Very Small Garden Ideas – Bigger is NOT Always Better!
Updated: Aug 17
If you are one of the fortunate ones who have a very small yard, hooray for you! Many people think they need a huge area to create a lavish garden, but that isn’t true. Small yards can be turned into a welcoming, tranquil area. All it takes is a little vision and some basic knowledge. In addition, small gardens are much easier to maintain! In this post I will touch on things to consider when imagining your flower garden and how to use them to create a beautiful oasis for dining (see outdoor tables from Etsy), sipping iced tea, or reading the latest New York Times best seller. I think you’ll agree that bigger is NOT always better after reading about these very small garden ideas.
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What Will Your Garden Be Used For?
When you start from scratch, begin by deciding what the area will be used for; perhaps for dining, entertaining, a quiet retreat or maybe a combination of all three? Perhaps you just want a simple flower or vegetable garden. Whatever your choice, be sure to focus on that objective.
Once you have decided on the use of your area, then determine how large the patio or seating area will be. Also, ask yourself if you’d like the majority of the area to be patio with a small perimeter of flowers, or would you rather incorporate the patio into the garden? Do you like to putter and maintain shrubs and flowers, or would you rather have a low maintenance garden? All these things will influence the types of flowers, shrubs, and furniture to use.
Work With What You Have
Capitalize on what you already have and decide what you’d like to save. There’s no need to cut down large trees or move a storage shed. Use these as focal points in your garden by creating the garden around such things.
As you know trees provide wonderful shade. Add a bistro set or a hanging chair (Amazon) underneath the canopy of the tree to create a cozy sanctuary. The hanging chair will also free up floor space. If the surface under the tree is level, purchase large slabs of slate and place them over your grass. The grass will eventually die off. This will create a pretty but simple patio.
Add window boxes to the shed or attach hooks with hanging pots to the side of the structure. You can do the same with existing fences. Hang flowers from the limbs of trees, or hummingbird feeders or bird houses. Flat metal sculptures found at flea markets can also be attached to existing surfaces to add color and interest.
Do you have a beautiful view outside of your yard? Take advantage of it by not blocking it, but think of it as a treasured painting and frame it with simple tall shrubs to add an illusion of depth to your space.
Tips To Create Your Very Small Garden
It is good to know the pH of your soil before purchasing any flora. The level of pH will dictate which shrubs, flowers and trees to choose.
When you have a limited area, purchase a few trees, shrubs and flowers that add multi-season interest to your garden. Look for trees with unusual bark such as a river birch (these trees like water so only purchase them if you have a semi-wet area) or tree-like crepe myrtle.
The shrubs you choose should bring color to spring, summer and fall. Spring varieties are azaleas and rhododendrons, summer types include butterfly bush and potentilla, and fall shrubs such as hydrangea “Limelight” or hydrangea Pinky Winky are good choices.
Add spring, summer and fall bulbs to the mix of flowers.
Create a Welcoming Entrance
Peruse old barn sales, antique stores, or flea markets for metal gates. If you have a fence, attach it to the fence. if you do not, add square metal poles to the ground and attach the gate to it. Adorn it with climbing vines such as honey suckle or jasmine if you prefer a sweet fragrance, or a clematis for a splash of color. Battery powered twinkle lights draped over or entwined through the gate will add a whimsical feel to your garden in the evening.
The climbing vines can also grow on established fences in your yard.
Purchase a wooden or metal arbor and place it at the entrance of your small garden. Again, plant climbing vines to soften the angles of the arbor. Climbing roses and climbing hydrangeas work well.
Create a Path
Nothing is more inviting than a meandering path. It will naturally beckon friends and family to your garden.
Paths do not have to be expensive. Here are a few ideas.
slate stepping stones surrounded with low-maintenance creeping thyme (mother of thyme)
small white pebbles or gravel
Your garden is small so presumably you will not need to purchase a large quantity of any product. These can be easily installed by yourself or a landscaper.
Plant low shrubs that cascade over the pathway. This softens the look of straight edges and creates that “been here forever” look.
How To Add Extra Seating In a Small Garden
There are many fold away tables and chairs you can purchase for a small area. Some tables have extensions for when you have more company. You can also use benches beside the table. They are great for squeezing in tiny bums! Be sure to add a beautiful sculpture or an accent piece on top of your table.
Capping low walls is an excellent way to add extra seating. When you build walls and patios using slate, pavers or any other hard rock, this is called hardscaping. Hardscaping can be very pricey but it does add charm to the garden.
Rethink a lawn. You do not need a lot of grass in a small garden. In fact, no one really wants to haul out a trimmer or lawn mower to cut a small patch of grass. So why not eliminate the grass all together? Instead, extend a patio or add large slate pieces with small stone in the gaps to cover the grassy area.
Circular pots take up a lot of space. Instead choose rectangular pots (Amazon) that can hug walls.
Place large pots on saucers with wheels in order to rearrange during the course of the seasons.
Use rectangular pots as dividers to create small and inviting nooks.
Create privacy by adding columnar varieties of shrubs or trellises with climbing vines. These vertical additions will add contrast to smaller compact plants.
If your yard is wide but short, add tables and chairs on a 45 degree angle to create an illusion of a larger area.
Use a shelf for seating on a retaining or a decorative wall to delineate areas of your patio.
Create flooring using different materials to distinguish areas; options include slate, pavers, small stone.
Purchase an outdoor rug to section off an area.
It’s Time To Accessorize
After you have completed designing and constructing your very small garden by adding paths, patios, shrubs, trees, and flowers, now it’s time to add that extra something to make it your own. These extras will help make your garden more intimate and homey. If you’d like more suggestions than are what’s listed below, refer to my previous post How To Decorate a Balcony.
Display things you love to collect; shells, gnomes, pine cones, bird houses
Add a water fountain if you have an outdoor outlet.
If space allows, construct a small pergola and hang baskets, lights, or bird feeders from the beams. You can also train wisteria or climbing hydrangea to create a natural umbrella.
Add pleasant sounding wind chimes.
Include a pop of color by adding pillows or colorful umbrellas (Amazon). You can also paint a wooden bench or chair in a bright color.
Construct a gallery wall of flowers by adding hanging baskets with hooks to an already existing fence. Fill the baskets with colorful annuals. One alternative to hanging baskets is to hang shelves on the fence.
Double your space (only an illusion) with a mirror. Attach a decorative grid onto a piece of mirrored board and hook or adhere it onto a trellis or old gate. The decorative grid is essential to prevent birds from flying into it.
Use an old wooden ladder as a plant stand and lean it against a tree trunk, fence, or shed.
Very Small Garden Ideas
I hope I have given you some starting points for establishing your small garden. Once the use of your oasis is established, it’s very easy to create the small garden of your dreams. Be sure to measure before purchasing tables and chairs and consider flea market finds before spending tons of money.
Please leave a comment below. If you have any before and after pictures, I’d love to see them!