Landscaping small yards

Landscaping small yards is a question of proportions. Another key to success when landscaping small yards is using strategies that make the space seem larger than it really is. It is understood that you may have to make some concessions, but this will merely force you to do a bit more research, which in turn may help you make wonderful discoveries.

Using plants that draws people's attention is a good strategy when landscaping small yards
Using plants that draws people’s attention is a good strategy when landscaping small yards

Let’s say you like maple trees. A large maple tree is out of the question. Maybe a columnar maple could do the trick? Or a Japanese maple? These stay rather small and come in a wonderful variety of cultivars, some red and some green, some with broader leaves, some with curly leaves. A good thing when landscaping small yards is that you have fewer plants to buy, so you can afford to buy more expensive trees and bushes.

Very important when landscaping small yards: finding the right plant for the right spot

Probably the most important word when it comes to small yard landscaping is proportions. Whatever you choose for a given location should be well proportioned for that spot. If you place a bush in a spot that is too small, it will eventually look like it’s about to burst out of there. That doesn’t look good.

If you have your eyes on some plants that can grow to become rather large, consider choosing ones that can be pruned regularly rather than ones that will look bad if you prune them. Many conifers, even some that can grow to be very large, can be pruned and kept very small. That information can be found in most books and even in catalogs, although you may also ask employees if you buy your plants in a good nursery where you can get help from knowledgeable people.

And think conditions as well. Small yards are often less sunny that larger yards. If your small yard gets little direct sunlight, pick plants that will do well in such conditions. Japanese maples, for instance, can do well in most small, shady yards. Choose a green one to bring light to your yard.

Use perspectives and play with spaces

This design makes this tiny garden stand out
This design makes this tiny garden stand out

Making concessions when landscaping small yards doesn’t mean that the results will look bad. It merely means you have to adapt your choices and decisions to the situation.

Why not add an object, like a bird bath or a sculpture to your small yard landscaping? If you do, be sure to place it in the best spot. Use plants that are about the same height as your bird bath, for instance, to give the spot a full look and a feeling of abundance. Use low-growing plants around a sculpture and the eyes will be drawn to it and the space will somehow seem bigger.

The picture below shows a small yard landscaping filled with cone flowers, false spirea, leopard plants and ferns. The addition of the bird bath somehow makes the space look larger than it really is. The whole thing adds beauty and color. Most varieties of trees or bushes would probably have occupied the whole spot and looked crammed after just a few years.

Why not consider using dwarf versions of plants you know and love. Finding lists of plants grouped according to specific properties, such as size, is sure to make your work much easier.

Varying sizes and shapes is a good idea. The more the eyes will be working, taking in all the sizes and shapes and colors, the bigger the space will seem.

Why not have a small shade area at the very end of your yard? If you plan to have a small tree that will cast some shade, place it there and put some shade plants under it. This darker spot will seem farther away and will thus make the yard appear bigger. This is even more true if you have lighter spots here and there around your yard.

Landscaping tips and landscaping design rules may help you make some decisions, and don’t forget to work from your plan. It is always helpful when choosing plants.

Now let’s consider the big picture as you are starting to think about landscaping your yard.

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The right plants in the right locations with the right conditions