You have probably heard the saying, “failing to plan is planning to fail”. This is so true when planning the small backyard landscape. Due to the limitations of your space, it is important to plan in order to avoid wasting time, money and effort. With a little thoughtful reflection, and by borrowing some tricks from the pros, you can transform a small backyard into your own mini oasis.
It Is What It Is
First of all, you must come to grips with what your space is and release any unrealistic dreams of what it isn’t. We have all heard the expression “You can’t stuff ten pounds into a five-pound bag”, so don’t try. You may not have a rolling lawn or huge entertaining spaces. However, by approaching the project with eyes wide open and embracing the nature of the space you have, you can maximize its potential and enjoy an attractive and functional yard with its own unique charm.
Identify Your Style
Next, identify which style of landscaping appeals most to you. Do you feel happiest with an organic flow and a natural feel like plants growing in the wild? Or does a more refined, carefully manicured landscape with clean lines and a symmetrical layout suit you better? Do you revel in the exotic textures and bright colors of lush tropical plants? Or is the stately southern elegance of spreading oaks, velvety grass, and sculpted shrubbery your ideal? Perhaps “less is more” is your mantra and you seek the Zen-like feel of a clean and uncomplicated space. Pinterest can be an invaluable resource of style examples to help you define your preferences.
Bear in mind that additional factors such as the architecture of your home, as well as the style and material of existing structures such as patio covers, pathways, and even the swimming pool may all influence your decision. Certain styles may require more effort and care to keep up, so it is important to gauge how much time you have for maintenance as well as how much interest you have in gardening!
Select Focal Points
Focal points are objects specifically intended to draw the attention. In landscapes, focal points may be items that vary in height from their surroundings or provide a distinct color contrast. Fountains, ornamental trees, trellises, brightly colored flowers, or interestingly shaped potted plants can all be examples of focal points. When planning locations for focal points, first identify the seating or gathering area from which people will be viewing them. Strategically locating focal points at the spot furthest from this gathering point emphasizes maximum distance and can create the illusion of a larger space. Consider using plantings or other elements that would form visual lines leading to this focal point to enhance this effect.
Add visual contrast to your landscaping by incorporating various colors and textures of plants. Plants with variegated foliage can really pop against a background of dark-leafed shrubs, for example. Likewise, the lacy fronds of a fern can provide great visual contrast to the smooth, glossy leaves of plants such as boxwood, gardenia, or philodendrons. Visit a local garden center to discover the various species that work well in your area, and ask the experts there for their recommendations for good pairings.
Tip: Pair plants with similar water requirements to simplify watering routines, and observe the level of sunlight each area of your space receives to choose plants accordingly.
Introduce even more texture to your backyard landscape when choosing paving for seating areas and walkways. Look beyond standard concrete to paving stones, colorful gravel, or even flagstones interspersed with plant material such as small ornamental grasses or fragrant herbs.
Cut the Clutter
Just like in the rooms of your home, nothing makes a small space feel smaller than filling it with a lot of clutter. Even if you are going for a multi-layered, private courtyard-type environment, the spaces designated for people gathering should not feel claustrophobic. In other words, while your small backyard may not have the luxury of spaces large enough for a crowd, you can still strategically choose furniture and accessories that allow guests plenty of room to maneuver. No one enjoys having to duck their heads or pick their way through an obstacle course to access seats. Avoid the too-tight feeling of an overcrowded space.