30 Small Backyard Landscaping Ideas

Published by Armstone

With a growing population and available land becoming smaller, many Australian homes are being built on smaller blocks of land which means backyards have much less space than before.

Though smaller gardens are much more challenging to work with from a design perspective (because they have less land mass and space within which to add grand views and focal points), you can still transform your small backyard into a beautiful place to rest, recover and relax.

When working with a smaller garden, you can implement plenty of tricks and hacks to make it appear larger and still allow you to incorporate all of the elements you want in a garden, like plants, water features, furniture, and so forth.

In today’s article we share 3o small backyard landscaping ideas. So if you just follow these few rules, along with some clever planning, you can transform your yard into a fun, useful, and attractive spot to relax and entertain outdoors.

Let’s dive in!

BEFORE YOU BEGIN

As with any construction job or renovation, it’s important to make a plan that includes what you want to do and how you plan to get it done before starting the landscaping for your small backyard. As excited as you may be to get started, we strongly recommend that you do not skimp out on the plan, as this will ensure that the design comes together perfectly.

If you’re new to this, we have put together a 6 point check list on what to consider for the planning part of your garden renovation.

  1. ASSESS YOUR YARD

    • Measure the size of your yard to determine how much space you have to work with.
    • Check the climate in your yard and how much sunlight or shade it gets during the day and where those predominant spots are located.
    • Check the surroundings to identify and note want 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 is more prone to weeds.
  2. DETERMINE WATER SUPPLY

    • Do you have a place where to attach a hose to water the plants? Is it accessible? We recommend investing in a self-coiling hose with a nozzle that is a good size for your yard. If you can find one that will automatically turn off the water once you’ve finished watering the garden – even better!
    • If you don’t have anywhere to attach a hose, invest in a large watering can.
  3. DESIGN YOUR YARD

    • Decide what you want to include in your yard (fire pit, patio, vegetable path) and where you want it placed in the garden.
    • Use square centimetres (instead of metres) to design your yard, as fitting all the things you want in a small backyard will require very precise measurements and layout. For example, the difference of several centimetres here or there will determine whether or not you can add a water feature or fire pit. It’s like the saying going: “If you count the cents and the dollars will take care of themselves.” When working with small details you can find ways to make the space even more useful, diverse, and attractive.
  4. CHOOSE A PURPOSE

    • Do you want your garden for decorative purposes or would you like it to be functional as well? For instance, do you want to grow herbs, fruits and vegetables in it?
    • Do you want your garden visible at all times, even when you are indoors? Or do you prefer it to be hidden from view while inside and only visible when outdoors?
    • Do you want your garden to be an attractive retreat where you can sit and read at a small table or while laying in a hammock?
  5. USE HIGH-QUALITY MATERIALS

    • When it comes to designing your backyard and installing everything, you really want to get it right from the get go. As such, investing high-quality materials may have a higher outlay, however the longterm benefits mean that the products stand the test of time and add beauty to the space.
    • A trick of the trade in creating continuity between your indoor and outdoor design is by matching your paving materials to your interior flooring. For example, you can mimic the colour and texture of your indoor natural travertine tiles, by installing travertine porcelain pavers outside.
    • If you want to get creative, use accent materials such as coloured glass tiles for illumination at night. These look especially beautiful when integrated with a good outdoor lighting system.
  6. ORGANISE AND TIDY YOUR YARD

    • Before starting any construction, declutter your backyard by discarding or removing any unnecessary items.
    • Create a storage area where you can organise and access all the items you 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 number of items stored in your yard, and preferably keep them somewhere out of sight to create a sense of spaciousness in your garden.

SMALL BACKYARD LANDSCAPING IDEAS

While you are planning everything for your new and updated small backyard, consider incorporating these landscaping ideas. There is something for everyone, so whether you want to build a powerful and exciting space or something modern and minimalistic in nature, these ideas will help you create a beautiful and functional space for all to enjoy.

1. Sink large elements below ground

Instead of building large items like spas, ponds, pools, patios and decks above ground level, you can create the illusion of expansiveness by sinking them into the ground. This way they do not obstruct the view of the garden by taking up space above the ground.

2. Use double-duty features

Save space by investing in outdoor features that have a dual function/purpose. For example, a short raised wall can serve multiple functions: it can be a water feature, a fire-pit and a seating space, all rolled into one! Additionally, glass candleholders that serve as garden art during the day can be turned into lights at the night.

Armstone - Backyard Stone Fire Pit (2)This short wall serves as a fire pit, seating area and landscaping feature.

3. Create a private far away seating area

One way to give a small space a sense of spaciousness is by adding depth. You can do this by creating a stone pathway that leads towards a secluded seating area at the back of the yard with a stone bench and maybe a little pond under a small tree. Along with adding something interesting to the space, it can be a private and secluded spot to relax in.

4. 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.

5. Build a spiral herb garden

If you like fresh herbs (but lack the space to plant a full garden) make use of spiral garden. You can build the spiral from blocks of wood or stone, fill it with soil and plant your herbs between the lines. Spiral herb gardens are a productive, energy-efficient and space saving way of growing food. They also make a beautiful focal point in your garden.

6. Have multiple focal points

Another way to give your small backyard a sense of expansiveness is by installing a variety of small focal points throughout the garden. This way, when people unexpectedly discover things like a statue amongst the plants or a hidden hammock or seating area, they’re surprised and get the sense that they’re no longer in a small backyard.

7. Boost the backyard interest

One way to make the most of your small garden is by mixing unexpected elements to create dramatic visual relief. For example, you could combine paving or stepping stones throughout your lawn and add container plants near the patio or home entrance. This diversity will help draw people’s attention away from the size of the space and help them focus on the interesting aspects instead.

8. Create a destination

If you like to keep cosy on a wintry night, you could make a fire-pit with chairs or a natural stone wall for seating, as the highlight of your small yard.

Armstone - Backyard Stone Fire Pit (4)This small fire pit is an excellent addition to a small backyard.

9. Take advantage of foliage and texture

Planting big, bold tropical trees can give a small space a lush feel. For example, palm trees with their wide leafs can broaden your yard and their unusual shape can make the entire space look ‘cool’ and exotic.

10. Take advantage of dead landscape nooks

Another way to make the most of your small garden is to transform those unused corners into unexpected focal points of interest. Whether you add a centrepiece tree, large container, flowers in a pot or a statue, you will instantly make the dull corner come to life!

11. Remove the clutter

Reducing visual clutter creates a sense of calm and order, as well as generating pockets of free space. You can remove (or organise) the clutter in your garden by storing things that you don’t use often (like bikes or gardening equipment), arranging a garden sale for any old items of furniture or plants, and re-arranging the patio so that it makes the most of the small space.

To keep the space visually clutter-free, we recommend choosing one or two colour palettes for landscaping your small yard. Then choose plants and flowers that match these colours so that the space is not overrun with too many contrasting tones and colour varieties, as this can make a small space look even smaller. For example, if you have a pathway to a patio or pool, you could line this area with hydrangeas and boxwood. The purple and pink hydrangea flowers will compliment the lush green boxwood, and blend beautifully with a path made from bluestone stepping stones.

Avatar bluestone stepping stonesAvatar bluestone stepping stones (available at Armstone) make a beautiful path with surrounding foliage.

12. Choose the best plants

When working with a small space, you want to add plants that won’t overwhelm the space or  take over the garden. Here we suggest planting dwarf varieties and well-behaved conifers that are easier to maintain.

13. Use the rules of perspective

Designing your small backyard around the rules of perspective – where parallel lines appear to end at a ‘vanishing point’ and distant objects look smaller than those placed closer to you – can make your garden seem bigger than it actually is. For example, you could place a pergola towards the back of your garden to frame the view and add a pot of flowers further up to act as the focal point. The flowers will draw the viewer’s focus, thus elongating the entire space.

14. Break up the mundane

If you have a reasonably flat small garden, break up the dullness by adding raised decks, walls, and plantings. These will create  spatial and textural effects, bringing life and variety to your small garden.

15. Make room for a patio

Even with a small backyard, you can still install a patio to entertain your guests outdoors. You can do this by either transforming the entire garden into a patio or creating a compact space that can be converted into an entertaining area with a dining table and chairs. You can add greenery around either area by planting a border of flowers and shrubs to bring the garden to life.

A barbecue and patio idea. 

16. Create a European-style courtyard

Alternatively, you can create a more intimate entertainment area by building a European-style courtyard with chequered grass and stone squares. Make the space cosier by including plenty of plants in your chosen colour scheme and transforming the space into something magical. For example, you can add plants in shades of chartreuse and purple, or sap green and pink.

Armstone - Outdoor Living SpacesA cute seating area in a small space with selective flowers to spruce up the ambience.

17. Get creative with your plant selections

Since you have a small space in your garden, you want to make the most of each corner and piece of land. This is why we recommend being selective with the plants you choose. Get creative and search for unique breeds with unusual flowers or leafs. You can make these plants stand out by covering the ground with stones and gravel instead of grass. Natural garden pebbles are an excellent ground cover and you can choose them in a neutral or coloured stones to create a beautiful contrast to your unique plants.

18. Lay down some astro turf

If your small garden has poor quality soil and is missing a green touch, you can make the backyard and patio look bigger by laying astro turf on the ground. Astro-turf is an artificial turf (it’s also much easier to maintain than real grass) and its luscious greenery offers the illusion of nature as well as transforming your garden into a natural oasis.

19. Create succulent wall art

If you don’t have a green thumb or are too busy to take care of a full garden, but you still want to create some greenery in your small garden, create wall art from succulents. You can easily do this by dividing a rectangular plastic tray or shallow wooden box into planting cells. In each cell, plant a different succulent and voila! You have yourself a low maintenance piece of art and greenery that doesn’t take up too much space either.

20. Use modular deck tiles

If your backyard is too small to install a built-in deck or patio, and you want to both have one and create an illusion of space, you can use snap-in deck tiles instead. These wooden tiles can be simply snapped together and once installed, will make your deck appear as though it hovers just above the ground.

21. Build a cottage garden

If your backyard looks messy with plants and other features scattered in random places, consider building a cottage garden. You can do this by creating a stone pathway using stepping stones that lead to the back of the yard. At the end of the path, place a seating area and bench and line the path with potted plants or border it with landscaped plants and flowers.

Citrine Quartz Stepping Stones 3Citrine Quartz Stepping Stones make a beautiful path leading to a cottage garden.

22. Create a relaxing area

Turn your dishevelled backyard into a relaxing area by building a garden bed along the border or wall, paving the entire yard, and then adding seating options in the corner/s. The photo below is an excellent example of how you can make the most of your small backyard, especially if you want something that looks good and is easy to maintain.

Water feature, relaxing seating areas, plants and paving – a low maintenance idea for a small garden.

23. Skip the grass

If you’re not a fan of natural turf or grass or simply do not have the time, capacity or energy required to maintain a lawn, you don’t need to! You can still create a beautiful backyard by building a garden bed in one corner, a fire-pit in another corner, installing a patio beside the house, and adding any combination of a raised deck, border plants, and stone and gravel pathways to separate each area. If you need any help with choosing the best natural pavers or stones for this arrangement, reach out to our experts at Armstone online or at 1300 560 560. Alternatively, visit our Sydney showroom in Glebe for some ideas and inspiration.

24. Add modern flair

When working with a limited space, you really want to make the most of it by creating pockets of interest. One way to do this, is by giving the ground rhythm and movement. You can create this effect by alternating the paving materials from areas of stone tiles intermixed with pebbles or even cobblestones. This gives your garden a sense of style while keeping it super low maintenance. It’s an ideal solution if you lead a busy lifestyle.

25. Build a naturalistic sanctuary

If you love animals, one way you can attract native wildlife to your garden is adding various items like a bird-feeder, water fountain or pond. These will bring birds and other native animals to your yard. Additionally, you can bring your pond to life by placing fish in it.

Outdoor Water FeatureThis particular water feature requires a lot of space, however it gives you an idea of what you can do.

26. Create a built-in bar

If you intend to use your backyard for entertaining, save space by installing a built-in bar into the wall or fence. You can build this on a floating shelf as a placeholder for plants and drinks.

27. Use symmetry and balance

A simple landscaping trick that can help you establish a calm and soothing environment in your garden is by designing in a symmetrical and balanced manner. Whether you choose pockets within your garden for symmetry and balance or you design your entire back yard with this in mind, it makes your garden easier on the eye. Or, you can establish symmetrical borders for the garden by building the patio so that it’s mirrored from one side to the other with boxed plants. The possibilities are truly endless.

28. Have a fresh white backyard

There is a known phenomenon in the art and design world: dark colours make a place appear smaller and lighter colours make a space appear bigger. So one way you can elongate your small garden is by utilising white colours throughout the space. For example, you can create a deck or outdoor lounge area with basic white gravel as a focal point. Alternatively, you could paint the tree stump with white lacquer to create a unique textural table or add snow white quartz pebbles throughout the garden beds to lighten up the space.

Snow White Quartz PebblesSnow White Quartz Pebbles give a clean touch to this green border.

29. Create a Japanese garden

If you want to add an oriental touch to your space, a Japanese garden is the perfect idea! Japanese gardens often have an abundance of plants, a tree for shade, a stone pathway surrounded by gravel, and a wooden deck. You can even add architectural elements such as screens and benches to spruce up the space. It’s a unique way to add everything you need in a confined space.

30. Build a Zen yard

Finally, you could make your small backyard into a zen sanctuary which is basically a tranquil oasis that draws its inspiration from the Asian home interiors. Imagine – if you will – reed matting as fencing, mirrored windows to reflect the garden and sunshine, tree-hung lanterns, bonsais in pots and splashes or red and jade green all around. If you choose this design, we recommend limiting patio furniture and making the trees the focal point of the garden.

Ready to transform your small backyard?

We hope you found inspiration from our 30 ideas to transform your small garden into your relaxing oasis.

If you have any questions, or would like help with choosing the right natural stone pavers, tiles, garden pebbles, cobblestones, pool pavers, stepping stones, step treads or wall cladding for your project, reach out to our natural stone experts at Armstone online or at 1300 560 560. We stock the world’s best quality natural stone products and would love to help you bring your idea to life.

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