Small Spaces Can Be Gardens Too

by Ben Bowen

Small Garden Ideas

Or "ideas for small gardens". You know what I mean...

portland deck container garden

Tiny homes are a thing. Here in Portland we even have a Tiny House Hotel. If tiny homes are all the rage, where is the talk of tiny gardens? The fact is that very few of us are ever going to live in 200 square feet on wheels, but LOTS of us live in 2500 square feet of house on a 4000 square foot lot.

We have tiny landscapes. 

Maybe you have a big house on a small lot. Or just a balcony in the Pearl. Perhaps your outdoor space is just a porch and steps in the Alphabet District. Or your backyard may be a 10'x10' square of dirt behind your condo near Nike.

Can a small garden be a great garden?

Absolutely. And it isn't even that hard. Use the right tools in the right way and even the smallest outdoor space can bloom. Here are just a few of the concepts we use when executing a small garden design

  • Go vertical. Tall plants make a small or narrow space feel larger. Tiny Tower Italian Cypress, Wissel's Saguaro False Cypress, and Sky Pencil Holly are favorites of mine. For a great list of tall plants for small spaces (I go to this all the time while designing) check this post from le jardinet.
  • Use containers. Container gardening utilizes pots, planters, and troughs to create plantable space. Pick containers that fit your style: terracotta for a Mediterranean garden, corten steel for a modern space, galvanized horse troughs for a funky or eclectic one.
  • Be bold. Choose plants that have unusual texture, shape, color or blooms. Make sure each container or small bed has a focal point plant- something larger or taller than the other accent plants.
  • Think evergreen first. Small gardens don't have the space needed to allow for dormancy. Choose evergreens shrubs and conifers as focal points, and hardy grasses or grass-like accents to compliment them. For example, Dwarf Pagoda Japanese Holly could be your focal point with Sweet Flag and Dragon's Blood Stonecrop as accents.
living picture frame with succulents

Just about whatever you want in a full size landscape you can have in a small one. A Japanese garden in 3 pots? Yep. A water feature or sand garden? We have done that too. A patio for entertaining? Don't be silly.

Need help with your container garden or small outdoor space design? Leave a comment below or contact us and I will be happy to share some advice!

Wondering where to buy plants for your deck, balcony, or porch garden? These Portland-area nurseries are a great place to start.