Although our website portfolio features some large, “flashy” landscaping projects, at least half of our projects are set in properties with limited outdoor space. Sometimes people hesitate to phone us because they think that the scope of a “small yard” landscape will be constrained by a small or uniquely shaped lot.
While there are some constraints when designing in a small yard environment, you do not need acres of land to achieve a successful landscape design. It is all about maximizing the area that you have and making the best possible use of it.
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Three Design Principles for Small Yard Landscapes
Defined Activity Zones
Fitting all of the desired features on your wish list into a small yard landscape calls for precise site planning that maximizes utility by organizing the available space into activity zones. Areas may be designated for quiet time and relaxation, play, entertaining guests, family gathering, cooking, or dining. Activity zones may be built around a specific feature such as a fire pit, a spa, or grilling patio.
Especially in small yard landscapes, there must be “breathing” room between the various components. Otherwise, the environment might feel crowded, like a room with too much furniture in it. Carefully planning the space between defined areas creates organic transitions that make the elements of the landscape design flow smoothly in a unified composition.
Even slight elevation changes can help to differentiate use areas in the landscape and introduce a sensation of spaciousness that continues through multiple levels. You could, for example, step out of the house onto a deck with a built-in spa, then down to a patio sitting area with a fire pit or a grill station. As you move from one area to the next, the changing elevation enhances the feeling of being in different outdoor “rooms”.
There are other design principles such as layering that can relieve the feeling of constraint in a small yard landscape. To learn more about those and the challenges they address download our ebook.
Overcoming Challenges in Small Yard Landscapes
In most ways, the landscape design process for a small yard is no different than large. However, two of the most common challenges faced by owners of small yards are:
Drainage and Grading Issues
People on smaller lots often tell us they have drainage problems. This comes up often with new construction homes where the lot gets flattened out and compacted during construction.
The good news is that landscaping will improve the grading and drainage system. It is built into the process.
The Long Wish List
How will we be able to fit in all of the features we hope to include in the new landscape design? Your Surrounds landscape architect will reimagine your backyard environment as separate but related function areas that accommodate some version of everything on your list. There are ways to tick most if not all the boxes on your wish list of desired features in a modified form.
Challenges Spark Creativity
Shallow backyards and narrow side yards can make ideal settings for the creation of lush, layered beds and border plantings. Side yards especially, sometimes passed over as problematic, can be used to great advantage and contribute a sense of completeness to the overall landscape.
So don’t let your concerns discourage you from exploring the options for making the most of your “small” yard. You may be surprised with how much you can do.