How to Make a Standard Vancouver Garden Lot Flourish

Make the most of your small city lot following this local landscape designer's garden planning tips

Privacy, unified colour and distinct areas are key elements in garden planning, especially on a small lot

Create a stunning garden with a typical 33-foot by 122-foot Vancouver city lot

Let’s face it, most people who own a piece of property in Vancouver have serious constraints when it comes to space.

The typical city lot is a narrow rectangle situated close to a neighbour. And don’t forget the overarching chestnut or cedar trees that can block out light and make planting a challenge.

Here is one landscape designer’s take on a typical Vancouver property and a few hot tips that you can steal if you don’t have the luxury of a professional garden plan.

Privacy Please

Landscape designer Mia Harth of Swordfern Design says her clients’ No. 1 request is for privacy. “People max out the size of their home and then they don’t want to see the house next to them,” says Mia. “It can create a challenge.”

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Mia suggests incorporating a trellis, screen or arbour into your overall garden design. This provides privacy while also establishing a focal point that draws the eye away from your neighbour’s property.

Narrow trees, such as certain varieties of cherry and beech trees, give screening while still providing punch without compromising space. These trees all have varieties that range between three and five feet in diameter.

Modify the Shape of Your Garden

The second order of business is tackling the boxy shape of the property. A rectangular shape can give your garden a modern edge. However, in this plan, the homeowners opted for gently curved beds to give the garden a cottage feel.

If you want to create curved beds yourself, use a garden hose or flexible irrigation tubing held down with fabric staples. You can then outline the border with non-permanent marking paint picked up from your local hardware store.

Add Stone or Paved Accents

Further formalize the garden and keep it tidy by adding stone pavers along bed borders. If you are on a budget, try paving just a portion of the border’s edge. In this garden, Mia added stone cobble pavers on either side the garden (see the areas marked in heavy black).

Use Colour to Unify Your Space

When it comes to design, Mia recommends starting with a narrow colour palette of up to three choices and then working within this range of shades. Here, she used pink, yellow and white. You can change up the colours slightly to signify different spaces, but maintain one colour throughout to unify the space. Mia based the colour scheme on plants and trees her clients wanted to keep, including a lilac tree, rose bush, phlox and camellia.

Create Separate Zones

The pink and purple shades of all these plants, combined with the cottage feeling of the existing rose and lilac, formed the foundation of her design. Even though the property was modest, Mia set out to create distinct zones in the backyard, including a play space for young children, a cutting garden, a cool border and bright border. It can make the space seem larger if there is a number of distinct garden “rooms” throughout the space, she says.

Mass plantings are modern and can be low maintenance, but may not provide enough interest, especially for plant lovers. “In a smaller garden, it can be nice to have a mix of plant material,” says Mia. “When mass plantings are out of season, the space can look very empty.”

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.