This tiny Peninsula garden, designed by Katie and Merle Kroeker of Pacific Ridge Landscapes, proves that even the smallest of spaces can have an enormous impact on both lifestyle and visual appeal. Working within the regulations of the townhouse strata, the Kroekers transformed this diminutive garden into a true outdoor living space for the homeowners, who say the redesign vastly improved the way they live and enjoy their home.
With its simple, lush, easy-care plantings, ambient lighting and comfortable patio furniture tucked privately into one corner, the 400-square-foot garden is a cozy place to relax, bird watch, entertain friends, or just nap on a Sunday afternoon. The new space is everything the homeowners wanted. Restful. Private. Serene. Perfect.
“Before our redesign, the garden was paved in concrete blocks around a central Japanese maple with overgrown borders edged with scalloped concrete,” says Katie. “It was tidy, but dated.” Another problem was the steep berm separating the sunken garden from the common lawn area. Without stairs, the slippery slope prevented safe access to the parking lot on the other side of the hedge just a few feet away.
To remedy this problem, the Kroekers built a retaining boulder wall into the berm, with plants tucked around and flowing over the rocks to promote continuity with the rest of the garden. Simple stairs built from overlapping stones contribute a touch of rustic appeal with their irregular, sheered off edges and provide safe access to the parking lot.
The Krokers resurfaced the patio with flagstones from a local quarry, leaving an island around the Japanese maple tree. “The area under the tree is airy but colourful,” Katie says. “It provides context for the maple, balancing the visual weight of the tree’s canopy.”
The island also features a custom, small-scale water feature tucked between a mix of flowering plants in a restful palette of purple and white. Much to the delight of the homeowners, the fountain is a favourite place for birds to play; while the trickling water provides a sound-screen for added privacy.
“Small water features like this one are perfect for strata gardens because they don’t require any special permission or pose any safety concerns,” says Katie. She incorporates water features into her designs whenever possible.
Lighting is another high-impact element the Kroekers say is often overlooked in landscape projects. “People often eliminate lighting for budgetary reasons,” says Katie, “yet as a design element, it provides one of the greatest impacts with the best value by contributing a beautiful atmosphere.”
Here, the Kroekers installed path lighting along the stone steps for added safety, with wall lights that heighten the garden’s romantic ambience. To highlight architectural elements like the trunk of the Japanese maple, they installed uplighting at its base. As daylight dims, the garden becomes a magical place, where the homeowners and their guests linger long after dark.
Are there any special considerations when designing small outdoor spaces? Katie says that scale and balance are key. “The design of a tiny yard must be concentrated instead of diluted, with strong elements but fewer of them,” she explains. She suggests choosing a colour palette, whether vibrant or subdued. And the design should always factor in ample living space.
“I always recommend that clients finish their new garden with accessories and furnishing so that the space is truly restful,” says Katie, although she warns against accessorizing too much. When all the elements work together in scale, proportion and balance, a tiny garden becomes like this one: an oasis of beauty, colour, birdsong and grace.