Big and small garden design ideas

There’s something really magical when a Garden Unfolds Into Rooms but you don’t need high fences and garden walls to create the sense of moving from one space to another. The gardens in this post, both in southwestern Ontario (zones 5a/5b) are very different from each other. One was a very big country estate. The other was pocket-sized in comparison. But both were very personal environments masterfully balancing a variety of intimate spaces. And both had oodles of garden design ideas that would be easy to customize for your own big or small garden.

Big ideas make an extra large garden intimate

The owners of this massive garden, a couple who do all the gardening themselves, have created a group of inviting spaces each with its own vibe but appropriately scaled to the size of the overall space. The property is situated on a long slope with a short but steep incline just before you get to the house. The main features are a Gothic folly, two huge rose pergolas (seen in the photo immediately below), a water feature with another, attached Gothic folly, a dining patio, bonfire area and a terrace on the same level as the house itself.

As you proceed from the driveway at the bottom of the slope, you pass a Gothic stone folly and then up a path through two large, rose-planted pergolas. There was no going half measure with these garden features. They are substantial.

In the photo below, left, you can see the folly and the pergolas. The barn in the far left of the photo incorporates a garage. Overlooking the pergolas is an elegant timbered gazebo, complete with chandelier. Scale is important here. A smaller, more delicate gazebo would have looked out of place. Instead, it does a nice job of echoing the architectural style of the barn and adding balance to the folly and pergolas. When viewed from the house, these features aren’t lost against the vast sweep of lawn and the forest backdrop. I have to admit that the gazebo was such a refreshing change from the usual Victorian style. The dark timbers framing the square outdoor room created a surprisingly luxurious space helped along by over-sized, upholstered, living room-style furniture. No plastic Adirondacks here!

As the slope begins to steepen, steps lead you up to the house. On the right side of the steps is a large rock garden, a water feature and another Gothic folly.

The waterfall and pond, with its attached Gothic folly, flank one side of a large terrace. The area closest to the water feature is furnished for outdoor dining. Adjacent to the dining area is casual seating around a bonfire pit.

Once at the top of the stairs and level with the house itself, you discover another seating area to the right of the house. This terrace is surrounded by a  wrought iron fence and stone columns topped by vibrantly planted containers.

Repetition and an edited use of colour ties this huge garden together. The use of stone is key. You find stone in the follies, the rock garden, the water feature, framing the terraces and forming the steps up to the house. Although the flower beds have a variety of annuals and perennials, deep pink flowers–the roses in the pergolas, peonies by the house and petunias in the containers–add to a sense of harmony.

A small garden offers fun and fantasy

Considering its size, there were a surprising amount of features in this fenced-in backyard garden. A small sunken patio with a gazebo-like structure (more like a windowless/wall-less sunroom) was immediately outside the back of the house. The photos below show what you saw as you stood in the gazebo looking out towards the centre and right side of the space. The central pathway meanders towards the back of the garden and around a water feature you can barely see from this angle. On the right side of the garden, beds of hostas and other herbaceous perennials expand the woodland theme.

On the left side of the garden, a raised deck capitalized on the one patch of sunlight in this wooded garden. In the photo immediately below, you also have a glimpse of the gazebo and sunken patio that are attached to the back of the house.

A round deck with two chairs makes a feature in a small garden.

The central pathway gives way to a boardwalk which wrapped around one side of the water feature. The moss-covered tree stump-shaped waterfall spilled into a small pond.

Underscoring the feeling of mystery and playfulness were lots of fun touches that didn’t take up a lot of space but were big on impact. You stumbled upon the knee-height fairy home hidden in the far corner of the garden. A pile of stones became art. A container of annuals, elevated on a vintage stool, added a bright spot of colour in one dark spot at the back of this garden while a framed photo added another pop in the opposite corner. A collection of birdhouses added more sculptural interest without taking up a lot of room.

Whether you have a big garden or a small garden, it seems that the best garden design ideas are always the ones expressed most expansively while scaled to complement the proportions of the space.

One thought on “Big and small garden design ideas

  1. Pingback: A rustic meets zen garden hides surprises | Ministry of the fence

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