Backyard Design ideas For Small Yards

December 19, 2019
Patio Design Ideas For Small

arched wood garden gate brick path1 ×

Landscaping Lessons

Mike Eagleton is often asked to conjure miracles from small, cheek-to-jowl city lots. The Denver landscape designer's own yard, around a 1929 brick cottage south of downtown, is a prime example of his professional sleight of hand. Within its 50 by 120 feet, he has incorporated sunny, street-side perennial beds, a private entry court in the rear, an elevated outdoor dining room, a secluded lounging terrace, a carpet of lawn, woodland views, a potting shed, and several destination strolls that lead to musical, spilling fountains. Front and back entrances, the latter marked by a wisteria arbor off the alley behind his property, make a garden walk of coming home. Almost year-round, despite his Zone 6 climate, with its frigid winters and baking summers, he's got something in bloom—in pots and borders and on top of arbors. Shade trees blot out neighbors' homes, and it's easy to forget, when he and his wife and their teenage kids kick back outside, that they're in a metropolis of 600, 000 people.

Shown: An arched wood gate to the left of the front entry opens onto a fountain that muffles street noise. The brick path leads from front yard to backyard.

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Organized Spaces

wall fountain with gates, colocasia, ferns

It wasn't so easy in 1989, when the couple bought the house, which sat wide open to its busy street with little more garden than a backyard deck and a patch of grass. Happily, there were a few mature trees, and Eagleton knew he could make his cramped lot feel larger with a well-conceived plan for hangout spots as well as play space for the kids. "Whether you like things formal or informal, " he says, "the mind wants organization. And when you create outdoor spaces that have a purpose, you use them." Gradually, the garden took the shape it has today, with gates and arbors marking passageways, sheltering trees and shrubs, and welcoming fountains. His landscaping lessons are sure to inspire any aspiring gardener with big hopes for a small space.

Shown: Just inside the gates, dramatic, large-leafed colocasia and ferns gather around a wall fountain that helps mute traffic noise from the back alley.

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Lesson 1: Create a Front-Yard Garden

Design a gracious garden setting out front to show off your house's best features and provide privacy. Eagleton matched the crisp lines of his vintage house with soft, English-style perennials that bloom against formal hedges. The hedges—dwarf burning bush, Euonymus alatus 'Compactus'—are much friendlier and less costly than masonry walls and, since they extend on both sides of the central steps, make the lot appear wider. The low flagstone retaining wall he installed to edge his beds matches the home's warm brick facade, while the arched metal gate, once the frame of an old church window, echoes the arched front door. Tree-form rose of Sharon and limelight hydrangea, layered in between the clipped hedges, screen the front-entry court and create the illusion of greater depth from street to house.

Shown: Garden designer Mike Eagleton layered his home's street-facing landscape for beauty and privacy.

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Lesson 2: Go Big with Hardscape

Don't try to maximize space by undersizing steps and walkways; paths should be at least 4 feet across, says Eagleton. Skimpy paved areas look out of scale with your house—even modest homes present a large structure to work against—and they will shrink further once plants grow in around them. Eagleton widened the existing steps and landings in his entry court and replaced the original dark brown concrete with colored, patterned concrete that mimics the flagstone of his retaining wall and ties the garden more fully to the house.

backyard brick path separates lawn and lounge from dining deckShown: The backyard's brick path, a straight shot from rear gate to kitchen doors, separates the lawn and lounge from the dining deck.

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Lesson 3: Blur Your Lot's Boundaries

Borrow from your neighbors by forgoing unnecessary side fences that call attention to your lot's limits. Thanks to his unfenced front yard, Eagleton's lavish perennials merge with a flood of junipers next door, hinting that both belong to one landscape. The same trick works with trees, he says, so make sure the ones you plant don't block those visible on other properties. As you look out beyond your own branches, especially if they resemble others nearby, they'll all seem part of the same expansive picture.

Shown: A bristlecone pine and a blue spruce screen the cedar dining deck. Containers filled with summer annuals—marigolds, petunias, impatiens, and vining mandevilla—soften the corner near the potting shed, bringing colorful blossoms close enough for guests to enjoy.

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Lesson 4: Carve Out Outdoor Rooms

Break up large outdoor spaces into smaller areas. Your garden feels bigger if you can't see all its "rooms" at once, an effect Eagleton achieved through slight grade changes, walled enclosures, and plant screens. The original backyard was mostly lawn with maple, hawthorn, and spruce trees along the edges, and a cramped wood deck. Over time, he replaced the deck with a raised one 8 feet larger and framed it with landscape-tie planters 2 feet higher than the garden below. These planters surround the dining spot with close-up blooms and selectively block larger garden views with dwarf Alberta spruces. He left a piece of lawn for his children, but at one end, between it and the kitchen door, he designed an outdoor lounge area, screened with another planter—this one 18 inches high and 12 feet long—filled with tree-form serviceberry shrubs and billowing coleus and impatiens.

Shown: A lounge area is tucked between the elevated dining deck—screened with conical dwarf Alberta spruces—and a planter in which serviceberry trees mix with coleus and pink and white impatiens.

back yard lounge area conical dwarf Alberta spruces, serviceberry trees, coleus, impatiens, vining mandevilla granite sphere fountain, ferns, hostas concrete trough fountain with lilies and moneywort in a Japanese-style garden pots hold clipped boxwood and Calathea triostar at yard entry

Landscaping Tips

Though your home is your castle, there is no necessity to surround it with a moat. Here are 5 tips that will help you to make your landscaping feel more warm, welcoming and cozy.

1. Put some flowers nearby your entrance. Flowers make any area look more welcoming and attractive, so greeting your guests with Petunia, Snapdragon, Lily-of-the-Nile or some other garden flowers is always a great thing to do. What is more, to add some space between your house and the entrance, you can consider adding a little white fence. It will create an illusion that your front yard is bigger than it actually is. What is more, adding fence will create a great space for planting flowers to add some color and coziness.

2. Add rambling vines to make your yard look absolutely lovely. You can not deny that rambling vines always create romantic and even magical atmosphere. So why not to use this tip while decorating your yard?

3. To hide the unattractive driveway, consider adding some color, texture, and height. You can easily do it by adding various sorts of flowers. To start, create an island of green lawn right in the hub of a drive. Then add a couple of low boxwood hedges with flowers toward the back of your island.

4. If you want your yard to blossom and flourish bust still do not have enough time to maintain it, consider planting low-fuss lilies. Such flowers look absolutely gorgeous and come in the variety of rainbow hues, so you can pick the one you love most. What is more, low-fuss lilies do not care about the sort of soil, they love the sun and welcome hot, they do not afraid of drought. In other words, Crinums is an ideal flower for all those who are looking for low-maintenance solutions.

5. The last tip also touches the low-maintenance aspect. To make your life easier, group plantings into beds and islands. This will help you to avoid mowing and trimming around each individual plant, save a lot of time and even money.

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