Small Garden Rules of Thumb
Sacrificing square footage doesn’t mean you have to give up the idea of a lush and welcoming garden. In fact, with small garden design, many of the basic principles still apply. There are, however, some rules to consider when making the most of a small garden footprint.
Start with the view from inside
Grab a mug of something soothing and take a seat in your favourite chair looking out into the garden. Consider this perspective, especially here in Southern Ontario, where we spend more of the year cosy indoors. As you begin to design or revamp your garden, think about how this view will be impacted and enhanced.
Dream big, then scale down
Small gardens can be just as dynamic as their larger counterparts. While you’re in the dreaming phase of your plans, think about how space will be used. Take note of things like how often you’d like to entertain outdoors, whether you’d like a water feature, statuary, or architectural features. List everything you’d like your garden to have, and then look for inspiration online or in magazines for how other gardeners have shrunk these classic elements down to scale.
Aim for simplicity
Clean lines work best in smaller gardens. Instead of an army of statues, one or two larger statement pieces add interest. A well-planned seating area works better than chairs scattered all over. Gravel or stone paths are easier to maintain than a manicured lawn. The more you try to pack into your small garden, the more overwhelmed you’ll feel as you enter.
Go easy with colour
Choose monochromatic, cooler colour schemes like greens, purples, blues, or silvers versus a riot of colour so the garden feels more open and your design more cohesive. A bold statement colour as an accent will create more impact than a sea of bright, flashy tones.
Small gardens often mean closer neighbours. As you begin to sketch out a design, take note of where you might be able to create some privacy with architectural details, trees, or shrubs.
Remember the value of negative space
Don’t feel compelled to fill every surface of your small garden. A little patio with outdoor dining or seating will open things up, as will some strategic pathways that lead to other areas of interest.
Create changes in terrain
Use a variety of ground cover materials and architectural details like low walls, arbours, edging or accents to divide the garden into separate areas and create the illusion of space.
Remember the ‘rule of three’
Stick to no more than three types of ground cover materials to create coherence and consistency. Stay with three colours for the palette for the same effect.
A living wall or vertical planting is a great solution where the ground isn’t available. Vertical planting works well for tiny patios and balconies too, and you can even grow herbs and some vegetables this way.
Come see us
Ask your friendly local expert for advice on the best plants for small gardens. The Mori Gardens design team can help you select plants that will create maximum impact and suit your level of gardening experience and interest. We can help you with your design from start to finish, and help you work within your budget.
Take a deep breath
Fragrant plants can be a lovely addition within a smaller area. With less square footage, you won’t need to work very hard to stop and smell the roses.
Use texture to create interest
Waving grasses and ornamental shrubs draw the eye and add movement to your tiny backyard oasis. Blend fine, delicate texture with bold foliage to play with light and shadow.
Create destinations to visit
Strong garden designs will lead the eye through a small garden and including inviting paths and cosy corners will create an invitation to explore or relax.
Choose furniture wisely
Aim to keep furniture around the perimeter of the garden to avoid clutter. Select light and airy pieces instead of anything too clunky. Built-in seating is another great solution for a smaller yard.
Don’t forget about lighting
Remember to include a source of illumination so you and your guests can enjoy your little garden once the sun has set.
Containers are versatile
Planters and containers can be tucked into nooks and crannies, and can also be easily moved to change the look of your garden. Remember to stick within your colour scheme to maintain the cohesive design.
A small garden has great potential to satisfy the imagination of any gardener. Enjoy the process of collecting inspiration, dreaming up your ideal outdoor space, and discovering how to make the most of your personal cosy oasis. Don’t forget the Mori Gardens design team is available to help bring your dream garden to life.
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