Landscape Design For Small Spaces


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Landscape Design For Small Spaces

  1. 1. 3/2/2010 Page 1 Landscape Design for Small Spaces Julie Weisenhorn, Department of Horticultural Science, University of Minnesota “… A small plot of ground well ordered, turns to greater advantage than a large one neglected ” - Leonard Meager, The New Art of Gardening, 1697 The term “small space” is gardener-specific. Whether a space is considered small or large depends on the gardener’s time constraints, physical constraints, and enthusiasm for working in a landscape. Considerations of Sustainable Design Functional – how the site will be used, activities that will take place in the site, utilitarian needs; Maintainable – who will maintain the landscape, time allotted to maintenance, ease of maintenance; Environmentally sound – the impact the landscape has on the environment around it; Cost effective – use of inputs including time, money and labor Visually pleasing Site Analysis is … Critical to designing any size site Little room for error Small space is likely several microclimate Conduct soil test Note light and moisture Site analysis Conduct a client interview Pros and cons of the landscape Activities in the landscape Maintenance of the landscape Timeline for installation Budget Resources: SULIS Landscape Design Questionnaire SULIS Site Evaluation Form -
  2. 2. 3/2/2010 Page 2 Site Survey Also called a “Site inventory” – a specific and honest evaluation – pros and cons of the landscape Show features of the site such as wetlands, trees, views, roads Include measurements of the site Make use of info from questionnaire Site analysis Areas and elements Soil Microclimates Drainage issues Topographical features Existing plant materials Hard features & structures Roadways, driveways & parking areas Walks, paths & trails Extensional landscapes Microclimates “An environment with different conditions, such as temperature, wind speed, and drainage from the larger more predominant surrounding conditions.” Includes such key effects such as sun / shade, wind, temperature, moisture, snow and ice. Spatial studies Do bubble diagrams and locate the large spaces first in the landscape. In Minnesota, these large spaces are typically turf, driveways, decks, patios. When designing turf areas, consider: Do you need turf in a small landscape? Avoid tight radii as they make mowing difficult Note the amount of sunlight and moisture available for growing turf. Small and narrow areas of a landscape are often a challenge for turf because of lack of adequate sunlight and repeated traffic patterns. Identify the purpose(s) of the various spaces within a landscape. Some examples are entry garden, patio / deck, recreational area, pet needs, vegetable garden, screen or hedge, foundation planting, water garden, wetland, woodland. Be sure to vary the sizes of the spaces you designate in a landscape. You don’t want them to all be the same size or the same shape.
  3. 3. 3/2/2010 Page 3 Concept Lines Curved concept lines are associated with informal design and tend to broaden and open the look of a landscape. Straight concept lines are associated with formal design and tend to force the eye in certain directions as well as confine the landscape to a set size and form. Avoid dividing the property with concept lines. Unless you are designing a symmetrical or balanced design where the halves of the landscape are mirror images of each other, design one side of the landscape to be heavier, creating an asymmetrical feel to the landscape. Typically, houses have a heavier side (house vs. garage) De-emphasize narrow areas by drawing concept lines that flow across, not perpendicular to the house. Spaces that are designed perpendicular to the front or back of the house will emphasize the long narrow look of the small property and broaden it. Create topography with steps, walls, and plants of different heights. Levels within a small landscape will create the illusion of size by moving the eye upward. It will also create different “outdoor rooms” within a small area, also giving the illusion of more space. Design Principle - Unity Repeating texture & color within a landscape through repetition of plants and hardescapes is the single easiest way to create unity within a site. This is especially important in helping tie front and back areas of a site together. Design Principle - Simplicity vs. Variety Typically, variety is used in areas viewed close-up, such as entry gardens, deck and patio gardens, and adds interest to these areas. However, used incorrectly or overused, variety can create a busy design that confuses the viewer about where he/she should be focusing their attention. The opposite of variety, simplicity is typically employed in the landscape areas set away from the main areas of activity – backdrops, distant garden areas, woodlands, prairies. In a small landscape, it is best to practice to simplicity over variety for the most part. Simple plant combinations and materials without a lot of detail will help create a larger feel to the site. That said, variety should be used in small amounts in areas where attention is desired. Keep design simple and variety minimal Incorporate 1-3 focal points in a small space Materials should be consistent in texture, color A simple, analogous color pallet is also helpful in small space design. Design Principle - Scale Keep elements in within a landscape in proportion. Plants should be in proportion to rocks, foundations, deck height, etc. Use the rule of thirds to help plants and hardscapes to work well together. Plant Selection Right plant, right place, right purpose
  4. 4. 3/2/2010 Page 4 Sustainability Select based on elements of design Size, plant type, form, texture, seasonal interest Follow the Rule of 3rds Select varieties with persistent fruit, usable fruit, or sterility Plant type – tree, vine, herbaceous, shrub, deciduous, evergreen, etc. Size – Always select plants based on their mature height and width, design small details to be viewed up close; Form – Plants with airy forms can serve well as screens & scrims. Go vertical - trellising & espalier, cordons, pleaching. Be aware that these forms of plant training can be high maintenance! Texture, Mix & Match – Mix textures to create depth and interest within a landscape. Use fine textured plants as airy backdrops and as masses that create unity within a landscape. Seasonal Interest – fruit, flower, nut, bark, branching, etc. Design elements – Design plants and hardscapes to perform twice as well in your small landscape. Consider seating options (rocks, walls, stumps), plants as screens and living walls and ceilings, water features that serve as bird baths and pet drinking fountains, hot tubs as water features, trees for hanging baskets and pots, etc. No room for an herb or vegetable garden? Make the most of your space by interplant ornamentals with edibles. Views - Use tall plants as back drops to show off other plants. Borrow landscapes from areas outside your small landscape – parks, lakes, neighbors, churches, etc. Color Cool – calm, relaxing, larger Neutral – Transitions, softens, expands Warm – Excites, attention, focal, “jumps out” of the landscape Resources Rice, Graham, The Ultimate Book of Small Gardens Messervy, Julie Moir and Susanka, Susan, Outside the Not So Big House Beaulieu, David, “Color Theory in Landscape Design”, Luss, Gunda, “Color Techniques for Landscape Design” Boulden, Steve, “Big Help for Small Gardens”, http://www.the-landscape-design-