Use elements to draw the eye upward, rather than outward, creating the illusion of more space. Trees, a trellis, arbor, or tall planter will all bring up the gaze. When you accentuate the height of an outdoor room, the sky is the limit.
Potted plants bring the garden to a patio or deck but don’t go overboard. Avoid crowding your location with too many tiny pots that get in your way. In a small area, set clusters of pots where people won't trip over them. Use tall planters to ease transitions between a wall and the ground and keep the design dynamic.
When selecting trees and shrubs for a petite landscape, look for compact varieties that will be in scale with their surroundings. The same rule applies to outdoor furniture. Skip oversize chairs and tables that you have to wedge into position or that make an area feel cramped and congested. Stick to narrow profiles and you'll open up more living—and planting—space.
Often overlooked, side yards offer tons of potential. Add a path lined with interesting foliage, perhaps an intriguing sculpture or a functional element like a rain barrel or compost bin. How will the area look from inside the house, or from the front or back yards? Put those slivers of soil along the house to good use.
A few large-leaf jungle natives can make a big impact. Plants such as banana, croton, elephant’s ear, canna, and palm all love hot weather. It only takes one or two to act as a natural privacy screen and create a getaway spot for relaxing amid the rustling and dappled shade from the oversize foliage.
Foster a sense of seclusion outdoors with a fence or screen to shield a view—make it more attractive and sound-absorbing by adding a fast-growing vine with flowers or interesting leaves. A softly gurgling fountain will help mask the rumble of traffic.
Monochromatic color palettes, strong design lines, and repeated shapes can help boost a sense of spaciousness. Another trick: Blur garden boundaries with multilevel plantings and structures. For immediate gratification, place a large mirror where it will reflect the garden and give the feeling of more space.
When you plan your garden, be sure to add a focal point that distracts from size issues and lures you forward. It can be as simple as a path leading to a bench or as elaborate as a grand arbor heralding your front door. To make the destination even more compelling, surround it with fragrant plants or ones that dance lightly in the breeze.