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Small Gardens

For people who have very small homes, or who have limited yard space around their homes, the small garden can be the answer to a lot oflandscaping design challenges.

Small gardens help create interest and variety in what would otherwise appear to be only a few square feet of grass. This is especially the case in patio and townhomes that sometimes have nothing more than a patch of green next to the driveway.

This is not to say that larger homes can not benefit from this type of garden design as well. Many people with Italian style two story homes also like this form because it is an excellent way to decorate a balcony with organic vertical impact that adds vitality and a sense of classical Mediterranean experience to the structure.

Small gardens can be planted near or around any landscaping element. They can either function as accents to other forms, or they can also work as islands of interest in any place of special note. They are also commonly used to highlight the fronts of outdoor kitchens, arbors, architectural walls, gazebos, patios, and gates. All of these elements gain richly from the color, dimension, and organic presence created by small gardens.

Garden designers select plants whose color, shape, size, and texture can be combined to create an illusion of small space. One method that is also commonly utilized is to use at least three shades of green when planting a small garden.


This suggests a layering of color regardless of whether or not the actual plants themselves are growing at different elevations. The same principle is used in selecting flowering plants—the more diversity of color, the more multidimensional appears the garden.

People often mistakenly believe that small gardens mean small plants. This is by no means the case. Because the purpose of the garden is to create the sense of proportional enlargement, it may be necessary in some places to use rather tall plants, or even trees, to compliment a structure whose very presence adds vertical impact to the Houston landscape.

One common example of this would be a garden planted in the corner of a stone wall. The vegetation has to compliment linearity in both directions, which means it has to appear in relationship to the wall without being overpowered by it or overpowering it in turn.

Such skillful use of illusion is really what small garden design is all about. We see this particularly in contemporary garden design where the standards of the assumed and the normal are turned on their heads in favor of the abstract and the avant garde.

In these worlds, gardens always have more inorganic elements such as stone, white walls, black rocks, mirrors, decorative glass, and even stainless steel. Greenery is kept to a minimal, and flower color is more often than not limited to white. Such a complex interplay between non-living and living elements works to challenges one’s ideas about what life itself is and the true nature of thought and its place in man’s evolution.

Water features can also be a keynote to small garden design. A custom fountain, such as a morning garden, often brings serenity to the landscape within the organic frame of a short hedgerow border and a gravel drain concealing a self-sustaining water circulation system. While such a garden may appear to be little more than a few miniature shrubs, the experience of the fountain itself is the point—not the amount of vegetation that surrounds it.

Another excellent place to plant a small garden is inside a patio. A designated portion of the patio can be removed and replaced with various types of vegetation. Contemporary gardens tend to favor lots of gravel and dark green plants—possibly even a small tree or bush. More traditional forms of design may use anything from multi-colored flower patches to special grasses and tropical plants.