Backyard gardens can be as simple or as complex as you want, even in a small space. The more complex the landscaping is in backyard gardens, the more labor intensive it is, unless the materials that you use in the landscaping, including plants, are low-maintenance.
Add a pergola to the back of the house or to the landscaping in the backyard to create a semi-shaded area. The pergola could be built on a deck, over a grassy area or over a patio area away from the house. The pergola could have lattice across the top, a solid roof, or it could have beams crossing the top. Plant flowering vines next to the posts of the pergola and train the vines to run up the posts and over the top of the pergola. If you put the pergola over a grassy area, overseed the area with grass that prefers shade, since the grass under the pergola will not have full sun.
For small backyard gardens, the potted garden gives the gardener a variety of plants to work with while saving space. Different types of plants can be planted in the same large pot, or all the same type of plant can be planted, depending on the look you want. Move pots each spring for a different look. There are also several types of pots to choose from, including ceramic, wood and plastic, all of which come in various colors. Plain ceramic or clay pots can also be painted with your own designs.
Whether your backyard is large or small, fountains provide depth and the natural sound of running water to the backyard area. Fountains come in many sizes and types, including stand-alone and wall-mounted fountains. In both cases, the fountains can be surrounded by plants, whether planted in the ground or potted.
Ponds also provide a soothing part of the landscape, even in small backyards. Choose an elaborate, professionally installed pond, or build a simple pond and waterfall set up with a large bucket, rocks, a hose and a pump. Attach the pump to the hose to pump the water back up to the top of the waterfall. Hide the electrical cord for the pump and the hose with vegetation.