For those of us who live in the city or on a smaller plot of land, we don’t have much room for an extensive landscape design. At Dennis’ 7 Dees, one of the main concerns we hear from some of our clients is that their space isn’t large enough for special landscaping features, but that simply isn’t the case! A smaller yard does not mean you can’t have a beautiful outdoor living area.

The first thing to consider is how you want to use your space—perhaps you prefer a quiet spot to read a book and enjoy nature or an intimate atmosphere to gather with friends and family. Or maybe al fresco dining is of utmost importance to you. No matter your goal, there’s a solution. Here are several small backyard landscaping ideas to consider:

1. Bring Indoor Comforts Outside

bring the comforts of your home outdoors

One of our favorite ideas for small-space outdoor living is a patio that acts as an extension of your home. Not only will this create a cozy spot for you to enjoy, but it also forms a natural flow from inside to outside, giving the illusion that your outdoor area is larger than it really is. Not only can this be achieved with a large door that opens up to the patio area, but also by integrating similar design elements used indoors such as color, texture, and material.

2. Keep it Simple

keep the landscape simple

Sometimes, less is more. Clutter tends to make a small space feel even smaller. Luckily, there are many ways to embrace minimalism in landscape design. Go for simple shapes, clean lines, and limited materials in a hardscaped patio. Fewer species of plants are often better in a smaller yard, especially if they are repeated throughout the space. A cohesive color palette can also make a big difference. By streamlining these elements, you may find your tight space to be much more relaxing.

3. Focus on a Feature

focus on one main feature in the landscape

There’s no reason you can’t have a special feature in your modest outdoor space. Think about adding a fire pit for friends and family to gather around on those chilly nights. Try an attractive water feature or a petite koi pond—the sound of water can mask nearby street noise and loud neighbors. Why not install a mini outdoor kitchen to kick dinnertime up a notch? Any of these options would create an excellent focal point in your yard.

4. Contain Your Garden

Container garden

Don’t have much room in your backyard for planting? Container gardening is the way to go! Landscape Designer Eric Hagberg says, “Pots can be a great way to utilize plants in a very small landscape while adding a sculptural feature.” Containerized plantings allow for ample flexibility—they are portable and accessible, require less weeding and digging, and can easily be changed out for seasonal interest. Best of all, you can grow your own edible garden!

5. Grow Up (Think Vertically)

Grow vertically

Take advantage of opportunities to landscape vertically. Build upward instead of outward by making your walls or fences into fundamental features. Incorporate wall planters and hanging baskets or even create a striking vertical garden by espaliering plants against a wall or trellis. If you prefer to plant in-ground, be sure to consider plants that have more upright growth habits.

6. Versatility Is Key

Table that turns into a fire pit
Table that turns into a fire pit

Maximize your small outdoor space by incorporating multipurpose elements. A retaining wall can double as a built-in seating area and even a raised planting bed. A pergola can offer privacy from neighbors, protection from sun and rain, and even a structure to hang plants from. Perhaps your outdoor coffee table turns into a small fire pit—think outside the box!

7. Seek Peace Amongst Plants

seek peace in plants

Create a sanctuary right outside your door by filling your space with lots of plants—this can make your backyard appear more substantial as well as creating a natural privacy screen. Choose big, bold foliage for a tropical vibe, or pick native plants to attract local pollinators. It may require some maintenance, but if you put some thought into your plant palette, your secret garden can be a success.

8. Break It Up

break up your small space to make it seem larger

“It may seem counterintuitive to divide what seems like an already small space, but creating smaller ‘rooms’ out of a larger space can actually make it more functional and give greater purpose to each space,” claims Eric Hagberg. Just like inside your house, there are many ways to separate a yard into sections, including the use of plants, varied ground materials, hardscaped/wood structures, pathways, furniture, and so on.

9. Go With the Flow

let your backyard flow into the sideyard

Many of us have that awkward or narrow side yard that we don’t use. Instead of letting it go to waste, create a landscape design that flows into that space. This can be done with an extended lawn (or artificial turf), a structured pathway, or even raised beds for gardening. Utilizing this space in a way that complements the backyard will make your entire area look and feel that much bigger.

Having a smaller yard has some great benefits. Not only can a small space save you money on landscape design and maintenance, but it can also allow you to focus on what’s really important to you in your outdoor living space. We love the opportunity to get creative with our landscape designs, big or small!

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