5 Tips for Tackling a Standard City Lot

Is your boxy, lacklustre lot getting you down? Make the small space come alive with a garden that feels much bigger

A focal point like a water feature will draw attention away from your neighbour’s yard

These simple steps will help create a visually appealing garden that maximizes a small space’s potential

Hiring a professional to plan your garden may not be an option for everyone. Landscape designer Mia Harth of Swordfern Design offers useful tips to tackle a small city lot on your own.

  1. Create a Focal Point: Put in a water feature, arbour, lattice screen or unique tree that adds charm and draws attention away from your neighbour’s yard.
  2. Borrow Landscape: Just as you want to block out your next-door neighbour’s hot tub, you might want to get a bird’s-eye view of their weeping willow tree. Leave spaces in your garden to highlight a peek-a-boo view or feature beyond your own garden. This Japanese technique, known as shakkei, is ideal for small spaces.
  3. Define Your Space: Just because your space is small, doesn’t mean that you can’t create a variety of zones. Use hardscaping in the form of pavers to line the edge of your garden beds. If budget is a concern, pave just a portion of each bed on opposing sides of the garden. Use large poured concrete pavers to create a pathway. Prevent the grass from getting trampled on by paving the areas that you frequently use such as the path to the garbage bin or basement door.
  4. Use Colour to Create Flow: Minimize colour when selecting plant material. Pick two or three shades and then use a variation of similar tones for unity.
  5. Architectural Elements: Use gravel and accent boulders to add interest and deal with mossy or hard-to-plant areas located under mature chestnut and cedar trees. (Accent boulders also create a fun play space for kids.) Place large pots filled with perennials and brightly coloured bulbs on ground covered with conifer needles.

Originally published in BC Home & Garden magazine. For regular updates, subscribe to our free Home and Garden e-newsletters, or purchase a subscription to the magazine.