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Go Big

Think you’re limited by space? Think again. Landscape designer Alissa Shanley shows us how she made her tiny Platt Park yard into an inviting outdoor retreat.

September 2012

For her backyard, Alissa Shanley envisioned flower and vegetable gardens, a patio with seating areas, and grass. There was just one problem: She has a house with one of those tiny, postage stamp–size yards. But Shanley, a landscape designer and owner of Denver’s B. Gardening, managed to incorporate it all—and then some. The patio fits a table for eight plus a sofa lounge, and the vegetable garden borders a patch of grass. Rose bushes bloom on the sunny side, and the shady corner is home to a lush garden of hosta plants and bleeding hearts. Shanley also created a colorful passageway alongside the house using columnar trees and climbing hydrangeas. With a small, sheltered space, you’re not limited to xeriscaping: “If you know where to put the right plants,” she says, “you can almost have anything.”

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Hoist a Sail 

You can’t beat sail shades for small spaces. They’re inexpensive, come in various shapes, and don’t take up as much room as a pergola.  

Think Color 

To create a nook, Shanley painted her fence lime green and decorated it with bright-colored bulb string lights that complement a whimsical garden of nicotiana, which grow tall and bloom with hanging white flowers.

Space Savers 

“Columnar trees are best friends to small spaces,” Shanley says; they provide structure and color without large canopies. In gardens, use tomato cages for creeping vegetables like cucumbers to make the most of square footage.