Small Yard, Big Style

This small townhouse yard felt cramped and my clients were embarrassed to have guests over. Uneven concrete, awkward planting beds, and a run-down pergola, all added to the feeling of an uninspiring space which was in stark contrast to my clients’ beautifully renovated interior.

My clients desperately wanted a safe yard for their whole family to enjoy. Their young children also needed space to play. In addition, they wanted to be able to invite friends over at a moment’s notice and therefore requested to have minimal plantings (but wanted a camellia, olive, azalea, and “dainty” flowers included) that require nominal maintenance.

For the design, I really wanted the outdoor space to seamlessly blend with their indoor living. It was important to make every inch of the space functional and family friendly. So, I started by adding a gas fireplace to the SE corner of the yard. This portion of the yard is what my clients see daily from their main living area and front entryway. The focal point of the fireplace helps draw you outside and gives a feeling of a much larger indoor/outdoor living space. A mix of hardscape materials (poured concrete & synthetic grass) creates dimension and usability to the space. The kids can roll around on the grass but the concrete mixed in makes it feel larger and gives the feeling of outdoor “rooms” with designated play and entertaining areas. A seating wall along the perimeter of the property not only serves to add

a raised planter bed but also provides more seating (more friends can visit). Six


free standing lattices placed along the fence line with espalier plants growing on them, adds color and depth to the border of the garden. An additional, larger lattice on the south side of the house gives definition to this corner and a natural location for toy storage. A small partial fence was placed to hide the garbage cans to keep the area feeling cozy. To provide privacy and shade during the summer months, a large pergola extends along the southside of the home. Soft plantings including my client’s favorites mixed in with “dainty” flowers such as Geranium ‘Rozanne’ and Erigeron karvinskianus were incorporated into the raised planters to brighten up the garden with minimal maintenance required.

The environmental responsibility of this yard includes a pergola that helps lower the home’s energy costs in the summer by providing shade to the side of their house with the most windows. Moreover, minimal water, pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizer will be used due to the chosen plantings. The site conditions also protect a bordering native oak habitat (on HOA property) that doesn’t like excessive summer watering.


This yard shows that even small yards can be beautiful, inviting and functional.


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