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Seven Tips for Making a Small Garden Appear Larger

If you only have a small area in which to garden, chances are you want to make the garden look larger. . There is nothing new about visually expanding a space. The ancient Romans did it in their wall paintings, the Renaissance artists rediscovered the Roman works and expanded the knowledge, and the French developed Tromp l’oeil.  Let’s assume that your small space has some kind of boundary like a wall, fence, row of trees, or a hedge. Our goal is to make the garden appear like it is not confined by boundaries, and that the boundaries are further away that they actually are.

-Disguise. Turn a straight boundary into an irregular one by planting a variety of different plants. Use some vines to give part of the wall a softer texture, or cover part of a wall with a lattice or other decorative treatment. Suggest that more lies beyond the boundary by having a whole in the wall or paint a fake wall or door on a wall. Let a path end behind a shrub planted close to the boundary. Incorporate the neighbor’s desirable landscape items into your plan so that, for example, you enjoy the gorgeous tree that over hangs the boundary between your properties. Distant mountains, valleys, or bodies of water, can all be incorporated into you experience if they are visible from some part of your garden.

-Curves. Use long curves to lead your eye through the garden slowly. Avoid straight lines that tend to lead your eye quickly to the boundary thus decreasing the visual space between you and the wall. You may want to heighten the effect by positioning plants or other objects in such a way that the whole garden is not immediately revealed but is gradually revealed as the visitor moves through it.

-Rooms. Break up the space into smaller spaces or rooms set off from each other by changes in vegetation or in levels. This creates space by offering the eye more to savor. A change in level of just few inches will work if it is set off with stairs or planters to enhance the effect.

-Focal point. Provide a focal point of some sort. It does not matter exactly what it is as long as it catches the eye and is worth a lingering look so that the eye does not go quickly to the boundaries.

-Size. Using small objects in your garden will make your garden appear larger. This includes the plants, beds, furniture, garden ornaments and paving. Think of proportion and scale. The scale of all the objects in your garden should be reduced but in proportion to each other. Use bricks or pea gravel for paths rather than flagstones. Find a miniature birdbath for a niche in a border. Use a bistro set for sitting and dinning.

-Color. Use objects that have cool color flowers like blue and lavender, saving the hotter colors for an occasional accent. The cool colors tend to recede and so will seem further away thus increasing the visual size of your garden. Flowers of bright yellow or red, on the other hand will pop out at you and seem close thus visually reducing the space between them and you. Locate them at the front of the bed so the distance between them and the cool colored flowers is heightened. Keep the ratio between cool and hot colors about 4:1. Place plants with light colored foliage in front of darker ones and the darker ones will recede.

-Texture. Lacey, fine textures plants and other objects will create a feeling of lightness that translates into spaciousness. Let the visitor catch a glimpse of a wall or birdbath through the delicate leaves of a Japanese cut leaf maple, for example.

Let Us Know:

What problems did you encounter making a small garden?

What plants and plant combinations did you use in your small garden?

What garden ornaments were especially successful in your small garden?