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How to Landscape a Small Backyard

how to landscape a small backyard

Achieve Maximum Impact With These Clever Landscape Design Tips!

Just because you have a smaller garden, doesn’t mean you can’t stand out.  Make the most of your small backyard with these easy garden landscape design ideas. Maximum impact with half the space!

1 / Create different areas / small backyard zones

Dividing up the open areas of a small space makes it feel significantly larger.  Try creating a small raised garden for growing herbs & veggies, another for a small piece of artificial turf, and then an attractive and restful seating nook.

small front garden with seating nook

2 / Add pops of colour

Place colourful foliage & flowers at the front of your garden beds. They’ll catch your attention immediately and any garden beyond will lose immediate focus and recede into the distance; a trick of the trade to help make it look larger.

3 / Embrace the power of perspective

Long, straight lines trick the eye into thinking a space is larger than it is. Try using slanting lines towards a focal point (such as a water feature, pergola or an outdoor sculpture) as one way to use perspective to your advantage. 

4 / Mix it up

Keep your backyard interesting with a mix of garden beds, container plantings, a seating area, or even a pergola to create an extra outdoor room.  With enough interest within your design, you’ll hardly notice the landscape size.

5 / The only way is up

With limited space, make full use of vertical spaces along shed & house walls. Espalier wiring systems are easy to install & you can grow climbers, passionfruit or even espalier apples & pears. This is also a service we are able to provide. 

6 / A borrowed view

Take advantage of your neighbour’s trees & gardens - ‘borrowing’ the view and creating the feel of a vista!

7 / Create a small back garden destination

The highlight of this small landscape design in Auckland was a cosy outdoor cedar hot tub. Placing the spa just off the decked area helped the small garden feel much more spacious.

small backyard landscape design

8 / Love luscious leaves

Big, bold tropical plants feel and look lush, plus they grow well in our Auckland climate. The large foliage contrasts well with smaller areas, helping even the smallest garden feel much bigger.

9 / Keep plants vertical

It’s good to look for plants and trees that have a columnar shape and grow up - rather than using those that spread out.  Look out for dwarf varieties of citrus and feijoa to incorporate fruit trees without taking up valuable space. For feature trees and plants try ‘Thuja Smaragd’, ‘Cordyline ‘Stricta Show Off’, ‘Fairy Bamboo’ or ‘Apodasmia Similis’ – all of which have a strong vertical structure.

10 / Conquer the corners

Rather than ignoring awkward nooks and dead corners, turn them into focal points. Try using an oversized container – you can add a feature tree, seasonal colour, or interesting foliage.  Your local garden centre will be able to suggest suitable plants – just tell them how exposed and sunny/shady your spot is.

tropical corner garden

11 / Landscape without lawn

If you only have a small space, consider skipping a real lawn altogether.  Claire Talbot from Sculpt Gardens comments “We are seeing more and more clients with smaller gardens choosing to use artificial grass.  It’s great if you have dogs, easy to keep clean, looks great all year round with little maintenance and - best of all - no mowing required!”

12 / Add raised areas into your landscape design

Give your small garden a sense of perspective and height by raising up plantings. Our favourite ones to try in small spaces are retaining walls or planter boxes. This kind of design helps the eye move up and creates an attractive visual distraction from the lack of floor space.

small garden corten steel planter boxes

13 / Less is always more

Create a sense of calm and order, and reduce visual clutter, by keeping a refined plant palette.  Choose just a few plants and repeat throughout the garden, or just stick to one colour.

It’s that easy! Follow these landscape design techniques to transform even the tiniest back garden into a dream landscape. Your oasis may be small, but it will be beautiful!


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