- Design

The Art of the Small Garden

or years, the most appealing residential backyards featured sprawling plots with multiple “rooms”—separate areas for cooking and dining, growing gardens full of vegetables and flowers, and recreational space for a pool or a children’s play area. But as more homeowners look to lower housing costs and maintenance, they’re paring down on the time and funds going toward landscape upkeep.

small garden rendering

© Laurie Van Zandt, The Ardent Gardener

Between smaller urban backyards and terraces and new homes being built with smaller outdoor footprints, gardens are scaling down proportionately. For example, a homeowner living in a bungalow with a small yard can still enjoy the trickling sounds of water, but it might be a bubbling fountain or spa rather than elaborate outdoor water features or a swimming pool.

The same is true for vegetable gardens. Rather than planting large raised beds, one or two metal troughs or ceramic pots filled with a mix of vegetables and herbs still could provide delicious fixings for a homegrown meal.

Landscape designer Laurie Van Zandt, founder of The Ardent Gardener in Huntsville, Utah, finds her clients with smaller yards are just as happy.

“Most want to putter [in the yard] but don’t want to be gardeners,” she says. More clients want to sit with a cup of coffee or glass of wine and enjoy their outdoor space than be wedded to the ongoing weeding and maintenance that larger gardens often require.

rooftop garden at night

© Amber Freda Landscape Design

However, gardens shouldn’t be done away with completely. Greenery in small or large doses benefits a home owner’s physical and psychological well-being, and it may also help sell a listing faster and for a better price. In New York, Amber Freda, a landscape designer who founded Amber Freda Garden Design 15 years ago, has seen her business grow steadily. “The amount of finished outdoor gardens rather than raw spaces has increased.

They definitely are a selling feature, especially when they have some features such as outlets for electricity, faucets for water, and a gas line for a grill,” she says.

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