A mature tree has been pruned so just enough sunlight penetrates the canopy to support the shade plants in this entry garden.
Together with the paneled façade of the house, the curved path through the moss and ferns calls to mind a secluded woodland retreat. Exposed roots complete the backwoods feel.
Situated between two pergolas and a row of Italian cypress trees, this garden had to be designed for shade. Water-saving paving cuts a space-enhancing diagonal path.
By there very nature, shade gardens are damp places, so wood or plastic furniture often trumps wrought iron where upkeep is concerned.
Plastic, shown here, requires zero maintenance, while wood may need the occasional resealing or repainting.
Where shaded space is tight, make sure your walkway is kept clear and dry between waterings to prevent slipping. In the dark nooks and crannies of this garden, shrubs are clipped for a manicured look and white flowers function like footlights.
The light-colored exterior of this house offsets an assortment of dark green shade plants in a way that makes this corner seating area look warm and inviting rather than cold and dreary. A coat of paint can brighten masonry and siding.
It would be difficult to maintain a healthy lawn in this tree-shaded backyard, so the owners opted for no maintenance at all.
Brick paving unites paths and patios into one seamless whole. The patio’s red edging encourages the eye to scan what lies ahead.
A giant vine-covered wall takes advantage of vertical growing space in this slender patio, where the ground is already planted chockablock with boxwood and hostas. Leaving the fence to the left bare keeps claustrophobia at bay.
A staircase laid out diagonally through this garden suggests multiple levels and a larger space.
Its living banisters consist of trimmed boxwood and blooming mountain pieris that appear to flow downhill like water.
Twin containers of Ficus benjamina and symmetrical beds set the tone in this formal courtyard.
Features making the space seem bigger are the gate and the walkway. These align with each other and share a geometric pattern that elongates their true dimensions.
This nook sandwiched between buildings packs several space-expanding concepts into one diminutive garden: Fewer kinds of plants ensures a restful mood.
Grow the plants at varying heights. Include a clear focal point. Link the indoors and outdoors.
These densely packed beds of ferns and shade-loving bergenia convey a sense of cheerful abundance. The bright green foliage is a soft, cool counterpart to the stone walk.
You can eke out more growing room around your house as long as you’re reconciled to the existing light conditions, which may be dim. Here, the broad, ribbed leaves of hostas stretch out under a veil of climbing roses.
Groundcovers that hold up against light traffic can help take the hard out of hardscape. When allowed to fill seams along a narrow patio, they not only cushion the feet but are often accompanied by tiny seasonal blooms.
From Big Ideas for Small Gardens, Sunset Books
For more garden, porch, and patio inspiration, purchase Big Ideas for Small Gardens .