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Landscaping Tips For Smaller Yards

Small yard landscaping can be a challenge. With a smaller yard you can quickly run into problems trying to landscape without making the space seem smaller.

The first decision to make is whether your goal is to create a visual appeal or a more functional areas for dining, entertaining, or lounging. If you have two small areas, one can be devoted entirely to planting and the other for outdoor activities. If designed right, the space can turn out to be very welcoming and comfortable.

Using container plants, espaliers, vines, and hanging baskets are good ways of getting the maximum of greenery out of a small space. Dwarf shrubs like Wheelers dwarf tobira, compact nandina, red elf pyrocantha are great for small beds. Narrow upright plants like horsetail, foxtail fern, and cannas look great up against a coutyard wall.

Plants that are miniature versions of larger plants help achieve spacious quality.

A large shrub such as a pineapple guava or an old xylosma hedge can be pruned to look like a multi trunk tree, and fool the eye. A row of golden bamboo can be thinned out to widely spaced canes can give the illusion of a forest. Companion plants should have smaller leaves, like nandina or junipers. Use small boulders, a small 2 x 4 deck, and small pebbles for a ground cover to complete the look of a small Japanese garden.

Espaliers I like and use in small yards and courtyards are

  • bronze loquat
  • xylosma
  • red tip photina.
  • roses
  • pyracantha
  • yew pine
For hanging plants--try asparagus fern, spider plant, ivy or rosemary, herbs, any succulents like hearts and flowers, chicks and hens.

Container or potted plants that won't take up a lot of room in a small landscape but can add a lot of interest include:

  • parry agave
  • Tropicana canas
  • black bamboo
  • icee blue podacarpus
  • brazilian rain tree
Heat is intensified and sun / shade patterns change drastically with the seasons in an area enclosed by tall walls. North facing walls may never get any direct sunlight and a southern exposure can be a real problem. Choose your plants carefully for these areas.

For special touches, try adding some seating made of thin wrought iron and avoid using thick oversized wood furniture. A glass table-top will help with the illusion of ample space.

If your courtyard has a gate, try using a wrought iron to provide an open air feeling. Small water features can give a small space a tranquil feeling and the sound of water is amplified in small enclosed areas.

Tom Hoff is a Las Vegas Landscaper who owns his own landscaping company, Modern Landscape. To read more on a landscaping small yard project, check out his site and newsletter.

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