Every Element Must Work in the Small-space Garden

A small garden is an act of absolute precision. 

Credit: iStock / makenoodle

A small garden is an act of absolute precision…

While we often think that the larger the garden the bigger the challenge, in truth it is the tiny space that poses the most difficulty in landscape design. A small garden is an act of absolute precision. “Every element has to work,” says Ayuko Inoue of Gardens by Design, a Vancouver designer of gardens both large and small. Her counsel? “Simplify! Don’t feel that it need be a lush garden.” “Keeping the design elements simple is challenging yet worthwhile,” agree Yoshihiro Kawasaki and Dorothy Kennedy of Zen Gardens in Richmond, designers of the landscape pictured above. “With a little ambition, even the smallest space can be transformed beyond recognition into a peaceful and contemporary sanctuary.” Yoshihiro and Dorothy suggest the use of evergreens, stone and water for year-round interest, as in traditional Japanese courtyard gardens. “A stone lantern and water feature will add a focal point and vertical interest; a stone water basin fed by a bamboo spout, with the overflow running into a concealed chamber below ready to be pumped back up the pipe, gives constant motion to the garden composition,” says Yoshihiro. While use of vertical space is key, adds Ayuko, also consider a strong horizontal line – such as a simple wooden bench with no back – to draw the eye across. “Lastly, don’t forget to use what is next door – if a branch is hanging over, ‘borrow’ it as part of your own landscaping scheme.”