Question

Can you give me suggestions for the design and planting of a small area?

Asked by Ann
Muncie, IN

Patio is 10' wide x 14' long. From our back door there is cememt to the fence with no place fot planting. Dirt on both ends. Suggestions for an ivy that would crawl and cover the ulgy fence and give greenery. Ideas for a "garden of pots"?

Answer

Cassy Aoyagi

Answered by Cassy Aoyagi

Los Angeles, CA

FormLA Landscaping, Inc.

February 2, 2012

Its easy to see the challenges of a space when it is still a blank canvas – keep in mind your small space has advantages too!

  • If you intend to use the space as outdoor living space, you have the equivalent of a medium sized living room with a built-in coziness factor.
  • If you dream of an edible garden, your fence could support a significant crop.

Think of how you want to use the space, and dream big! Once you have a clear idea of how you would like to use the space, we have a few strategies to help small spaces feel just the right size.

Sustainable landscaping strategies that can help you love your small space include:

Go vertical with greenwalls. If we understand your patio correctly, you have 14 feet of fence with no dirt at its base. This fence line may be creating a sense of restriction in the space, particularly if your home creates an equally high or higher vertical on the other side. Adding foliage through the use of Woolly Pockets or other greenwall-supporting products can create a perception of greater depth by offering variation. For examples, check our greenwall portfolio here.

Choose privacy hedges over clinging vines. Clinging vines can easily undermine the structural integrity of a fence. Plants with their own vertical support that create effective visual barriers will hide your fence without destroying it.

Build-in seating. Movable furniture typically requires more space and can curtail the utility of a space. Elegant benches can be constructed into green walls or built up planters to further conserve space and create drama. (More  here.)

Organize living space around a focal point. People with large gardens seek to create the cozy, human-scale gathering spaces your patio's size creates naturally. While empty, your eyes will naturally go to the restrictions on the space and those aspects that you find unattractive.

  • An eye-catching focal point, such as a fire pit, fireplace, water fountain, garden art, or a striking container garden arrangement will focus your attention and allow the fence to retreat, at least in your mind's eye.
  • If you have a window or a sliding glass door that creates a patio view, consider placing the focal point in a place where you can enjoy it from inside your home as well.

Break-up the concrete. While altering a hardscape may seem intimidating, it can produce great benefits. Breaking up concrete to create a paver and joint look will soften the feel of your space. It will also mitigate any drainage and runoff issues, allowing water to infiltrate into the groundwater table.

Once constructed, it may also reduce the time you spend maintaining the space – instead of perpetually sweeping dirt from the base of numerous container gardens, you can sit and enjoy your lovely space while any water or soil draining from container gardens feeds the foliage between pavers. For ideas, see our permeable paver portfolio here.

Cutting the concrete to create an at-grade planter would have much the same effect.

Do you have a question about greening your home? GreenHomeGuide invites you to Ask A Pro. Let our network of experienced green building professionals – architects, designers, contractors, electricians, energy experts, landscapers, tile & stone specialists, and more – help you find the right solution.