Design Ideas for Small Backyards

Backyards offer people the opportunity to create a relaxing retreat—a place where all the workday worries melt away. In noisy cities, the addition of even a small waterfall feature helps to filter distracting cars, while plants add a feeling of peace. Even small yards hold seemingly endless ways to relax and enjoy yourself. Whether you own or rent your home, it is possible to create a little slice of paradise.

Backyard Apartment Landscaping

Renters experience issues that homeowners do not. Because they don’t own their land, renters must ask permission from their landlords when it comes to landscaping. In some cases, it is not possible to alter the property permanently. In cases like these, using potted plants and other portable items gives people the chance to enjoy their own portion of garden paradise. Choose pots of varying sizes and designs. Do not be afraid to think big—just keep your ideas in scale with the land. If a shaded jungle is the dream, start by finding trees that cast dense shade. Weight pots down with rocks or secure them with tie downs. Work on training the trees to meet each other’s crowns (tops) for a dense canopy. Use smaller shrubs and other shade-loving plants throughout the area. To complete the look, try installing a container pond. Use a large pot or trough and add various, potted water plants. Keep in mind that many flowering pond plants require around six hours of full sun in order to bloom properly. As with any property changes, ask the property owner’s permission first.

Plant Collection Showcase

Get the most out of a small space by using miniature, dwarf and even a few standard-sized plants. A few types of plants to include are creeping, spreading types as well as slow-growing cacti or even an attractively colored medium-sized tree such as the maple "Carnival." Showcase small plants by building simple tables and shelves throughout the yard. Such an idea is ideal for showing off prized specimens, such as bonsai and rare plants. Build shelves from rot-resistant woods, PVC pipe or metal. Paint these structures in shades that enhance, not compete with, the plants and their pots. Add a small sitting area by installing paver tile for flooring. Build a simple gazebo suitable for one or two people to sit under. To stay in scale with a small backyard, use large boards only where structurally required—keep overly decorative trim in small amounts. Paint the gazebo to complement plants, pots and tables. Add movement with a tabletop fountain or small container pond.

Build an Aviary

If you want a different spin on a landscaped yard, build an aviary. Aviaries offer people and their birds a chance to “spread their wings” both literally and figuratively. The aviary can encompass your entire backyard, or simply be an addition to an already landscaped area. Check local zoning laws before proceeding. Build an aviary so that it gets dappled sunlight throughout the day. Full, blazing sun will kill birds, so make sure they have shade to cool off in. Use large pots for trees and shrubs—dwarf trees require less trimming than fast-growing standard types. Choose plants that offer not only aesthetic value but food and shelter as well. If your birds can withstand the area’s winters and you plant to leave them outdoors indefinitely, include plants like evergreens so they can hide from strong, cold winds. Install a small pond so water is never in short supply. Create many shallow areas for birds to use. A good idea is to fill the pond with pebbles so that there are no deep areas for birds to drown. Remember, use animal-safe, organic fertilizers on all plants intended for aviary use.

Keywords: small yard landscaping, miniature plant ideas, neat landscape ideas

About this Author

Izzy McPhee has been a freelance writer since 1999. Her work appears on GardenGuides, eHow and her blog, FrugalGardeningMomma. She writes about gardening, nature conservation, pond care, aquariums, child care, family, living on a budget and do-it-yourself projects. Her paintings have appeared in the well-known gallery The Country Store Gallery in Austin, Texas.