You can make the most of your small backyard or balcony with these landscape design elements
Having a piece of green space in the city, no matter how small, is something to treasure. But urban outdoor spaces are notorious for being oddly shaped, not so sunny and, yes, small. Here are nine creative ways to work with what you’ve got — whether it’s a tiny balcony or a row-house lot.
1. Trellis-lined gravel path. Turn a narrow row-house back lot into an enchanting allée by lining the walls with wood trellises and climbing plants. A gravel path is an affordable and chic way to finish the space.
2. Fake grass (yes, really!). Kinda silly or sort of cool? You decide. But when real grass is not a realistic option, a bit of fake green underfoot can be a cheerful addition to an urban outdoor space.
3. Split-level deck. Try a deck with a few levels to create the feeling of different zones in a small outdoor space — even a slight shift in height can add a lot of visual interest. Perhaps put seating on one level, a grill on another and leave one open as pass-through space.
4. Linked outdoor rooms. This Portland, Oregon, backyard packs a lot of living into a modest space. A soaking tub, dining table and fire pit each get a zone, defined by concrete slabs bordered in a mossy ground cover. A maple tree planted near the center of the yard provides shade and a focal point.
5. Urban playground. Keep active kids busy with a backyard play structure and room to run around. Benches on either side of the yard plus a dining zone provide plenty of places for grown-ups to enjoy too. This yard is already pretty low maintenance, but if you want to make something like this totally hands-off, opt for artificial turf.
6. Curvy bench. One great built-in feature can do wonders for a yard. This curved bench seats a crowd and works equally well for dining and just hanging out. A pair of mirrors positioned behind the bamboo hedge boosts light and makes space feel more expansive.
7. Mini Zen Garden. Simple wood-plank decking is bisected by a “river” of stones and boulders on this courtyard patio. More wood planks mounted on the wall provide organic warmth as well as a place to hang potted plants.
8. Wall garden. Save floor space in a compact city patio and get your greens too, by installing a wall of planters. Choose succulents for low-maintenance beauty or fill pots with tender lettuces and herbs for an edible urban feast. Tend the plants with a hose extension and keep a ladder handy for when you need to get a closer look at the plants.
9. Rooftop oasis. A green roof, an outdoor dining zone and weathered wood walkways make this city rooftop equal parts livable and eco-friendly. Clumps of tall grasses and native flowers offer a welcome counterpoint to the tall buildings all around.