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Small Garden Design Ideas

In Botanical Gardens, Garden Design, Gardening, Landscaping by admin9 Comments

If you are living in a Gold Coast townhouse with a small backyard, you might be thinking about what can be achieved in such a small space. Designing as small garden for your Gold Coast front yard or backyard can present some unique challenges for the home gardener. Whilst some similar design philosophies to large garden design can be followed, there is more to it than just scaling everything down.

A sculpture or stone lamp can create a focal point in your garden

A sculpture or stone lamp can create a focal point in your garden with its contrast to the foliage behind.

Small Garden Focal Points

As with large gardens the logical first step with your small garden is to decide on the focal point or focal points of your garden. This can be a small tree in a pot or in the ground, a piece of sculpture , a small water feature or even a rock. A great focal point for a small garden is a xanthorrhoea johnsonii. Once the focal point is decided upon, it can be made to stand out by some clearing around it and with some garden illumination.

antique slate steps

A path of lawn pavers will draw your eye to the garden focal point.

A path leading to the focal point will draw your eye to the feature. If your house has nearby windows, try to place the focal point where it can be seen out of the window. Consider how your garden will look from other vistas as well. Think about the views from other windows and any pathways. Less desirable views can be screened out with hedging plants or screening plants creating the illusion of depth. Walls and fences can be made more attractive with an espalier fruit tree screen or a vertical garden. If you have a views of nearby trees or parkland, work with these views to enhance the view from your own garden.

White Crepe Myrtle as a focal point in a courtyard

White Crepe Myrtle as a focal point in a courtyard

Small Garden Plant Selection

Select plants that attract native birds and other native fauna into your garden. This will certainly add to the interest in your small garden. Aim to create contrast and balance in your plantings making use of foliage textures and colours but avoid having too many different plants or themes. By repeating shapes colours and shapes your garden you will develop a central theme. Choose species and varieties that are low maintenance and do not grow too large. Starting with your focal point or tallest shrub use the design concept of layering to plan out your small garden plantings. Proper layering will ensure each plant in the layering scheme has adequate light and add to the illusion of depth. If you are planning a garden against a hedge or a boundary, place the taller plants at the back. Unless you are building a hedge, use trees and shrubs of varying height in the back row. This way you will create a much more interesting small garden that takes your eye along different levels.

Layers and Foilage Colours

Plan the plant heights to create a layered effect. Make use of plant foliage to create colour contrasts. Make trees in neighbouring gardens part of the view.

Plants to consider for a small garden focal point include magnolia grandiflora ‘teddy bear’ and magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’ and the crepe myrtle. These can either be planted in a large pot, with colourful annuals, or in the ground.

magnolia grandiflora “little gem”

Magnolia grandiflora “little gem” Creates a focal point in a large pot.Using large leaf trees in the foreground and small leaf trees in the background will make your garden appear larger.

For the bottom layer of your tiered garden, a ground cover like creeping boobialla is an excellent choice for attracting birds and suppressing weeds.

(Myoporum parvifolium) are very effective at suppressing weeds.

Creeping Boobialla (Myoporum parvifolium) are very effective at suppressing weeds.

 

It is often the case with the small garden that regular maintenance tasks like mowing the lawn become a real difficulty. Two native sustainable alternatives to lawn grasses are Dichondra repens and the Native Violet Viola hederacea. This will save a lot of effort getting the lawn mower out as neither of these require regular mowing.

Dichondra repens

Dichondra repens is a low growing plant that is an alternative to grass.

 

Other plants to consider for the bottom layer include Lomandra hystrix , Lomandra longifolia and Lomandra seascape. these hardy grass like plants are well suited to the Gold Coast with their tolerance of coastal sea breezes and their ability to tolerate full sun and part shade as well as a variety of soils. The species of lomandra with the blue green foliage, Lomandra Seascape, will create an interesting colour contrast in your garden.

Native grasses with Blue Green Foliage like this Lomandra Seascape are ideal for small gardens.

Native grasses with Blue Green Foliage like this Lomandra Seascape are ideal for small gardens.

 

For the levels or layers in-between consider using Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta), if you have enough room. It will grow in part shade or full sun and will tolerate some salt spray if you are right on the coast. Although it can eventually get to two metres tall it is very slow growing. Growing it in a pot will limit its height.

Cycads like the Cycas revoluta or Sago Palm, create an exotic look in your small garden.

Cycads like the Cycas revoluta or Sago Palm, create an exotic look in your small garden.

Another choice for the smaller garden is the Coastal or Native Rosemary (Westringia fruticosa). This plant is native to the sandy coastal areas of NSW even growing down to beach level. This versatile plant can be either be grown as a tree, as a hedge, or even as a prostrate ground cover plant. For best results trim it regularly to achieve the shape you want. Other species that should be considered is the melaleuca, and the banksia robur.

Westringia fruticosa or native rosemary

Westringia fruticosa or native rosemary is an ideal plant for the Gold Coast garden. Plants with fine leaves make your garden appear larger.

Now you have planned your small garden focal point, vistas and various layers, it is time to add a few extra splashes of colour. This can done with annuals in pots or by planting plants like the Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae). This plant is not only tolerant of partial shade, it can also cope with the wind, salt and sandy soils of the Gold Coast. Its stunningly beautiful orange and blue flowers will stand out against the layered foliage backdrop you have created behind.

Westringia fruticosa or Bird of Paradise

Strelitzia reginae or Bird of Paradise will add a splash of colour to your small garden.

Additional colour can be added to your garden with window boxes and hanging baskets. These use very little space and can be used on balconies and patios.

Hanging baskets can be used to add colour to a small garden

Hanging baskets can be used to add colour to a small garden and to screen out unwanted views.

If you still have room in your small garden, a structure like a pergola could be considered. Another trick you can use is to to create curved garden pathways using a light coloured gravel or stone path. Using light coloured paving or fine gravels along with fine leaf plants in your garden will help to create the illusion of extra space.

 

For some ideas on focal points and creating curves in the garden, take a look at our Japanese Garden blog.

For some more ideas on garden design for a small garden, take a look at our blog on Vertical Gardens.

For more garden ideas take a look at our pictures from the MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL FLOWER & GARDEN SHOW.

If you are looking for more gardening ideas, why not take a look at the Gold Coast Regional Botanical Gardens.

If you need a little help with your small garden makeover contact us. We are happy to work with you on these projects.

For more information on our Garden Design Service go to https://redslandscaping.com.au/design/

For more of our gardening blogs go to https://redslandscaping.com.au/blog/

Click here to take a look at our own Gold Coast landscape construction and garden maintenance projects.

For more information on the native rosemary go to https://www.anbg.gov.au/gnp/gnp1/westringia-fruticosa.html

 

Copyright Red’s Landscape Gardening – Gold Coast Landscaper and Gardener.

Comments

  1. These are some excellent garden ideas. I live in a townhouse with a small space and this is definitely going to come in handy. I’m going to try some magnolia grandiflora for my focal point.I’m definitely going to take a lot of inspiration from this for my own garden. I was looking at other articles as well for small garden inspiration – Carve Your Creation puts more of an emphasis on description rather than images, but they do mention some interesting things like reshaping and creating flower beds. What do you think about using cuttings? Thanks!

    1. Author

      Yes i love cuttings, i strongly believe that once the basic aspects of design are covered, then the focus of the garden should be as personalized as possible. A garden should always be unique and to the clients desires. I recommend getting cuttings of various perennials so that the garden transforms throughout the year with a constant rotation of flowers.

  2. Hi there, Great tips by the way and thank you. I did have a question though.
    I’m hoping you can answer it for me since you seem to be pretty knowledgeable about gardening.
    In a garden, how can you kill unwanted plants (e.g.
    weeds) without hurting other plants? I have a number of weeds growing in my garden beds
    right now… If you had some insight I would greatly appreciate it.

    1. Author

      You cannot beat manual labour. Unfortunately it can be hard and difficult, it is also the most rewarding.
      If you simply cannot keep up with the weeding i can recommend two chemical sprays
      Fusillade forte works well for controlling grasses in planted garden beds.
      Dicamba broad leave sprays work well for controlling broad leaf weeds in turf areas. By controlling weeds in your grass you can minimize weed spread in your garden beds.
      FYI i have found weed mat to rarely be effective long term in Garden beds.

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