Small spaces that delight – Tips for a glorious growing season


Plan now for a glorious growing season

For garden lovers, even the smallest spaces hold special appeal. A tiny growing area can seem bigger than it actually is; a small garden can add an extra room to your house and, if it’s artfully designed, a compact growing space can solve all kinds of living-space problems.

John and Alex Julisz moved into a downtown Toronto home with a small backyard, dominated by a view of their big laneway garage. Their neighbours in the new development, Bob and Valerie Witterick, also wanted a garden that made the most of their tiny space, plus they have a mischievous dog that could dig the life out of their greenery. So, the two couples (independently of one another) hired landscape designer Kim Price, a firm believer in the motto, “Don’t let size hold you back.”

Her first task in each case: pull the view back from the garage walls and put the focus onto the yard. “Nothing emphasizes smallness more than seeing the full extent of the garden boundaries all at once,” says Price. The Juliszes wanted a garden with lush greenery where they could relax and entertain. The result, reports John, “exceeded our expectations of what was possible in the garden

The Julisz garden: designed on the diagonal Price designed the garden structures — a flagstone path set in pea gravel and a sunken flagstone patio covered with an elegant pergola — on a 45-degree angle that makes the garden feel much bigger than its 5.5×7.9-metre dimensions. She used custom cedar latticework, stained a soft driftwood grey, to screen the garage, and in doing so, she transformed the wall into a garden feature while the pergola over the patio gives the “garden room” its “ceiling” and reinforces intimacy.

Then Price planted two trees: a multi-stemmed ivory silk lilac and a serviceberry. Planting larger trees makes the garden appear mature, sooner. She left space for a soothing water feature as a focal point near the garage, but Price advised it’s better to wait another season to give the soil at the foundation wall time to settle — always a good strategy when landscaping around a newly built home space we had to work with.” And the Wittericks won’t be hounded by worries that the dog will dig the place up. Both couples were thrilled with Price’s finished gardens.

How does your garden grow?

It’s easy to create the illusion that your garden is larger than it actually is. Here are a few of Price’s tips:

* Change elevation in the garden so you take a step up or a step down.

* Organize the space on the diagonal, setting the patio and planting areas at a 45-degree angle from the house. Place a focal point – a specimen tree such as a Japanese maple, a classic bench or a water feature – into the garden’s farthest corner to draw the eye.

* Change paving surfaces; for example, a square-cut flagstone walkway could lead to a pea-gravelled area, or a wooden deck to a stone patio.

* Have a pro install paving bricks or flagstone. “This is the most expensive part of the project,” says Price, “but in a small space, you don’t need as much material, so it’s easier to afford better quality.”

* Create two seating areas: a main one for outdoor dining; a second with a bench or chairs in another corner. The choice of destination adds to the illusion of size.

* Keep the planting simple – there isn’t enough space to layer plants as in an English-style perennial border.

* Choose flowers in cool colours – pinks, blues, whites, pale yellows – that are restful and easy to live with. Each plant must earn its keep by looking attractive through the entire season.

* Stain or paint all wooden structures a single colour to unify them. Grey, greyish-green, greyish-blue tones — which tend to recede — make a space feel bigger. Use white only if you want the woodwork to stand out.