I often actually find small gardens more fun to design than a large one. Many times a small garden can be done in more expensive materials because you are not trying to fill up such a large area within a certain budget. Jaliya’s Memorial Garden in my back yard is less than a quarter acre. However, it feels much larger.
For one, it does not have the typical lawn of most back yards. Lawns take up space and often allow you to see the whole space at once because of their openness. There are places for lawns and sometimes the shape of a lawn can add a design element.
One of the big keys for making a small garden seem bigger is to divide it into smaller spaces and be sure you can’t really take in the whole garden in one view. At the moment, Jaliya’s garden is not to that point yet. Most of the plants have been planted in the past 4 years and they have not matured enough to divide the areas up. It does however have themes in certain areas. There is the “tropical lagoon” with large leafed native plants surrounding a small pool of water that appears to be spring -fed. There is the dry outcropping, a dry meadow, a wt meadow, and the shady woodland area.
A gravel path leads the eye through the garden but you can’t see exactly where the path goes unless you walk it. The path says that there is more to see, come on and explore. The garden is also divided by the stream flowing between the two ponds. Once the path takes you over the stone bridge, you feel that you have entered another room of the garden. Paths are an important feature to most gardens. They add structure and allow the garden designer to present the garden in the manner he wishes it to be seen. The shape and material of the path also helps to dictate the speed at which the visitor explores the garden. The view points ahead of the visitor along the path are opportunities to showcase certain plants or features.
The small garden can also be divided up by changes in elevation. These can be subtle changes in slope as I created in Jaliya’s garden. A couple of spots along the path intentionally drop slightly to increase the feeling of entering into another space. Other ways are the use of retaining walls or rock outcroppings.
All of these ideas can be used in larger gardens. They are more necessary in the small garden.