Maximizing Small Outdoor Spaces: Tips for Urban Garden Design

February 10, 2024

Flower Powered designs and installs many urban gardens and courtyard garden. Here in Philadelphia, small garden spaces are the norm. Most are long, narrow spaces that lack beauty and/or privacy. If you have a small garden area, but don’t know where to start, read more to get some ideas and inspirations.

Considering Functionality

Beauty and function aren’t mutually exclusive when you plan a small garden. There is room for both. But it does make sense to prioritize your goals, prior to implementing your garden layout. Use these ideas to help you make a great small garden, with big interest.

Analyze your Entertainment Needs

For guest and hosts alike, outdoor entertainment always feels more special, relaxing and less formal. But, how many people do you need to accommodate? Maybe you need an intimate seating for two, or a large sit-down dinner for eight? Make sure your dining, cooking and lounging areas are large enough to accommodate these entertainment needs.

Versatile Elements Are Important

Elements that provide more than one function are the key to maximizing your limited space requirements.

Lightweight, folding tables and chairs can be set up in an instant, and conveniently stored when not in use.

Look for ways to add bench seating on a capped wall or raised bed, by using comfortable cushions.

Utilizing a patio table, that extends, will offer versatility when accommodating a varying number of guests.

Benches, at a rectangular table,offers more seating than individual chairs and give you that farm-to-table feeling. Plus, it’s a great way to gather for Families with small children.

Instead of traditional wood burning fire pits, which often look unattractive when not in use, consider using a gas fire table. It can also double as a side table.

Is Your In-Ground Planting Space Limited?

Container gardening can be effective when in-ground space is precious. Make sure you use more narrow planters, instead of wide round containers that have large footprints. Find rectangle, elliptical or oval shaped planters that can be placed against a railing or wall.

Use several large containers rather than cluttering you space with many smaller ones. It will create more of an impact, and they are easier to water.

What types of plants do you want to grow in the space?

Do you want an herb garden, a place to grow vegetables, or your favorite cut flowers?

With a limited space, it is best to decide what to grow yourself and what you can purchase at a local garden center or farm. Growing plants and vegetables that are hard to find, expensive to purchase and that you frequently use, is usually the best course of action.

12 Design Tips for Small Garden Spaces

Now that you have considered your space considerations, here are some design tips that will help you provide the illusion of a larger space, while maximizing its performance.

Look for compact plant varieties– Choose plants that don’t overwhelm the ground area, but also use mid-size plants and columnar shaped trees and shrubs to achieve a sense of scale. We love using dwarf mugo pines to add structure to a winter garden.

Think vertical – Using the perimeter of the space provides opportunities to grow plants on trellises.Railings are good spaces for planters, and hanging baskets can be used to grow strawberries.

Lawn or not – Lawns in small spaces can be useful. For instance, if you have a dog or kids. However, not every gardens needs one. Can you use that space to extend a deck or patio?

Add sound to your garden –Waterfalls and ponds are nice to haves, but a simple fountain may do the trick.Using a wall-mounted fountain or bubbling tabletop water feature can add soothing sounds, while creating white noise to drown out the noise in an urban environment.

Creating order – clean and clear lines create a sense of orderliness and can define spaces. Rectangular lines can delineate garden and hardscaped areas, while the sweeping curves of a border garden can soften corners and awkward angles.

Keep color simple – Using a simple palette of two to three similar color shades, with green, will provide abetter feeling and won’t overwhelm the space with riotous color.

Use outdoor lighting – Path and spotlights will add safety and outdoor drama, allowing you to linger in the garden, long after sunset. For a soft glow from above, criss-crossing string lights can also add a romantic lighting effect.

Utilize your views – Framing an interesting view, outside your perimeter, can add a feeling of greater depth in your garden.

Create privacy – Large evergreen rows can create a privacy hedge, but your space may be too small for that idea.We like to use wood fences with horizontal panels that elongate the garden.Painting or staining a fence a dark color enhances plant colors, and actually makes the space feel bigger.

To draw interest to the rear gate, we used horizontal panels on the main fence, and vertical panels on the rear arched gate. This created a sense of destination.

Use diagonals – 45 degree decking,or pavers, breaks up the horizontal feel in most gardens, adding the illusion of a larger space. It can also lead the viewer to another area of interest such as a corner garden or even a nice She Shed.

Choosing outdoor furniture – Look for sleek profiles, versus chunky features, to maximize space and enhance flows.

Gardening in Philadelphia can be fun and inspiring, contact Flower Powered to get that great garden space, you’ve always dreamed of.

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