How to Turn a Side Yard Into a Glorious Garden Room

Front lawns and backyards are well established from the backyard playbook. However, the distance between the outside of your home and the perimeter of your house can be an overlooked asset, worthy of focus.

There are many wonderful ways to design even a narrow side yard, but if the space is wide enough — measuring, say, 8 to 10 ft or more — you can almost treat it as a backyard. At a medium-scale side yard, all sorts of experiences can happen, hauling you and your guests with a garden walk, offering a quiet and private retreat, or even capturing a pastoral scene to be observed from inside.

You will find so many great tips for unwanted yarddesigns that it made sense to split this theme to two parts. The solutions you see here are largely ornamental in character. Stay tuned for a follow-up ideabook on more practical layout tips for side yards.

Here you will discover some of the very attractive layout remedies you have ever noticed in a mid century side garden.

Debora carl landscape layout

A circle in a square is a traditional design motif. Here it is expressed at a gorgeous gravel garden. This side yard is wide enough to accommodate a circular focal point (with a well-proportioned urn in its center). There is ample room for Mediterranean herbs and annual bedding plants to flourish across both sides of a pathway, which parts around the middle urn and ends in the garden gate.

Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC

A long border worthy of a grand principal backyard fits into this transition distance between a brick home and its garage. The space effect is improved here, as a result of the connecting breezeway. It provides the extensive route a destination and accommodates deep planting beds for the textural borders on either side.

This is just the sort of secondary place that could have been paved for parking. Instead, it is a dreamy place for a stroll, still providing access for all those approaching.


Every room needs a door, right? Here’s a full-size door, inserted into a humble wooden fence. Its existence heightens the feeling of entry into a lush side garden. There is even a stone threshold over which to step.

This really is a gorgeous way to add a feeling of mystery and encourage anticipation for anyone coming to the bower inside.

The Todd Group

A softly curved flagstone route attracts pedestrians from the front yard, throughout the spacious side garden, toward the rolling lawn in the space. An opening at a row of trees frames the opinion.

In this side backyard, nevertheless, there are loads of beautiful plant mixes offering curiosity. In the flowering thyme in and about the flagstones to the repeating mounds of perennials (irises and woman’s mantle) and tender shrubs (azaleas), the layout is motivated and attractive.

Schmechtig Landscapes

Gotta love this tic-tac-toe layout to get a side garden that is completely engaging for everyone who happens upon it. This notion can adapt to most any dimension or cultural illness, because you first design the grid, then add the plants.

Starting with off-the-shelf concrete or cut-stone pavers from a home improvement center (super cheap), lay out the path. Then alternate crushed rock for simple drainage and ground covers that can tolerate a little bit of foot traffic. Your unwanted garden will eventually have a fashionable attitude — and you are likely to accomplish this at a weekend.

Jay Hargrave Architecture

Minimalists, attention! Less is more in this aspect yard. Here’s what makes this layout a winner: 1. Plants against the perimeter wall; 2. Uplighting for day play; 3. A fire source (fire pit); and 4. The continual floor plane in the form of decomposed granite.

Depending on where you reside, the floor of a side courtyard could be poured concrete, concrete pavers, crushed rock or even turf. Just treat it like a rug runner and you’ll make an evocative side-garden destination.

Arterra Landscape Architects

Side gardens aren’t just about the backyard floor; they are also about the perpendicular plane: the walls, so to speak. That notion is expressed beautifully here. Sustainably harvested ipe boards, installed, alternate with pieces of stucco to enclose and keep the garden.

This is a well-furnished space with benches for seating, pockets for plants and just a fireplace treatment. There is a graphic rhythm for this area that makes it enjoyable both to view and to spend some time seeing in.

In reading the designer’s notes, I had been amazed to learn that this secret side backyard was once an asphalt driveway! Wow. The freestanding wall of engineered timber acts as a screen to hide the pathway by passersby.

But step slightly to the right and you discover the path of flagstone and crushed rock. This can be an inviting way to go through the garden, however I love how it stays personal — for those allowed to enter.

8 Splendid Designs for a Narrower Side Yard

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