From vertical gardens to fire pits, landscaping experts share their best recommendations.  

No matter how small your backyard may be, it's still brimming with landscape design potential. "In a smaller backyard every square foot counts," says landscape architect Edmund Hollander of Hollander Design. "Think of how you may want to use it, live in it, and look at it—al fresco dinners or sitting around a fire pit can be magical experiences."

green garden furniture in a small garden
Credit: Getty / Carol Yepes

While mapping out a small backyard can be tricky, Keith Williams of Nievera Williams says with the right furnishings, it's actually a breeze. "The biggest obstacle is making a small backyard seem big, which can be achieved with appropriately scaled items," he explains. He also says to be careful not to go overboard with plants in a petite garden, because they'll further cramp the area. "A clean, less contrived garden can give an illusion and make the space feel larger." But that's not the only way to make the most of your outdoor space.

Think vertically.

Whether you're decorating a bedroom or a backyard, it pays to take advantage of vertical space when you aren't working with a ton of square footage. "A raised garden bed is a great way to use vertical space and grow vegetables," says Kathryn Emery of Be The Best Home. "Elevated raised garden beds are a fantastic option for small patios or decks, and require even less bending or squatting to tend to your garden."

Attract birds to your backyard.

Looking for a foolproof way to turn a sliver of outdoor space into an enchanting garden? Josh Sevick, president of The Grounds Guys, recommends employing plants and décor that will attract migratory birds to your yard. "Perennial plantings, combined with bird feeders and water baths, can attract hummingbirds, red birds, and blue birds to a small backyard," he says.

Try paving stones.

Your lawn is teeming with design opportunity—you just need a few paving stones for structure. "Lay paving stones diagonally to make the space seem larger," Emery says. "Paving stones come in a variety of colors, patterns, and styles that will allow you to create a custom backyard space that is easy to maintain and will last for years to come."

Consider a portable fire pit.

According to Mike Montgomery, the host of Modern Builds on Smart. Healthy. Green. Living., no outdoor space would is complete without a fire pit. "Fire pits function as a great focal point in a backyard space and extend the backyard enjoyment into the evening hours and even into the cooler days of fall," he explains. For smaller backyards, he recommends either buying or DIY-ing your own portable option, since they're compact and easy to move around.

Add statement décor.

A little décor goes a long way in a small backyard, which is why Emery suggests incorporating functional accessories that also make a statement. "Hang LED string lights so you can continue enjoying your backyard well into the evening, or even a small water feature, like a fountain, that can provide a calming element," she says.


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