Intimate outdoor space

Livin' Large

Homeowners want intimate outdoor spaces where they can putter in the dirt, relax with the newspaper, revel in the flowers, or entertain guests.

We'll reveal which flowers and shrubs to plant and how to arrange them, and show you how to use containers and design fences, gates, walks, and water features.

Big Style: Doty's Garden

Perfect Patio

This garden is really an extension of the owners' home. It beckons you outdoors and begs you to linger among the daylilies, spice-scented roses, and friendly daisies.

The patio is just large enough to be functional without being unmanageable, a key characteristic for any outdoor living space. Plus, thoughtful planning has minimized garden chores.

Blooming Favorites:
Perennials: bearded iris, 'Whirling Butterflies' gaura (Gaura lindheimeri 'Whirling Butterflies'), purple coneflower, daylily, and Shasta daisy
Biennial: common foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)
Annuals: begonia, pentas, snapdragon, and torenia

Big Style: Path

Pretty Paths

The key to this garden's design is a handsome walkway that traverses the narrow side yard. It serves as the garden's focal point around which all the plantings are arranged.

Notice how the simple plantings lend a sense of visual cohesion. Evergreen shrubs -- including holly, dwarf sasanqua camellia, Sandankwa viburnum, and cherry laurel -- rise from sweeps of mondo grass and asparagus fern ground covers. The evergreen shrubs add year-round color and also help to screen nearby houses. The ground covers tie together the plantings while minimizing maintenance.

How wide should the walk be?
Primary paths that receive heavy use, such as a front walk, should be at least 4 to 5 feet wide to permit two people to walk side by side. For secondary paths such as this one, 2 to 3 feet wide is usually fine.

Big Style: Slope

Hedges and Annuals

This tiny backyard provides lots of room for brilliant blooms amid evergreen foliage.

The owners of this home started by adding a row of English boxwoods to anchor the backyard and define the small lawn. This hedge also provides a transition to the slope and a backdrop for bright annuals. To replicate the pattern of evergreen foundation shrubs, they dotted the slope between the steps with prostrate junipers. The couple also put in tea olives at the top of the slope for a touch of fragrance and to echo the boxwoods.

Keys to Small-Space Success:
• Pockets of color surrounded by evergreen shrubs add visual accents and cut down on maintenance.
• Keeping vines and shrubs pruned back maximizes space for annuals.
• Continually adding organic matter to the soil keeps the plants on the terraces healthy.

Big Style: Savannah

Create a Courtyard

This courtyard is split into two sections -- a parterre garden and a more open lawn area -- divided by a wrought iron gate. John McEllen, the landscape designer who shaped this courtyard, decided to leave the existing Venus statue and pond as the central elements because, as he says, "Every good courtyard needs a water feature and a traditional garden ornament." To soften the hardscape, John added boxwoods and a row of azaleas.

Why This Space Works:
• The symmetrical layout is visually appealing.
• Hardscape materials from the garden match materials from the house.
• Traditional plants create a beautiful effect year-round.
• Wrought iron enhances the feeling of antiquity.
• An uncluttered design increases the impact of the plants.
• The water feature adds a cooling, soothing touch.
• This courtyard offers an expanded living and entertaining area.

Big Style: Cottage

Fab Front Yard

It's all about the details for this home. Roses exude charm, while the planter under the windows seals the deal between the garden and the architecture. Containers anchor each corner of the grass terrace, becoming floral exclamation points on the simple design.

Gorgeous Plant Palette:
Roses: 'Dortmund' (cherry red) and 'Ballerina' (light pink) work together beautifully on the fence. Over the front door, 'Climbing Old Bush' flowers with equal enthusiasm.
Perennials: Along the front walk, 'Bath's Pink' Cheddar pinks, lamb's ears, and silvery 'Powis Castle' artemisia offer year-round texture and seasonal color.
Annuals: Violas, snapdragons, and pansies keep the palette simple and colorful.

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