40 Small Backyard Landscaping Ideas

Published by Armstone

Lots of homes in Australia these days are coming with smaller blocks of land, which means backyards are getting a lot smaller than they used to be. Small gardens can be difficult to design due to the limited scope and space to create grand views or an outstanding focal point. But that doesn’t mean you can’t beautifully landscape a small backyard.

There are lots of secret tricks and hacks that can make a small yard look larger and still allow you to incorporate all of the elements you want in a garden, like plants, water features, furniture, and so on.

If you just follow a few rules, along with some clever planning, you can transform your yard into a fun, useful, and attractive spot to relax and entertain outdoors. So let’s get into it.


Before you start landscaping your small backyard, you should make a plan that includes what you want to do and how you plan to get it done. Don’t skimp out on the plan, as excited as you may be to get started, as this will ensure the design comes together perfectly.

Here are some things to consider when planning.


    • Measure the size of your yard to determine how much space you will have to work with.
    • Check the climate in your yard and how much sunlight or shade it gets during the day.
    • Check the surroundings to see if there’s anything you want to conceal (a wall, fence, or utility box) or highlight (a nearby tree, view, or other surrounding landscape).
    • Check if the soil in your yard is made of clay or sand and whether it supports other plants or even weeds.

    • If you have some place from which to attach a hose to water the plants, get a self-coiling hose with a nozzle that will turn off the water and is the right size for your yard.
    • If you don’t have anywhere to attach a hose, get a large watering can instead.

    • Decide on what you’ll want to include in your yard (firepit, patio, garden, etc.) and where you want them to be.
    • Design your yard in square centimetres rather than metres, as fitting in all the things you want in a small backyard will require a very precise layout. The difference of several centimetres here or there determines whether or not you can add a water feature or firepit. By working in such small detail you can find ways to make the space even more useful, diverse, and attractive.

    • Think about whether you want your garden to be purely decorative or if you’d like to grow a few herbs or fruit and veg plants,
      Determine where you’ll want to be when you view your garden the most, e.g. from indoors or from outside while sitting in it. A small table and a chair or two – or maybe a hammock – can make your garden an attractive retreat in which to sit and read.

    • When it comes to backyards, using high-quality materials is inexpensive and adds beauty and longevity to the space.
    • Match your paving materials to your interior flooring. For example, if you’re using travertine indoors, use porcelain outside to mimic the colour and texture of the indoors.
    • You can also use accent materials such as coloured glass tiles for creative illumination at night, especially when integrated with a good outdoor lighting system.

    • Discard or remove any unnecessary items.
    • Give yourself space to organise and access all the items you’ll need.
    • Clean the whole yard, including raking fallen leaves, washing the wall and fence, and so on.
    • Store your bike, outdoor mop, bucket, and broom, and so on in a shed. If you don’t have or want a shed, at least reduce the size and number of items stored in your yard, and preferably keep them somewhere out of sight.


Whether you decide to create a powerful and exciting design or something more modern and minimalist, here are some landscaping ideas that will transform your backyard into something beautiful and functional – and the subject of envy.

Sink large elements below ground

Sinking large elements below ground level can create a sense of depth and offer the illusion of expansiveness. You can do this by building a small in-ground spa, pond, patio, or deck.

Use double-duty features

Using outdoor features that have a double function can save space. For example, a short raised wall for seating, a water feature and firepit rolled into one, or glass candleholders that serve as garden art during the day and as lights during the night.

Create a private far away seating area

Add interest and space to your small yard by creating a stone pathway that leads towards a secluded seating area at the back of the yard. You could put a stone bench and a tiny pond under a small tree for some privacy.

Use mirrors

Mirrors reflect light and create depth, making a small area look so much bigger. They’re also a great way to dress up a wall or fence.

Build a spiral herb garden

A small spiral herb garden with vertical design is a very productive, energy-efficient way to grow your own food and maximise space. You can use blocks of wood or stone to create the spiral and then add soil and plant herbs between the lines.

Have multiple focal points

Create many small focal points throughout your yard that can surprise people when they unexpectedly discover them, such as an object of art sequestered amidst the plants or flowers.

Boost the backyard interest

Create a mix of unexpected elements that provide dramatic visual relief. For example, mixing the paving materials, lawn, hardscape, and container plantings can add enough interest to your small backyard garden that hardly anyone will notice the size of the landscape.

Create a destination

The highlight of your small yard could be a firepit with chairs surrounding it. If you place the seating spot just off a paved patio and create a secondary seating spot near the fence, this could make your yard feel more spacious.

Take advantage of foliage and texture

Big, bold tropical plants create a lush feel in a small space. Their big leaves can make your yard feel bigger, and their unusual shape can help boost the ‘cool’ factor of the area.

Take advantage of dead landscape nooks

Turn the corners of your yard into unexpected focal points for interest. You can do this by adding a centrepiece tree, a large container, and flowers and foliage plants.

Remove the clutter

Reducing visual clutter creates a sense of calm and order. Choose just a few plants or one colour when landscaping your small backyard. For example, line a simple path to a small deck in the yard with just hydrangeas and boxwood, or create built-in seating surrounded by just enough plants to make a statement.

Choose the best plants

Plant dwarf and well-behaved conifers and other plants that won’t grow to overwhelm your small backyard. This makes it easy to maintain your garden, as well as maintain a large, open space.

Use the rules of perspective

Designing your small backyard around the rules of perspective – parallel lines appear to converge to a ‘vanishing point’ and distant objects appear smaller than those close by – can make it seem bigger. For example, a pergola can reinforce and frame the view, and a container of flowers as a focal point in the middle distance can draw the eye forward.

Break up the mundane

Having raised decks, walls, and plantings can break up an otherwise dull rectangular plot and create various spatial and textural effects.

Make room for a patio

Even with a small backyard, you can still entertain your guests outdoors with a patio. You can make the entire yard a patio with a dining table and chairs that’s bordered by landscaped flowers and plants to add interest and lush details.

Create a European-style courtyard

A European-style courtyard with a chequered ground of grass and stone squares makes for an intimate entertaining space. You can also include plenty of plants in shades of chartreuse and purple to create a magical garden environment.

Get creative with your plant selections

Choose plants that are special, showcasing features like an unusual leaf shape or an interesting overall structure, and cover the ground with stone and gravel instead of grass to make the plants truly pop.

Lay down some astro turf

Laying down some astro turf offers the illusion of luscious green lawn and makes your backyard or patio space look bigger.

Create succulent wall art

You can do this by using a rectangular plastic tray or shallow wooden box and dividing it into planting cells to display an enchanting succulent garden such as the one below.

Use modular deck tiles

If your backyard is too small to create a built-in deck, you can use snap-in deck tiles instead. Simply snap the wooden tiles together and you’ll have a deck that appears to hover just above the ground.

Build a cottage garden

If your backyard looks messy with plants and other features in random places or scattered about, consider building a cottage garden. Create a stone pathway leading to a seating area with a bench at the back of the yard and line the path with potted plants or border it with landscaped plants and flowers.

Create a relaxing area

Turn your dishevelled backyard into a relaxing area by building a garden bed along the wall or line the wall with potted plants, paving the whole yard, and then adding a table and chairs in a corner.

Skip the grass

If you don’t want grass, you can build a garden bed in one corner, a firepit in the other corner, a patio beside the house, a raised deck, border plants, and stone and gravel pathways to separate each area.

Add modern flair

Give the ground rhythm and movement, with alternating bands of stone paving and pebbles, and create the illusion of space with polished steel balls that reflect the light and clouds. It’s high style but low maintenance – it’s basically a garden you can live in but not have to take care of.

Open up

If you have a pool in your yard, you could install a curved, stone-filled wire-mesh wall to make the area feel cosy and not hemmed in. Add shade sails overhead to offer respite from the sun and round steel planters to balance the heft and drama of the river-rock wall. Then sprinkle plants here and there to add softness.

Build a naturalistic sanctuary

If you’re an animal lover, bring wild animals into your backyard by including a stacked rock wall (critters love hiding in the crevices), a pond, and plenty of plants that provide nectar, seeds, and fruit.

Create a built-in bar

If you want to use your backyard mainly for entertaining, consider creating a built-in backyard bar with a floating shelf designed into the wall or fence to hold plants and drinks. You can also hang a mirror above it to add a focal point and bring a bit of the indoors outdoors.

Use symmetry and balance

A symmetrical and balanced design helps create a calming, soothing yard or patio. You could have manicured boxwood hedges and sculptural balls, as well as a shed with a classic design (mansard roof and mirror-panelled French doors) that belies its pedestrian function as a storage space for recycling bins and spare car tyres.

Have a fresh white backyard

Create a deck or outdoor lounge area with basic white gravel as a focal point. Paint a tree stump with white lacquer to create a unique textural table and add detailed white lanterns for an exotic touch. Then pull everything together with a simple white Sunsail overhead. You can store all the pieces in the shed when you’re not using them.

Create a Japanese garden

A Japanese garden will often have an abundance of plants, a tree for shade, a stone pathway surrounded by gravel, and a wooden deck. You can also add interest to your yard with architectural elements such as screens and benches. For fencing, consider reed matting framed in cedar.

Build a Zen yard

A Zen yard is a tranquil oasis that draws its inspiration from the Asian interiors of the home. If you have reed matting for fencing, choose a neutral outdoor palette. Make your small yard appear bigger with mirrored windows that reflect the garden and sunshine. Invite your guests into hidden corners of the yard with tree-hung lanterns. Also limit patio furniture and make the trees the focal point.

Ready to transform that small backyard?

Contact Armstone now for the finest quality tiling, pavers, stepping stones, and more.

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