Designing a Small Garden

  • 01 of 12

    Starting Small and Personal

    Small Space Gardening - Flower Island
    Place Your Garden Where You'll See and Enjoy It Small Space Gardening - Flower Island. Marie Iannotti

    Photo Review of Small Gardens

    Small gardens are intimate spaces. Although the viewer can often take in the entire garden at once, that doesn't mean a small garden is without interest or variety. Too often garden designers focus on trying to make the small space seem bigger, rather than exploiting the unique charm of the given space. The gardeners who created the examples gardens shown here have showcased various ways a gardener can make the most of their own small space garden.

    This is certainly not a grand garden, by any means. A mass of Rudbeckia, a few coneflowers, a morning glory vine climbing the lamp post and some whimsical characters for the personal touch. This is a very small front yard and it could easily be lost among the other yew framed houses lining the street. But these homeowners pull right up to this cheerful burst of color, every time they turn into their driveway. This square of garden is also the first thing you notice about the house and, simple as it may be, it makes passers-by notice and smile. It is not a grand garden, but it is commanding.

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  • 02 of 12

    A Welcome Home Garden

    Small Space Gardening - Front Yard Gardens
    Kicking it Up a Notch Small Space Gardening - Front Yard Gardens. Marie Iannotti

    Once again, a gardener used the wasted space next to her driveway to create a welcome home garden. The plants are work horses: cone flower, sedum, day lilies, flowering shrubs. But here the space has expanded and seems to be expanding still, winding its way around to the roadside. Gardens this free flowing are unusual in American front yards. Yet it doesn't look out of place.

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  • 03 of 12

    Even a Small Garden Can Be a Destination

    Small Space Gardens - Flower Island on a Hill
    When Your Whole Garden is a Focal Point Small Space Gardens - Flower Island on a Hill. Marie Iannotti

    A plain backyard is made interesting with a couple of garden islands no bigger than about 8 x 10. The gardener has made some nice plant choices, sticking with pastels and gray foliage that complement and blend. They have also taken advantage of the borrowed view from the woods adjoining their yard, making it look as though the islands are framing an entryway. Whether or not there is a path beyond the flower beds, you will still be drawn to walk up the slope and investigate.

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  • 04 of 12

    Merging Your Garden and Your House

    Small Space Gardening - Framing a Window
    A Picture Window That's Part of the View Small Space Gardening - Framing a Window. Marie Iannotti

    Many gardeners think they just don't have the space for a billowing flower border. A keen eye is worth more than a double wide lot. The picture windows on the side of this house are a wonderful architectural feature. By placing a border that's about 10 feet deep, directly in front of the window, the gardener has created the feel of a cottage. There's already a very English feel to this garden space. The roses, clematis and lavender nepeta help create that impression. The small tree and overgrown lilac to the left, serve as a backdrop for the small garden border. Combined with the use of large clusters of a limited variety of plants, this border has an appearance of age, maturity, and abundance.

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  • 05 of 12

    Modern Comforts

    Small Space Gardens - Landscaping a Town House
    Creating a Private Space in a Wide Open Housing Complex Small Space Gardens - Landscaping a Town House. Marie Iannotti

    Townhouse living has many attractions. You have the comfort of your own home and a community to share the upkeep. Aging Boomers who no longer enjoy the bending and lifting of gardening and new homeowners who view their patios as outdoor rooms, don't want extensive or fussy gardens. That doesn't mean you have to surrender to a concrete slab. These folks have surrounded their tiny patio with low maintenance flowering shrubs and bulbs. There's even a cluster of river birches as a privacy screen facing the road. The garden is newly planted, but there's enough for them to enjoy immediately and their choice of plants means it will age slowly and but comfortably.

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  • 06 of 12

    Creating a Garden to Suit Your Purpose

    Small Space Gardening - Creative Fencing
    Combining Utility with Pleasure Small Space Gardening - Creative Fencing. Marie Iannotti

    This is one of the most creative privacy fences devised. The gardener has a very small backyard, no side yard to speak of, and understandably wants some cover from the traffic on this busy street. Rather than close herself in with a hedge or a solid fence, she created a modified design that shields her backyard without cramping her AND gives her more space to garden. She's chosen bright bloomers that distract viewers from looking through the openings in the fence and small trees that will make the garden seem larger as they mature and fill out.

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  • 07 of 12

    A Border of Flowers Can Enclose a Small Space

    Small Space Gardens - Creating a Flower Border
    Creating Your Own Park Small Space Gardens - Creating a Flower Border. Marie Iannotti

    Sometimes the obvious choice can have unexpected rewards. This gardener lives on a flat, rectangular lot. Wanting to keep some lawn for play and entertaining, she chose to create flower borders along the property lines. Maybe not the most creative choice, but by doing this she's encompassed the yard in flowers, giving it a park-like feel. You can start behind the garage and walk along in a circle, discovering the different plantings. So although you can probably view the entire garden at once, it is still a discovery to walk the length of the border.

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  • 08 of 12

    In Garden Design, Simplicity Can Be Surprising

    Small Space Gardening - Containers
    The Well Placed Container Garden Small Space Gardening - Containers. Marie Iannotti

    Potted geraniums are not going to win an award for garden design. I point them out here to show, again, how taking advantage of an architectural feature like this stone wall, means you don't have to do anything elaborate to create a garden feature. The aged terra cotta pots and the sprinkling of evergreens and succulents break up the monotony of red geraniums and introduce new forms and textures. What was a gravel walk between the garage and the house is now a garden walk.

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  • 09 of 12

    Vision in Garden Design

    Small Space Gardening - Terraced Front Yard Gardens
    Making the Land What You Want it To Be Small Space Gardening - Terraced Front Yard Gardens. Marie Iannotti

    This front yard garden looks simple, but it took a lot of work and probably a large initial expense. The driveway is behind the house, so the gardener could play all she wanted to in the front and side yards. Both are on a considerable slope and could have posed a problem. The last thing you want to do on a steep slope has to mow. But it is also hard to keep your step when gardening at that angle. The solution is often to cut terraces into the land. This gardener used stone retaining walls to create planting areas. Because the gardens are free standing and not bordering anything, the plants can mound up in the center. The large size and volume of the plants make the small gardens appear larger. She has also tied them into the house with the balance of the two large urns and the repetition of the terra cotta material in the pots on the front steps. The plants on the steps continue to provide the color when the shrubs in the borders cease blooming.

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  • 10 of 12

    Gardening on the Patio

    Small Space Gardening - Gardening Around a Patio
    Creating an Outdoor Garden Room Small Space Gardening - Gardening Around a Patio. Marie Iannotti

    Patio living is for outdoor lovers. There is no easier way to link your home and your yard than to garden on your patio. It can be as simple as using container plantings. This gardener has created a garden wall with an assortment of climbing clematis so that something is always in bloom. The lamb's ear is a good choice for edging the patio. The fuzzy gray softens the gray pavers, as do the other plants that spill over the edges. Yet nothing here requires a great deal of maintenance. This is not a large space, but it is lush.

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  • 11 of 12

    Vegetable Gardening in Limited Space

    Small Space Vegetable Gardening
    And in Style Small Space Vegetable Gardening can be an ornamental feature - and easier to maintain than a larger garden would be. Photo: © Marie Iannotti

    Some people just have to have a vegetable garden. You may have to squeeze yours into the only sunny spot in your yard, but it doesn't have to be without style. Here you've got raised beds with seating, a gravel path that stays clean, a seating area for when you can't wait to sample and art nouveau deer fencing. The gardener can grow the most pedestrian of vegetables, but the garden is almost a fantasy world to enter. Sometimes something as boring as fencing can make all the difference in defining a space.

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  • 12 of 12

    Growing Fruit in Small Gardens

    Small Space Gardening - Espalied Fruit Trees
    Espalier - A Solution with Old World Flair Small Space Gardening - Espalied Fruit Trees. Marie Iannotti

    There are plenty of dwarf fruit trees and bushes. There is no excuse for not enjoying the taste of fresh fruits and berries at least once in your life. Strawberries can be grown in the smallest of pots, in a sunny nook on the deck. But an orchard in a small space takes backward thinking.

    Espalier is the art of growing fruit and other trees flat against a wall. It first became popular in Medieval Europe. Evidently, they too had limited growing space in their walled gardens. Espalier trees are pruned and trained to grow two-dimensionally. Besides taking up less space, training the trees against a sunny wall creates a warm microclimate. Fruit trees that wouldn't ordinarily bear in cooler zones, can be fooled into thinking they are a zone warmer. Additionally, the open framework of an espalier lets in more sun, encouraging more blossoms and faster ripening. A final benefit is how beautiful the trees look asking in the sun against your home and how impressed all your gardening friends will be.

    Apples and pears are the most common fruit trees used with this technique. However, stone fruits, like peaches, cherries, and plums, can also be trained, although the pruning schedule will be different. The trees in this photo are planted in a border not much more than a foot wide.