Gardening

Landscaping Tips for Small Yards

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If you are a regular reader then the name of this post should be, Backyard Landscaping Update: Fall 2014. For the rest of you this is officially called Landscaping Tips for Small Yards because we have learned so much through the process of creating a landscape completely from scratch.

Here’s a quick recap.

  • Approximately one year ago today we moved into a new home with a very small backyard
  • We chose to not have grass installed into the backyard
  • Instead, we created a water-wise xeriscape landscape
  • Catch up on our Small Backyard Landscape progress and process.
Most people never begin a new garden landscape because they don't know where to start. I have several Gardening Landscape Tips for Small Yards that will teach you the design elements that will make your small yard beautiful. #landscaping #landscapingfrontyard #diylandscaping #landscapingonabudget | seasonedhomemaker.com

Landscaping Tips for Small Yards

Now that the basics are covered I want to share Six Landscaping Tips for putting together a beautiful landscape. Even if you don’t live in a dry climate like Central Texas, if you apply these tips to your landscape you will have beautiful results.


Tip #1: Vision

You have to have a vision for what your landscape will look and feel like. You can dream it up or you can draw inspiration from a variety of choices. For me there are two places that I’ve drawn my inspiration. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, TX and the San Antonio Botanical Gardens in San Antonio, Texas. Both of these are a short distance from my home and they showcase native plants in beautiful settings.

With loads of inspiration and a little experience we created our vision and this is what it included.

  • Dry creek bed for drainage because the lots behind us were higher. Not addressing this would mean ponds and wetlands in our yard. Not good.
  • An area for a fire pit because we don’t have a fireplace inside our house.
  • Walking path of decomposed granite for access to the two side yards
  • Low water usage plants
  • A large tree and an ornamental tree
  • Large beds so I could integrate vegetables rather than a formal vegetable garden (like my last house).
Most people never begin a new garden landscape because they don't know where to start. I have several Gardening Landscape Tips for Small Yards that will teach you the design elements that will make your small yard beautiful. #landscaping #landscapingfrontyard #diylandscaping #landscapingonabudget | seasonedhomemaker.com

Tip #2: Color

When planning any landscape you need to think about how it will feel, and some of that feeling should come with color.

  • Choose 2-3 colors to anchor the landscape
  • Pick colors you love.
  • Think about how the colors will interact with the overall design of your landscape.
  • Choose colors you want to see when you look out your windows.

If you think about how much color affects mood then apply this thought to a landscape. For example, a Japanese garden contains certain colors in order to evoke a sense of peace. On the other hand, a true butterfly garden with all sorts of colorful plants will bring a variety of wildlife, which adds its own brand of color.

For my small backyard I have intentionally planted these two plants because they have grayish leaves and purple blooms. When they are clustered together they have a very calming effect.

Most people never begin a new garden landscape because they don't know where to start. I have several Gardening Landscape Tips for Small Yards that will teach you the design elements that will make your small yard beautiful. #landscaping #landscapingfrontyard #diylandscaping #landscapingonabudget | seasonedhomemaker.com

I also continued the grayish-blue theme by I adding some Artemisia and Lamb’s Ear. These three plantings are in different parts of the yard but your eye is always drawn to them. It causes you to sweep your eyes across the entire landscape in order to connect these colors.

Most people never begin a new garden landscape because they don't know where to start. I have several Gardening Landscape Tips for Small Yards that will teach you the design elements that will make your small yard beautiful. #landscaping #landscapingfrontyard #diylandscaping #landscapingonabudget | seasonedhomemaker.com
Most people never begin a new garden landscape because they don't know where to start. I have several Gardening Landscape Tips for Small Yards that will teach you the design elements that will make your small yard beautiful. #landscaping #landscapingfrontyard #diylandscaping #landscapingonabudget | seasonedhomemaker.com

My second color for the landscape was yellow. Yellow draws the eye every time and this is why I made sure to plant Esperanza along the back fence. {If you live in Texas and don’t have an Esperanza in your landscape, you need to plant one next year. It grows like a weed, blooms all summer, doesn’t need much water or fertilizer, and has no natural enemies.}

This bright, showy plant insures that every time I look out my back window I will see a beautiful pop of color.

Most people never begin a new garden landscape because they don't know where to start. I have several Gardening Landscape Tips for Small Yards that will teach you the design elements that will make your small yard beautiful. #landscaping #landscapingfrontyard #diylandscaping #landscapingonabudget | seasonedhomemaker.com

Tip #3: Texture

  • Texture invites touch in a landscape
  • Blend course and fine textures for balance
  • Decks, stonework, and paths add texture

You’ve seen the Lamb’s Ear above which is a perfect example of texture. It’s soft and fuzzy, inviting you touch it. The same is true for foxtail ferns which can never be resisted. When adding texture to any landscape mix a lot of different textures for interest. Look for plants that move in the breeze, plants with interesting bark, plants that invite touch.

Blending textures is one way to get interest in the landscape. Include a balance of fine textured plants alongside courser textured plants. Before you know it, there will be harmony in the garden.

Most people never begin a new garden landscape because they don't know where to start. I have several Gardening Landscape Tips for Small Yards that will teach you the design elements that will make your small yard beautiful. #landscaping #landscapingfrontyard #diylandscaping #landscapingonabudget | seasonedhomemaker.com

Notice how different the two leaf shapes are in these different plants. Placing the larger leaf basil (left) next to oregano (bottom, right) adds texture and variety to my herb garden.

Most people never begin a new garden landscape because they don't know where to start. I have several Gardening Landscape Tips for Small Yards that will teach you the design elements that will make your small yard beautiful. #landscaping #landscapingfrontyard #diylandscaping #landscapingonabudget | seasonedhomemaker.com

A deck is a great example of texture. It’s made from wood (cedar, in our case) which is a natural element. When it is incorporated into the landscape, it adds a texture completely different from the plant materials while still remaining familiar.

Most people never begin a new garden landscape because they don't know where to start. I have several Gardening Landscape Tips for Small Yards that will teach you the design elements that will make your small yard beautiful. #landscaping #landscapingfrontyard #diylandscaping #landscapingonabudget | seasonedhomemaker.com

Anchor pieces like this cast iron chiminea bring texture into the garden as a stand-alone feature.

Most people never begin a new garden landscape because they don't know where to start. I have several Gardening Landscape Tips for Small Yards that will teach you the design elements that will make your small yard beautiful. #landscaping #landscapingfrontyard #diylandscaping #landscapingonabudget | seasonedhomemaker.com

Tip #4: Movement

Ever been mesmerized by a field of wheat moving in the breeze? There is something about movement in the landscape that we are drawn towards. In my backyard I have planted grasses and a willow-y shrub to insure movement.

  • Grasses are a great way to get movement
  • Water Features provide both sound and movement
  • Willow-y plants and trees work well, too

The plant with the small pink flowers is a feature plant called Whirling Guara. Like its name implies, it is never static. If I had a larger backyard I would have more of them planted. Because of my yard’s size, I have one. It is enough of a feature to add plenty of movement.

Most people never begin a new garden landscape because they don't know where to start. I have several Gardening Landscape Tips for Small Yards that will teach you the design elements that will make your small yard beautiful. #landscaping #landscapingfrontyard #diylandscaping #landscapingonabudget | seasonedhomemaker.com

Grasses are really a great go-to plant for adding movement. In our landscape we’ve integrated grasses into every bed. That means that everywhere your eye moves there is movement. As you scan through the photo below notice that there are wispy grasses and stiff grasses. Texture AND movement.

Most people never begin a new garden landscape because they don't know where to start. I have several Gardening Landscape Tips for Small Yards that will teach you the design elements that will make your small yard beautiful. #landscaping #landscapingfrontyard #diylandscaping #landscapingonabudget | seasonedhomemaker.com

We don’t have a water feature in our yard. Instead, we have a dry creek bed that curves. This creates the feel of movement without having the element of water included. Notice all of the curves in the stonework. This also creates an element of movement.

Most people never begin a new garden landscape because they don't know where to start. I have several Gardening Landscape Tips for Small Yards that will teach you the design elements that will make your small yard beautiful. #landscaping #landscapingfrontyard #diylandscaping #landscapingonabudget | seasonedhomemaker.com


Tip #5: Whimsy

  • Adds charm to the landscape
  • Best if limited to backyards

Who wants to take their landscape too seriously. Adding a touch of whimsy into a landscape will add humor and interest. Just don’t go overboard.

I have a rule about this: A little whimsy goes a long way. Keep it tasteful. See how Mr. Frog quietly guards the bird bath.

Most people never begin a new garden landscape because they don't know where to start. I have several Gardening Landscape Tips for Small Yards that will teach you the design elements that will make your small yard beautiful. #landscaping #landscapingfrontyard #diylandscaping #landscapingonabudget | seasonedhomemaker.com

This is my goat, Euphemia (Phemie, for short) who invites all guests into the garden. Children love her and adults smile. I’ve placed her near a rock because it seems likely for a goat to be climbing a rock. When adding whimsical pieces, keep it in line with the overall scale of your landscape and small pieces can tastefully embellish your yard.

Most people never begin a new garden landscape because they don't know where to start. I have several Gardening Landscape Tips for Small Yards that will teach you the design elements that will make your small yard beautiful. #landscaping #landscapingfrontyard #diylandscaping #landscapingonabudget | seasonedhomemaker.com


Tip #6: Unity

Unity in the landscape is elemental. It’s what brings the whole design together and holds your attention.

  • Should be the main element in any landscape design
  • Incorporates familiar elements in more than one place
  • Themes create unity (think: Japanese garden)
  • Created by repetition

The final thing that ties any landscape together is unity. You have to have unity or you don’t really have a landscape. In our small backyard landscape we’ve achieved unity by sticking to a xeriscape theme. This theme uses rocks and water-wise plants as fundamental elements. Even our path is made from decomposed granite which continues the theme.

All of these elements at some place touch. The stones meet the river rocks or the decomposed granite touches the stone wall. This is what creates repetition and unity.

Most people never begin a new garden landscape because they don't know where to start. I have several Gardening Landscape Tips for Small Yards that will teach you the design elements that will make your small yard beautiful. #landscaping #landscapingfrontyard #diylandscaping #landscapingonabudget | seasonedhomemaker.com

You ultimately create unity in any landscape when you connect all of the dots: Vision, Color, Texture, Movement, and Whimsey. Put them all together and keep it to scale and you will have created a landscape fit for any small yard.

Most people never begin a new garden landscape because they don't know where to start. I have several Gardening Landscape Tips for Small Yards that will teach you the design elements that will make your small yard beautiful. #landscaping #landscapingfrontyard #diylandscaping #landscapingonabudget | seasonedhomemaker.com

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