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14 smart small yard landscaping ideas

14 smart small yard landscaping ideas

Leave some space

When considering landscaping ideas for a small yard, remember to leave space. It’s easy to overcrowd things and inadvertently create a claustrophobic effect. Here, a seating area has a clear view to the garden, courtesy of a small patch of grass and some unobstructed hardscaping.

Layered landscape

An easy backyard idea for small yards is to create a layered landscape – just like in nature. Think of a forest with low groundcovers, ferns, shade-tolerant understory shrubs and trees, and the tall overhead trees. You can do the same thing with your small yard landscaping! Use things like groundcovers, bulbs and crevice plants to create a beautiful layered landscape, while maximising your flower bed space!

Walls and fences

Sure, you want your small yard landscaping to include privacy, so why not utilise surrounding structures like walls and fences? For this small yard idea, vines are the perfect answer – just be sure to pick one that’s not invasive or a garden thug.

Vertical gardens

A popular trend in small yard ideas is to garden vertically. There are many off-the-shelf products that allow you to grow plants vertically, such as the wall planters seen here. Or you can create something yourself. Either way it creates gardening space out of thin air.

Hanging planters

Another clever way to maximise space is with hanging planters.

Window boxes

A more traditional way of maximising gardening space is with window boxes. Naturally, you can attach them beneath your windows. But other small yard ideas include placing them on a porch, around the perimeter of a patio, or hanging from a deck railing.

Dwarf plants

Growers are continually introducing new cultivars with special characteristics. One of those is a dwarf habit. When considering landscaping ideas, you can grow a tree that matures at 30cm or 25 metres. When you choose the former, you end up with enough space to add companion plants.

Columnar plants

While you’re considering size and growth characteristics, think about habit as well. Columnar plants, such as this upright pear cultivar, grow straight up. There’s more room to the side, and more light at the bottom for a greater variety of plants. And yet you still get the blooms and the fruit. Win-win!

Trailing plants

Here’s another shape that will help when looking for landscaping ideas for a small yard. You can run trailing plants down the side of a planter, as seen here, or let them trail from the top of a wall. Either way maximises space and softens a hard surface to help it blend into the landscape.

Crevice plants

Crevices are ubiquitous to most gardens, so you might as well make use of them. Sedum and other succulents such as Sempervivum are perfect for these spots, which are often on the lean and dry side. They make the space prettier and the hard surfaces less imposing.

Narrow spots

Along with crevices, most gardens have narrow strips that lack soil and moisture. Rather than fighting the conditions, work with them. One of the small yard ideas you can implement is to plant some tough, vining groundcovers and let them sprawl over the area. Use ivy in shady areas, succulents in sunny spots. A mulch of gravel is a nice low-maintenance addition that keeps plant foliage clean.


Let’s not forget containers when thinking about small yard landscaping. They’re more popular than ever – and not just because they maximise gardening space. Containers add greatly to a garden’s character. They allow you to show off your favourite plants. And if you coordinate their colour and arrange them in odd numbers, you create a dashing focal point.

Lawn substitute

As you saw earlier, a small lawn can be helpful to a small-space garden because it opens up the area and makes it feel less claustrophobic. Well, if you’re not going to be walking on the lawn all the time, you might consider substituting a groundcover. You not only avoid mowing, you also integrate the area into the landscape. With a groundcover, your lawn becomes the garden.

Bonsai and miniature garden

The smallest yard in the world has room for a garden when the plants are miniaturised. Examples include bonsai, miniature fairy gardens and terrariums. Although usually kept indoors in cold climates, they can holiday outside for the summer in a protected location where they’re not exposed to too much direct sunlight.

Written by Luke Miller. This article first appeared in Reader’s Digest. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, here’s our best subscription offer.

Image: Getty Images

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