Gardens - Small Gardens

10 tips for a spectacular small garden

Create your own private little oasis with expert tips from a landscape architect

Can you create a garden with a big-space feeling—a rambling pathway, a series of “rooms,” a pond, the sense of your own private little world—in a typical narrow city backyard? How can we banish that feeling of being merely another rectangle corralled by a fence, identical to every other rectangle up and down the block? Can an urban backyard be an escape, instead of a cell?

According to Kent Ford, landscape architect and principal of Kent Ford Design Group, size has nothing to do with it. It’s all about imagination, clever visual cues and incorporating a small number of bold ideas.

Kent’s garden display for the recent Canada Blooms show in Toronto was approximately 25 feet by 50—about the size of many typical urban backyards—but full of lovely, sensual treats: the whisper of gently falling water, dappled light through leaves, the scent of Stargazer lilies. Using the show garden as an example, we asked Kent to give us some tips on creating that rambling, romantic effect in our own gardens.


1. Create a level change at some point in the garden. Having a different elevation dividing the front from the back of your garden will make it seem bigger. The step down (or up) can be as little as 6" or as high as 18" (if the latter, install a short set of steps).


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