Ideas to use your small space effectively

Backyard retreat

USE WATER AS A REFLECTOR

Finding space in a small garden for a water feature isn't always easy. But even the tiniest ponds and pools can make a garden appear larger by adding the illusion of depth, and by reflecting the sky and surrounding surfaces. Some designers use long troughs to outline architectural details. In the Southern California garden pictured above, water spouts into a long, narrow pool at the base of a wall.

EMBELLISH WALLS AND PAVED POCKETS

A pocket garden off the side of the house entered through French doors calls for artistic detailing, even if it encloses only 5 square feet. Consider a small cafe table and pair of chairs. Or a miniature art gallery like the wall pictured above, designed by William Burton of the Del Mar firm Burton Associates; cast-bronze faces peer through a diamond grid made of tubular iron covered with star jasmine. "Smith & Hawken has great garden art," says Burton, "but salvage yards also have interesting things--like old columns and corbels."

PATTERN PAVING

Paving set on the diagonal, or a path stamped or colored with bold diamond shapes as shown above, can make a garden seem deeper than it is. Boldly curving paths keep the eye from racing to the periphery of the property.

BLUR THE BOUNDARIES

Use trees, vines, and shrubs to obscure the fences and walls that define your property. Imply there is more beyond by constructing a pathway that disappears around a bend.

CHANGE LEVELS

A change in level, even if it's just a few inches, offers a different perspective, which creates the illusion of greater space. Consider raising or lowering patios, or creating gentle berms (mounds) and swales (depressions).

PLANT IN LAYERS

Espalier a first row of plants flat against the wall. That way you can squeeze in two or three layers, making the space appear multidimensional.

Backyard retreat