Small Formal Garden

One of the beauties of small formal gardens is the versatility of their placement. They can be placed anywhere in a yard, and they are by no means limited to small properties. In fact, very large yards that otherwise appear overwhelming to the eye can be subdivided into zones of interest by planting small custom gardens in strategic areas.

Small formal gardens are arranged around symmetrical designs and geometric shapes such as circles and squares. They rely upon clipped hedges and very small squares of greenery to achieve their effect. In most instances, they are either built in small yards or in very small areas of the yard where larger landscape elements cannot be installed. This makes it possible for the owners of lots of any size to add maximum curb appeal to their property.

A very popular design for small formal garden is to build it with raised beds. Each bed stands out on its own and works to create the geometry of the garden as a whole. Raised bed gardens are usually square with L-shaped beds. This allows people to move freely between the beds along bisecting axes that run between them. Due to the fact that there is only a limited amount of space to work with, the garden designer must work hard to create a very focused, singular effect. Repeating forms of the same flowers, hedges, and special grasses work nicely to accomplish this.

Professionally designed small formal gardens use a limited amount of materials. Too many different elements will make it look cluttered and overwhelm the eyes. We design most small gardens with a simple gravel hardscape and two or three species of repeating green plants of varying shades. Plants are carefully chosen that will grow very slowly and low to the ground. This helps minimize maintenance by maintaining garden shape for long periods of time. Flowering plants are used to add color to the design.


The garden is always built around a central focal point of some kind. This can be something as simple as an urn that sits in a circle of stones ringed by boxwoods, or it can be something much more elaborate. Low-growth tree, classical sculptures, or water features are all effective focal points.

Water elements are especially useful focal points in small gardens because they create such feelings of tranquility. Reflecting ponds are an ingenious method of creating a mirror-like effect that makes the garden look much larger than it is. Fountains add vertical impact by creating an upward flow of continuous movement. This effect is magnified even further when illuminated by special lighting at night.

One example would be to plant two gardens on either side of a long front walkway leading up to a home set back from the street. Another example would be to plant a small garden between the home and the garage and install shade resistant plants that will add color to an otherwise drab and fallow area. Still another place where a small formal garden can be highly effective is near a custom patio or raised wood deck. This can function as a transition area that invites visitors to stroll through the rest of the landscape.