2016 / Solving problems

Illusions 1

(How to make a small garden look bigger.)

Do you have a small garden that you wish were bigger? Do you sigh when you think of having a vegetable or perennial garden but think you don’t have room for one? Do you have a small area that you want to turn into a garden but don’t know where to start? Then read on, as we share six tips with you that will help you get the most out of your small space.

Think of the journey. A walk through a small garden that you can see all  at one glance can be boring, to say the least. Add some mystery to the garden by adding curved pathways and planting tall plants or shrubs in the way so that you can’t see what is around the corner. If you have a long stretch of path, consider using larger pavers at the beginning and gradually reducing them in size as you get closer to the end. This will give the illusion that the path is much longer than it is.



Use dwarf versions of plants as features in the distance. A dwarf Alberta Spruce as a focal point in the back of the garden will fool the eye into thinking that it is much further away than it actually is, and the garden will seem bigger.



Choose plants that tend to have a civilized habit, that don’t overcrowd their neighbors. A small garden that is stuffed with plants crawling over each other will seem smaller than it is, so give them space.



Use color to your advantage. To the eye, purples and blues will recede into the background, while reds and yellows jump forward. Planting blue and purple flowers at the back of the border and the bright yellows, reds, and oranges in the front will make your flower beds appear deeper.



Plant in layers. Planting taller plants at the back of the border and planting successively shorter plants as you get towards the front gives your flower beds depth and interest and moves the eye around the garden. Different textured plants can achieve this effect, too.


Don’t forget to plant UP. There are lots of ways to add height to a garden, and by doing so, have room for even more plants. An old fence and/or a trellis at the back of a border can be the perfect place for a climbing vine like a Clematis or a climbing rose. And, if fruit is more your cup of tea, consider an espaliered apple or pear, a fruit tree that has been trained to grow flat against a support. It’s an interesting garden feature, and you will even get a few apples! (or pears, of course.)



Plant what you want. If you want vegetables and fruit, then plant them! There is no law that says that you have to have a special place in your garden just for edibles. If you want to grow tomatoes, then put them in with your perennials! Rhubarb is an interesting plant to contrast with finer leaved plants, and the stalks make delicious pies and jams. (Don’t eat the leaves, though, they are poisonous.) Beans can be grown on a trellis in the back of the border. Strawberries make a good ground cover. It’s your garden, and if space is in short supply, then plant it with things that make you happy!




Consider pots. Pots work beautifully on a patio or deck, and can also look great in a small garden, placed amongst the perennials. This allows you to change things around or grow plants that aren’t hardy in your zone and bring them in when the weather turns cold, and adds interest to the garden.


Well, that was eight things, not six! And the list goes on and on. One last word of advice- If you only stick to one rule in a small garden, stick to this one: Keep It Simple. A cluttered small garden will get out of control fast, and will make it seem smaller than ever. Less, as they say, really is more.

Next week, a few words on how to make a large garden feel smaller…

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