:
Garden Ideas
Landscape Design
A Luxe Look for Less

Free Weekly NewsletterSign up for weekly gardening inspiration and design tips

Join thousands of design-conscious readers for exclusive offers, gardening inspiration and innovative design solutions for enjoying outdoor spaces.

* Required Fields
We will never sell or distribute your email to any other parties or organizations.

More about the newsletter

Come on a journey with us! Explore amazing gardens, view beautiful plants, and gain insights from the world’s best designers. Click on the issue to preview its contents.

Autumn 2017 - Issue 200Autumn 2017 - Issue 200
Follow Us Garden Design Magazine Facebook Garden Design Magazine Twitter Garden Design Magazine Google Plus Garden Design Magazine Pinterest Garden Design Magazine Instagram Garden Design Magazine Youtube

Not Ready to Commit to a Subscription?

Try an issue of Garden Design magazine for free (we know you’ll love it)! Just pay $4.95 for shipping and handling.

With our free single-issue trial order, we will send you a copy of the Autumn 2015 issue of Garden Design. Offer only available in the United States, and one per household.

Get your free issue!