17 Ideas for Gardens in Small Spaces

garden

You could see your small yard as a disadvantage—or you could view it as an opportunity. We prefer the latter! When you're gardening with only limited ground to cover, you're able to devote more attention to each bed or potted plant, allowing you to nurture your vision into existence. Whether you want a cozy gated garden, a whimsical space that invites exploring, or an intimate spot for good conversation, we have the gardening ideas for small spaces that will transform your yard into your own personal Eden.

01 of 17

Go Vertical

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Make space-challenged gardens look larger than they actually are by adding a trellis or arbor. These structures help draw the eye upward, creating the illusion of more space. In this tiny hideaway, climbing white roses scramble over a rustic arbor to add another layer of natural texture and fragrance to the garden.

02 of 17

Start from the Ground Up

patio

Let your imagination loose in your garden by mixing paving materials for a mosaic-like effect. In this postage-stamp backyard, irregular shape bluestone slabs are paired with pockets of polished blue-gray river rock. Besides adding color and style, the varied stones make every corner of the patio feel special, so not one square inch is wasted.

03 of 17

Bring in Bright Paint

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Bolder is sometimes better when it comes to small landscapes. The owners of this tiny garden transformed a once-drab wall into an enticing entryway with an eye-popping coat of canary-yellow paint. They also added a green lattice door that gives visitors a peek at the garden beyond.

04 of 17

Grow Some Privacy

Garden Fence

If you have a small space, neighbors are most likely nearby. That makes a fence or screen essential for preserving your privacy (and giving the illusion of solitude). But don't just throw up a fence and leave it at that. Grow something over the structure to add color and dimension. Here, English ivy trained into a diamond espalier pattern turns a plain screen into a piece of living art.

05 of 17

Divide and Conquer

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To invite exploring—even in a tiny space—try this trick: Break up the available ground into a series of mini beds, rather than trying to squeeze in one large border. In this garden, brick pathways outline a series of petite perennial flowerbeds around the brick pillars. Smaller beds enable you to create different moods for different parts of your garden and provide easier access for weeding and planting.

06 of 17

Create a Destination

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Your garden may be small, but it still deserves a focal point. It can be as simple as a comfy chair tucked into a private nook or as elaborate as this arbor-and-bench combination. The idea is to carve out a spot where you can stop and admire your hard work. Pick plants that are as fragrant as they are colorful so you can enjoy them up close.

07 of 17

Maximize Side Yards

side yard with garden door

If backyard space is limited, give your side yard a makeover. Often neglected as "useless" space, side yards actually offer tons of potential for outdoor living. Here, a once-barren piece of ground was repurposed into a gorgeous garden with a concrete-paver path. A diverse selection of perennials and trees bring life to the space, while black Japanese river rock serves as a durable alternative to mulch.

08 of 17

Just Add Water

Small Space

Fill your small space with the tranquil sound of trickling water—and block outside noise in the process. If you don't have room for a full-blown water garden, add a fountain or two. Whether you mount yours to a wall or place it in the center of a flowerbed, make sure there's an electrical outlet nearby. In this slice of a brick courtyard, an ornamental fountain acts as a sparkling focal point and makes the outdoor seating all the more enticing.

09 of 17

Include Edible Plants

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Imagine sitting in your private courtyard and reaching out to pluck a luscious strawberry or ripe cherry tomato. Fulfilling this vision is as simple as adding edible plants to your garden plans. In this inviting space, a raised bed was painted white, then packed with a delightful array of flowers, vegetables, and herbs. All you need is a spot that enjoys at least six to eight hours of sunshine a day.

10 of 17

Level Up Your Space

patio

Terracing is one of the most effective ways to add dimension to a small space. As you move from level to level, you'll feel like you're stepping into a separate garden with each tier. The owners of this enclosed backyard built two stone patios, one several steps lower than the other, to maximize the narrow outdoor space. Consider turning each area into a distinct zone: One might focus on outdoor dining, while the other is devoted to flowers or potted plants.

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Pick a Palette

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When space is limited, the last thing you want is a hodgepodge of colors fighting for attention. As you choose your palette, consider your goals for the space: Do you want to relax here? Or host vibrant parties? Pick a color scheme that suits the purpose of your outdoor area and that you'll love for years. Here, multiple installations of pink flowers, such as yarrow, rose, fuchsia, cosmos, and astilbe, contrast beautifully with the home's blue door and shutters.

12 of 17

Dress Up Work Spaces

garden station

If you don't have the space to hide potentially messy outdoor work spaces, why not incorporate them into your landscape design? In this tight backyard, the homeowner's potting bench, garden tools, and containers are in full view. The key to keeping this functional spot pretty? A stylish bench decorated with leftover pots and plants.

13 of 17

Pick Appropriate Furniture

landscaping

When selecting outdoor furniture for a tiny seating area, look for smaller pieces that match the scale of their surroundings. In other words, don't try to squeeze a huge sectional into a tight spot or buy oversize chairs that you have to wedge into position. See how well-suited this teak dining set is for the petite patio? The slim chairs tuck in comfortably and can be folded up for easy storage when they're not in use.

14 of 17

Flank an Entry

Front Yard Garden

Add a double dose of color by flanking a tight entry or garden path with narrow flowerbeds. With plantings on either side of the walkway, you'll create the look of a full-fledged garden in a fraction of the space. This charming front yard features overflowing flowerbeds that make the brick path look wider.

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Prioritize Comfort

Small Space

If your seating options are few due to cramped quarters, make sure to prioritize comfort. No matter how lovely your landscape, no one wants to teeter on an uncomfortable metal chair. Look for chairs or benches with deep seating and wide arms that invite guests to sit and chat a while. In this shady corner, teak furniture with thick cushions and pillows encourages outdoor hang-outs.

16 of 17

Go Tropical

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Even the smallest backyard getaway in the middle of a city can become a tropical retreat with a few large-leaf jungle natives. Check your grow zone before you invest in tropical plants, such as banana, bird of paradise, croton, elephant ear, canna, and palm, which all love hot weather. It only takes a couple of these to make a big statement in a small yard—with the added bonus of creating a natural privacy screen. In this terraced yard, two banana plants shield the patio for the perfect sunbathing spot.

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Cluster Containers

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If your patio occupies most of your space, you can still fill your backyard with greenery. The secret is an artful sprinkling of flower-filled pots and planters. Containers are easy to maintain, and you can move them whenever a corner of your garden needs color. Don't go overboard, though: You don't want to crowd your outdoor area with a multitude of tiny pots that interfere every time you pull out a chair. In this cozy backyard, small clusters of pots are positioned well away from the dining area, allowing guests to enjoy the view without tripping.

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