Gardening in a small space can present challenges, but opportunities, too. A garden, especially a small one can form a calming, tranquil, cocoon around us. If your piece of terra firma is petite here are some guidelines to help you create an intimate garden you’ll love to retreat to.
First Things First
First decide how you will use your garden. Is it to be an outdoor “living and dining room”? Do you entertain a lot? Do you need a space for the kids to play? Once you analyze how you’ll use your garden, the next step is to sketch it out. Start by drawing a plan of the yard including the walls of the house and any existing permanent features such as walkways and trees. Then, decide what your sitting/dining needs are. Do you want a table for six close to the house, or a small café table for two tucked into a little nook? If you have young children, is a sand box planned? You get the idea. Think about all these things, and plot them on your sketch.
Principles and Elements of Design
For best results pay attention to tried and true principles and elements of design. Here are some basics:
Scale is the relative size of a space or element in relation to the surroundings it is placed in. In a small garden, it’s important to keep all the elements in balance. For example a huge tree is overwhelming in a small space.
Gentle, curving lines are restful. Sharp, jagged diagonals or verticals create excitement, but in a small garden may be too busy and disorganized. Rectangular forms are a good choice for small gardens because they are clearly defined.
Form or Shape
Form in the garden is defined by the shapes of things in the garden including the plants, trees and shrubs. In small gardens, rectangular forms, whether in the shape of a flower bed or a patio, create an uninterrupted line, making the space seem larger. A small garden is perfectly suited to vertical gardening. You can double your garden space with climbing plants.
A variety of textures creates interest in a garden. In a small garden, plants are likely to be viewed close-up where different textures can be fully enjoyed.
Use colour to manipulate space. In small spaces, cooler colours – like blue, purple, green and white – open it up and make the garden seem larger. In a small space limit the varieties and colours of plants you use. Masses of one colour are more effective.
A small garden lends itself very well to fragrant plants. Locate them near a path or sitting area where you can really appreciate them. If you spend a lot of time in the garden during the evening hours plant fragrant blooms in white or pale yellow. These are the colours that stand out best in twilight.
Create a Focal Point
Balance your garden with a focal point. With a small garden, you can make it look larger by using visual tricks. One of the most common is to run a distinct visual line, like a path or hedge, across the longest available axis and place a prominent object at its end. Your eye is drawn down the length of the garden resting at the distant focal point, making the garden appear larger than it really is.
Choose plants with punch. If you only have a small space to work with, you want to get the most impact possible. Plants with interesting and varied foliage shapes and textures are the foundation of a compelling design. When you choose plants for your garden, consider the sizes and forms of the trees and shrubs. There are many dwarf varieties of plants, trees and shrubs perfectly suited to the smaller garden. Be sure to choose trees and shrubs that stay small.