There are many ways to approach designing a narrow backyard, and this garden is a lesson in how much can be accomplished in a small space.
There is an abundance of textures, features and backyard ideas to enjoy in this urban garden, including patterned paving, trellis and built-in lighting, while the planting includes evergreen structures and an abundance of color from perennials and cut flowers.
The cumulative effect makes the garden appear much larger than it actually is as your eye moves from one element to the next, and the design is bursting with clever small garden ideas.
“The brief for the garden design was to create a more inviting, engaging garden that could be viewed and enjoyed from the downstairs kitchen,” explains garden designer Butter Wakefield.
“The owner, a keen flower arranger, wanted a garden rich in texture, color and shape,” she adds.
Butter shares her design ideas for making the most of a small garden space.
1. Use patches to create pattern and interest
The striking herringbone pattern of the paving creates a strong impact and introduces zones, one of many narrow garden ideas to make the space appear larger.
“The client didn’t want a lawn anymore and we wanted to generate as much interest in the new paving as possible,” explains Butter.
One of the many options for landscaping small courtyards, a light Belgian brick was chosen for the paving, with the main walkway laid in a herringbone pattern.
“This herringbone pattern is framed on all sides by a header row of bricks, creating a bold outline for visual emphasis,” explains Butter.
One of the garden path ideas was to change the direction of the routing pattern for the small maintenance paths along with the upper seating area to delineate different areas and add even more interest.
2. Create a feature from a decorative grid
There are many trellis ideas that can be used in a small garden design to create privacy, screen off areas, or add a decorative element.
This garden design required replacing the existing perimeter trellis, so panels were made and painted a custom color that complemented the garden planting.
A lighter shade was used to paint the plastered wall, creating a seamless flow at the border.
“We also thought it would be nice to mirror the finials of the trellis with the Gothic arch of the two existing garden benches. It was a bit more expensive in price, but worth having,” explains Butter, as the result helps anchor the design.
Two decorative trellis panels were commissioned to hang on the garden walls on the lower level to fill the empty wall space. Think of the potential for decorative elements as garden wall ideas to highlight otherwise nondescript areas, “just like you would hang paintings indoors,” Butter explains.
3. Increase the potential of steps and slopes
When designing a small garden, it is important to make the most of every slope, surface and feature. If the property is on a slope, there are a number of sloped backyard ideas that can help maximize the space available.
In this backyard, the steps leading up from the lower level have an unusually deep tread of 400mm.
“We wanted them to look and feel spacious and appealing, but we also wanted the steps to be deep enough to place pots so we could bring the greenery of the garden closer to the kitchen doors,” explains Butter .
The steps are also wide enough to be used as additional seating if required.
4. Year round interest facility
An abundance of plants in raised beds provide texture, color and form, the plants stand beautifully alongside perimeter walls and areas of harsh landscaping.
Constructed of treated hardwood, the raised beds are planted with vegetables, spring onions and summer annuals that match the owner’s intentions for planning a cut flower garden.
There are many ideas for raised beds, and in this design, the beds are covered with custom-made willow edging for “further textural interest and color,” Butter explains.
Evergreen structural planting provides year-round interest. “We selected seven pruned Taxus baccata ‘beehives’ of varying heights and diameters, and also planted some of the best evergreen climbers and perennials,” explains Butter
One of the evergreen climbing plants is the wonderfully fragrant Trachelospermum jasminoides.
Various evergreen ferns add year-round interest, such as Robbiae and fragrant rosemary.
5. Integrate lighting to enjoy the garden at night
As one of the garden lighting ideas, lighting is incorporated into the design of the steps, making them a sparkling highlight at night.
Wall lanterns placed at seating areas and fill lights around the raised beds provide further points of illumination, allowing the garden to be enjoyed well into the night and creating an outdoor living space for summer evenings.