Designing for Small Spaces

— Written By Kate Holt

~Donna Teasley~

Times are changing. Homes with an acre lot aren’t the norm any longer. As we get older, I’m not sure we want lawns that large anyway! But if you have a gardener’s spirit, it is difficult to give up precious growing space. Whether your forte is flowers, shrubs, or veggies, it isn’t easy to decide which plant to delete from the garden.

Much can be done with a small space, if you just teach yourself to think a little differently. First of all, think vertical. Vines of all kinds give wonderful color and texture to a garden, whether ornamental or edible.

When planted in containers, plants are mobile, which means they can become even more adaptable to a space. Think of shade for a hot summer’s day or even a wind or noise barrier where a vine in a pot can serve double duty.

When trying to design for a small area, remember that upright and columnar plants can give the illusion of space. Using plants with a variety of leaf sizes and textures makes a bold statement and gives the impression of lots of space.

Use interesting visual elements such as paving stones or boardwalks to break up open areas into smaller individual spaces. Have one or two destinations in the landscape with a path leading to them, such as a sitting area or perhaps a water feature with a bench or a swing. This gives visitors a place to go. With a destination in sight, the walk through the garden will seem longer.

Throw in some interesting design elements along the way—such as unusual containers or a piece of artwork like a simple sculpture. These distractions will keep the eye moving from place to place and give the feeling of a much larger space.

Color is also a great way to make a garden feel bigger. Bold colors catch our attention initially, making the remaining landscape recede in the distance and thereby giving the illusion of space.

The use of dwarf plants is another way to save space. Take advantage of a wall or a structure by using some espalier plants. These don’t take much room and certainly give an interesting look to a growing shrub or tree. Trellised plants can also be a delightful surprise and can add architectural interest to the landscape while using space efficiently.

A downsized garden can give just as much pleasure as a large one. Although downsizing might take a little more planning, isn’t that half of the fun?