Small Garden Design Ideas For Any Setting

A well crafted small garden design could be desirable to people for a number of reasons. First, the outdoor space suitable for being turned into a garden could be rather small. Alternatively there could be plenty of outdoor space, but the person may not want to make a large garden. Also if the garden space is set in an urban setting there may only be a balcony or small patio available for a garden installation.

Those are all good reasons to desire a small garden space, but designing one for those applications can be tricky. It takes forethought and careful planning to make a garden of this type really work.

Here are a few small garden design ideas that anyone can use to get the most out of any space.

First, a person needs to consider what the purpose of the garden is: Decorative, functional, or a hybrid.

A decorative garden is one that focuses on plants that will have the largest visual impact per square foot without any consideration for edible, or in some other way functional plant. A functional garden on the other hand focuses on maximizing the yield per square foot of plants that can be eaten or used in some other productive manner (i.e. Aloe Vera for burns). Finally, a hybrid garden focuses on a cross between these two different concepts. It tries to produce a high yield of useful plants, while at the same time creating visual interest within the garden space.

The most common garden type that people choose in this regard is a hybrid approach. For the purposes of this article, it is this style that will be the focus of the following small garden design ideas.

The first concept that any person designing a small garden needs to understand is that raised beds always make for a more vigorous crop. Raised beds can be constructed in virtually any shape imaginable so they are the perfect container for any small garden. For example an urban gardener who only has a condo balcony to work with could build raised bed planters in the corners of the balcony and a long narrow one straight down the front parallel to the railing. This design creates a lot of growing space without taking away much of floor space on the balcony.

Another very useful idea to keep in mind when building a small garden is that it can be constructed horizontally as well as vertically. For example a wall or fence can easily be turned into a living wall by adding hanging planters or vining plants like grapes, hardy kiwi, or honeysuckle to it.

Whatever style of garden is being constructed one thing that is important to keep in mind is that in order to create a strong visual appeal, it is better to stagger plants of different heights and colors around one another. This creates texture and dimension to a garden space that can make it seem larger than it really is.

Building a garden is a tremendous amount of fun. By taking the small garden design ideas listed above and making them their own, a person will be able to build a visually interesting and useful garden that will impress all of their friends and family.

Garden Design – How to Plan Your Garden and Make a Garden Project?

The garden planning process starts with an analysis of the existing situation. You have to be aware, what are the values and what are the disadvantages of your garden. At first estimate the good views in the garden – to a natural territory, to a hill or a lake – mark on a plan all views, that you consider valuable. Mark also important views – from the garden terrace, from the living room in the house or any other place, which is used often. Estimate also bad views, which should be screened in the garden rearrangement process. After the analysis is completed, the planning stage starts, during which it is important to take into consideration the seven most important planning aspects.

1. The first and most important garden planning aspect is functionality. The garden plan should be created according to the functional zones of the territory. So the first task is to divide the garden into functional zones.

Each garden has a representative zone. Usually it embraces the front yard and it is situated by the main entrance, where are the first views towards the property, when approaching it. The representative zone has a decorative meaning – it should be appealing during the whole year. Therefore often evergreen plants are used in the representative area, plants, which have a beautiful silhouette, decorative leaves as well as annual flowers in the summer. Special decorative objects of art are also suggested to be placed in the representative zone of the garden.

The recreational zone is a garden area, which is used most often in the warm season. There can be a garden terrace or a gazebo as well as a bigger lawn area for outdoor activities and recreational equipment. If there is a swimming pool intended, it will also be placed in the recreational area. The recreational area can be dividend into a quiet and active zone. The quiet zone is designed for relaxation, dining and resting, but the active zone can be designed for different sports activities – it can also include some sports fields. In the recreational area such plants are planned, which have a long flowering period and which are specially decorative in the warm season. Near the terrace or gazebo some scented plants can be projected.

If the garden is used by children, a children’s playground will be one of the functional zones of the garden. The playground should be placed in such a part of a garden, which can be supervised by adults from a place, where they spend most of their time. It should be a sunny place, but shade also should be available in the hot season. The children’s playground is often dividend for children up to 6 years and for children 7 – 14 years of age. There are different activities and different types of play equipment intended for these age groups. The playground can have a special theme or it can be intended for some specific activities – imagination games, adventure, gymnastics, water therapy etc. Choose the plants by the playground carefully – be sure to avoid poisonous plants and plants with thorns.

Another important functional zone is the household area. It is a place, where you will put a compost heap, a barn or a greenhouse, where a dog can be kept and some construction materials can be stored. There was a tradition to screen the household area from the rest of the garden before, but nowadays it is often left open and designed so, that it looks appealing.

All elements, which are planned later in the garden should be arranged according to the layout of the functional zones. Do not put elements from one zone into another zone – that is the basic tip to form a logical garden layout.

2. The second important aspect in a garden project is the ecological aspect. The ecological aspect suggests to appreciate the natural values of the garden, to choose plants according to the ecological conditions of each specific place and to arrange the garden in an environmentally friendly way. Evaluate carefully the natural values of your site – do not rush to cut trees, shrubs and eliminate natural biotopes. A natural meadow, a wetland, a river coast or a forest ground cover can be much more valuable than artificially created plantings.

And moreover, when planning new plants, they should be chosen according to the ecological conditions of the place – sun or shade, humidity, nutrients in the soil, alkaline or acid soil etc. Plants with opposite ecological demands can not be planted close together.

3. The third important planning aspect is the visual aspect, which means the artistic composition of the garden – how will it actually look like? The garden composition like any kind of art has to be harmonic, based on a good choice of proportions. There can be different design concepts, but it is important to connect the concept with the existing situation – the landscape embracing the territory and the style of the buildings in the territory – all these elements should compose a united composition with the garden. The garden style can be more natural – appropriate for countryside, bigger gardens and more natural environments. Or on the other hand it can be more artificial, composed of different pavements, architectural elements and regular forms – appropriate for city gardens, historical gardens and small sites. In countryside gardens the territory is often dividend in different zones of naturalness – closer to the house the garden is designed more regular and further away it becomes more natural.

4. For sites with a great historical value it is important to take into consideration the historical aspect and the garden has to be planned according to the historical style of the buildings.

5. Symbolic aspect of planning can be important in gardens with a symbolic meaning.

6. Psychological aspect is very important in all gardens. It is important, that people in the garden feel comfortable, relaxed and are not restricted or stressed by anything in the garden. There are different environmental factors, which have impact on our perception of the garden (e.g. vastness, complexity, mystery, flexibility, uniqueness, light, colors, contrast, materials etc.) and they should be adjusted to the optimal level of the garden users, when creating a garden design. The optimal level is not the same for everybody – each person has a different optimal level for each environmental factor.

7. Economical aspect is also important to plan a garden, which fits the planned expenses for it’s establishment.

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Garden Design: The Natural Palette

Well-designed gardens and landscapes, no matter how varied in style and period, all have certain basic design principles at their core. To create a masterful garden, there must be attention to: unity, scale, space division, light and shade, texture, and tone and color.

Garden designers must also consider maturation of plants and seasonal changes. Finally, there is time-a design principle not required by other fine and decorative arts.

Unity

Perhaps, it is a reflection of our contemporary era that unity is the most lacking in today’s garden. We live piecemeal, hurried lives and tend to patch together lives and gardens as we go along. But the goal of unity is to give a totality, or strength of purpose to the design. Tone and color or texture can be used as unifying elements, but they are not enough to create a garden whole.

Modern gardens tend to be inward looking as very few of us have country estates where we see the horizon over the hill. But even so, we can design our gardens to be progressive or static. The first leads the eye down an axis, while a static garden is built on a central open space where the eye is brought to rest.

Scale

In either design it is important to think about scale. Even an outdoor room must compete with the vastness of the sky. There is a need for ample proportion, and a nodding acquaintance with the laws of perspective. There must be a definition of the space, and it must relate to the human scale. If you have assets of gigantic proportion, like enormous trees, it is best to insert a transition or buffer of medium scale that then relates further to people in the landscape.

As for the scale of all the parts of your design, you have two choices. Either all the parts should fit together as one whole, or one (only one) should dominate. That is how you create a focal point. Consider also how your eye reacts. A view is shortened as you look uphill and lengthened as you look down. You can enlarge and blur boundaries by placing them in shade.

Division of Space

You must also divide your space to make it interesting. You create pattern by how you distribute, and the proportion of, open spaces and solid mass. A prime example is a colonnade of trees leading the eye forward. You must decide how many trees, of what size girth (when they mature) and how far apart to plant them.

In dividing your space, you can either use a firm, architectural style or a loose more organic style.

Light & Shade

Light and shade also are important additions to your palette with the potential to elicit emotional response. Think of the appeal of sunlight falling on an open spot in a glade. The sunlight is a wonderful surprise, and much more exciting when viewed from a shady area.

Keep in mind that texture can only be shown with light. For example, site something highly carved or intricately detailed where it will be illuminated. On the other hand, a structural element can be strengthened if it is sited to appear in silhouette, with little detail and only the shape apparent.

Texture

Texture itself becomes more and more important as pattern decreases. The use of texture is strongest in Japanese garden design. The classic garden, with a highly formal pattern, relies on simplicity of surfaces.

The more modern garden, particularly those of smaller scale, can successfully use textures to build pattern. This is especially appropriate where elements are seen at close range and texture can be fully appreciated.

Tone & Color

Finally, the most appreciated and least understood garden design element, is that of tone and color. We all think we can use tone and color successfully, but it is no surprise that most great garden designers were also artists. To fully utilize color, you need to understand the principles of color harmony. That said, we’ll all continue with our illusions, and have a wonderful time creating our gardens.

Basis For Expression

If all of these design principles are well employed, they create a wonderful basis for truly original expression. The basics of garden design are like the foundation for a house. Once in place, there is limitless opportunity for personal expression.