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 and we’re constantly looking for landscaping ideas for small backyards. 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. Create an Outdoor Living Room: Bring Indoor Comforts Outside

Outdoor fire place and living area with retaining wall and lush plantings beyond - by Dennis' 7 Dees

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.

This can be achieved with a large door that opens up to the patio area or by simply integrating similar design elements used indoors such as color, texture, and material. This is one of our favorite landscaping ideas for small backyards since you can follow the design scheme from within your home and alter it for the outdoors.

2. Keep It Simple in Small Backyards

Side yard with walkway and chairs with plants - by Dennis' 7 Dees

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 hardscaping materials in a small 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 difference. By streamlining these elements, you may find your tight space to be more relaxing.

3. Focus on a Feature in the Landscape

Outdoor firepit on paver patio with wall and grass - by Dennis' 7 Dees

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 smaller backyard.

4. Contain Your Garden with Raised Beds

Raised garden beds with plants and climbing vines - by Dennis' 7 Dees

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 in a small space!

Check out our blog for a quick guide on Raised Garden Beds.

5. Grow Up (Think Vertically)

Jasmine vine growing vertically on a trellis - by Dennis' 7 Dees

Although this can be a great tactic in any sized landscape, on of our favorite landscaping ideas for small backyards is to garden vertically with climbers and tall plants.

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 with climbing vines or 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 and create structures for them to climb. Find the perfect vine for your space here, or read our vine guide.

6. Versatility in Small Backyard Design Is Key

Round patio with firepit and retaining wall Jasmine vine growing vertically on a trellis - by Dennis' 7 Dees

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! In the image above, the central table is also a fire pit/fire table.

7. Create Dense Plantings for a Backyard Escape

Lush green plantings on a slope with a retaining wall Round patio with firepit and retaining wall Jasmine vine growing vertically on a trellis - by Dennis' 7 Dees

It may be counterituitive for landscaping ideas for a small bakcyard, but creating dense plantings truly feels like an escape! 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 native plants to attract local pollinators. It may require some maintenance, but with a thoughtful plant palette, your secret garden can be a success.

8. Break It Up

Geometric lines divide a xeriscaped landscape - By Dennis' 7 Dees

“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,” says designer 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 – Into Unexpected Spaces

Fire pit and pathway in a side yard and plantings - By Dennis' 7 Dees

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, artificial turf, a structured pathway, or even raised gardening beds. Utilizing this space in a way that complements the backyard will make your entire area look and feel that much bigger.

This brings us to an obvious point: all of these landscaping ideas for small backyards can work in side yards and front yards!

Having a smaller yard has some great benefits. Not only can a small space save you money on landscape design and maintenance, 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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