Monday, October 4, 2010


Every single family home has them. What are they? They are small side yards that are usually narrow and long. Most of them serve the purpose of getting from the gate to the back yard or a place to store the trash bins. In some cases side yards are not even really used since typically each home has two. There are also many design ideas for side yard, but the one I often recommend to my clients is what I like to call the high impact low cost option. This involves reusing/re-purposing existing materials and adding some new ones.

As you can see in the above picture this side yard (location Costa Mesa, CA) is really long (45') and narrow (6'). There is nothing there but dirt and it is not a space that the client anticipates using often. What we did was take existing small concrete pavers and existing brick and used it to create a pathway down the center of the side yard and added mulch as grout and planted on either side of the paving. The result was a very functional yet organic side yard.

Some tips for designing side yards.
  1. Determine if that space will get a lot of use or not. The purpose of that space will often dictate the design.
  2. Consider re-using materials. For example if you are using brick in your back yard then you may have left over pieces that you can use in your side yard.
  3. Pick plants that will work in that space by determining if the side yard is mostly shade or sun.
  4. Pick drought tolerant California native plants that will require a lot less water and maintenance.
  5. Create vertical interest by having hanging planters that allow you to garden upwards.
  6. Too many colors in a small space will look cluttered and messy. Limit your palette to just a few.
  7. The layout of the hardscape does not need to be in a straight line. Get creative!

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