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a backyard design including a small pool water feature and a fountain

On the hunt for a fresh garden idea to transform your space? Look no further. This guide offers 15 handpicked solutions to suit any yard. From the elegance of Zen gardens to the functionality of container gardening, each idea is designed to inspire and guide you in crafting your ideal green space.

Embrace Vertical Gardening

Working with a limited space can feel constraining but there is still so much possibility in a small space. That’s why we suggest vertical gardening. This method allows you to grow plants upwards, making the most of your available space, and opening new possibilities for plant growth. Think of trellises supporting vibrant roses, wall planters filled with cascading blooms, and vertical structures standing tall with climbing vegetables. All of these can add height, texture, and a unique visual appeal to your garden, transforming even the smallest patio into a green oasis.

patio design with a set of four lounge chairs and a fire pit surrounded by tall vertical planters

Vertical gardening is more than just a space-saving technique; it’s a way to enhance the health of your plants. Growing plants vertically can help to reduce disease and pest issues with increased airflow. This is especially beneficial for climbing vegetables, making them easier to harvest and ensuring they get the sunlight they need.

Design a Zen Garden

Amidst the daily rush, a tranquil space to unwind and reflect becomes a sanctuary. You can take that sanctuary one step further with a zen garden. Inspired by Japanese Buddhism, Zen gardens create a meditative and tranquil space right within your backyard. They focus on the use of natural elements like rocks, gravel, and wood, and have minimal plants.

a design for a zen garden, including a rounded couch and table to match the curved lines of the raked gravel

The key elements in a Zen garden are carefully selected and arranged to symbolize natural elements and scenes. Large rocks serve as a focal point and are often the first to be placed in the design due to their structural and visual weight. Gravel, on the other hand, is methodically raked into patterns that evoke the essence of water or other natural features, enhancing the garden’s meditative atmosphere. This meticulous planning and maintenance, like raking gravel and pruning plants, not only maintains the garden’s neatness but also provides a therapeutic activity that fosters mindfulness.


Read more on our Top 4 Zen Garden Ideas here

Add a Garden Water Feature

Gardens encompass more than just plants. The calming sound of water cascading down a fountain or waterfall can enhance the aesthetic and ambiance of your garden. Whether you install a small fountain on your patio or place a grand centerpiece in your spacious backyard, water features can effortlessly enhance your garden’s appeal.

a backyard design that includes a small pool water feature and a fountain near the seating area

But water features are not just about aesthetics. They also have practical benefits. For instance, a waterfall or stream integrated with natural stone flowing into a pond can provide a naturalistic and tranquil feature in your garden. Water features also have a cooling effect, making your garden a refreshing retreat in warmer climates or seasons.

Moreover, a simple birdbath or a pond can attract birds and other wildlife, adding life and vibrancy to your garden. So why not add a splash of charm to your garden with a water feature?

Install a Garden Path

A garden path serves a dual purpose. It’s a practical element guiding you through various sections of your garden and an aesthetic feature that enhances the visual appeal of your space.

a design that looks down a winding stone garden path to a seating area and a fireplace and additional seating further along

There are a myriad of materials you can use to construct your garden path, each offering different aesthetic qualities:

  • Mulch
  • Gravel
  • Pavers
  • Bricks
  • Natural stones
  • Wood planks

The design of your garden path can be as creative as your imagination allows. Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Expand your small backyard with a winding path
  • Use grass or turf between large scale pavers for a classic and more formal look
  • Incorporate outdoor lighting along your garden paths to enhance their visual appeal during the evening and ensure safety.

Build a Greenhouse

Constructing a greenhouse offers the opportunity to create a controllable microcosm of your garden. A greenhouse allows you to extend the growing season, cater to specific plant needs, and even experiment with different types of plants that may not thrive in your local climate. But the key to a successful greenhouse lies in the details: the right location, the right materials, and the right size.

a yard design that includes a fenced in garden area and a large black and glass greenhouse

The ideal location for a greenhouse is a south or southeast-facing site that maximizes sun exposure. Preparing the site involves ground leveling and using well-draining foundation materials. The size of your greenhouse depends on your individual needs, but 8 by 6 feet is a common choice. 

Opt for a Formal Garden Style

If a sense of order and elegance is what you seek in a garden style, a formal garden might be the ideal solution. Formal gardens are characterized by:

  • Symmetry
  • Geometric patterns
  • Clipped hedges
  • A limited plant palette commonly focusing on a timeless color theme of green and white (but don’t be afraid to push the traditional boundaries and play with color!)
a formal garden with clipped hedging surrounding flower beds and a large multi-tiered fountain at the center

Structural plants such as clipped hedges, evergreen parterres with geometrical details, and topiary plants are essential for creating the formal garden’s architecture. They introduce rhythm and harmony through repeated elements and are often arranged symmetrically to maintain balance.

Maximize Space with Container Gardening

Limited garden space shouldn’t curb your gardening ambitions. Container gardening allows you to cultivate a variety of plants in pots, boxes, or baskets. This not only conserves space but also enhances your garden’s aesthetic appeal.

a backyard with a variety of raised beds and container gardens

Container gardening can accommodate a range of potted plants, including:

  • Vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, and beans
  • Dwarf citrus trees
  • Underplanting with smaller, showier species
  • Converting sunny flower beds into herb gardens that are edible, aromatic, and attractive.

Create a Children’s Garden

Establishing a children’s garden is an excellent way to nurture a young mind’s love for nature. A dedicated space for play, learning, and sensory experiences can stimulate children’s curiosity and inspire them to explore the natural world.

a backyard design that incorporates children's play elements like a slide, climbing wall, and more

Educational activities, such as bird watching by the feeders and monitoring the growth of plants in a miniature garden, allow children to engage with and learn about their environment and the cycle of plant life. A sensory garden with plants and features tailored to stimulate all five senses can enhance physical activity, emotional development, creativity, and the fine motor skills of children.

Plant a Moonlit Garden

Gardens can be enjoyed beyond daylight hours. Picture strolling into your garden after dark, welcomed by the captivating glow of night-blooming flowers bathed in moonlight. A moonlit garden can create a magical, sensory experience that can be enjoyed after dark.

a design render at night, including a seating area and fountain, surrounded by white plants bright in the moonlight

To create a moonlit garden, consider planting flowers like:

  • Yellow Evening Primrose
  • Night Phlox
  • Night-Scented Stock
  • Four O’Clock Flower
  • Night Gladiolus
  • Moonflower vines

These night-blooming plants can bring beauty and fragrance to your garden. Fairy lights strung in trees or personalized lanterns can be incorporated into the garden to add an enchanting sparkle, enhancing the magical ambience of the moonlit setting.

Add a Cozy Fire Pit Area

A fire pit introduces warmth and coziness to your garden, converting it into a welcoming outdoor social space. Whether you want to roast marshmallows, enjoy a glass of wine, or simply relax by the fire, a fire pit area can serve as a focal point for outdoor entertainment and relaxation.

a backyard with a stone patio, a wooden raised deck, a fire pit and a grill

Selecting a location for a fire pit is crucial, ensuring it’s placed a safe distance from structures and there’s ample room for outdoor seating.

Grow a Vertical Herb Garden

Cultivating a vertical herb garden enables you to grow a variety of herbs, even in limited spaces. Whether it’s thyme, rosemary, basil, or mint, you can grow your favorite herbs in vertical structures or window boxes, maximizing space and accessibility.

a backyard seating area with a couch, lounge chairs, and wall planters against a wooden accent wall

Vertical herb gardens provide an efficient way to incorporate a diverse range of herbs in small spaces such as balconies or patios through the use of vertical structures or window boxes. Popular herbs like:

  • basil
  • mint
  • thyme
  • cilantro
  • sage

thrive in vertical gardens, with annual herbs needing replanting each season and perennial herbs enduring for multiple seasons, and flowering herbs attracting pollinators while providing cooking ingredients.

Use Garden Structures for Shade

Garden structures such as pergolas, arbors, and gazebos not only add architectural interest to your garden but also provide welcome shade during the sweltering summer months. Whether you want to create a shaded seating area, support climbing plants, or simply enhance the visual appeal of your garden, these structures can meet your needs.

a lush backyard with a parge black pergola above an outdoor dining table and a built in curved bench

Create a secret garden vibe with full vining plants over top or incorporate shade-loving plants under the cover such as hostas, begonias, and heucheras. Arbors can include built-in benches providing seating in the shade for relaxation, while gazebos are perfect structures for summer reading, sharing a glass of wine, or socializing.

Design a Butterfly Garden

Creating a butterfly garden can transform your outdoor space into a vibrant, lively sanctuary for these exquisite creatures. By incorporating a variety of nectar-rich plants, native species, and colorful blooms, you can attract a diverse range of butterflies to your garden.

a bright and colorful garden with a variety of vibrant plant varieties planted closely together

The following plants are just a few of our favorites to create a variety of nectar-rich sources and appealing visual layers that are irresistible to butterflies:

  • Helenium
  • Monarda
  • Tickseed
  • Asters

Here at Yardzen, as part of our efforts in partnership with the American Rewilding Project, we include native and ecologically adapted plants wherever possible in our designs. By planting ecosystem-sustaining species in every yard, we create natural habitats for beneficial insects and pollinating birds, bees, and butterflies. 

Add a Garden Archway

Introducing a garden archway can lend a romantic, fairytale-like atmosphere to your garden. Whether it’s an elegant archway over a path or an entry, an archway can create an attractive entrance to the garden and frame a view.

a backyard with a garden archway and fence leading down a sloped terrace

Garden archways are available in a variety of designs, from classic to rustic, and can be easily installed using a kit that comes with all the necessary components. They can be anchored in concrete with ground anchors, ensuring they are secured in place.


When it comes to creating a more permanent structure in the yard, we recommend leaving that to the professionals. You can find Yardzen vetted contractors in your area through our Contractor Connect service! Learn more here.

Add a Garden Swing

More than a fun element for children, a garden swing can serve as a charming garden feature, providing a cozy spot for relaxation and enjoying the surrounding beauty. Whether you want a classic wooden swing for a rustic charm or a modern metal swing for a sleek finish, there are plenty of garden swing designs to choose from.

a back patio with large couch swings

Selecting a location for a garden swing is crucial, ensuring it’s placed a safe distance from structures and there’s ample room for swinging.

Work with a Yardzen designer to transform your outdoor space

Yardzen’s award-winning online landscape design is tailored to clients in all fifty states in the US. Our top-notch designers then develop a personalized vision for your yard, shared through 3D photorealistic designs, 2D plan drawings, and plant and material lists. Find the right design package for your needs here. 


Your design will capture the look, feel, and function you are hoping for, all while keeping costs within range.Once your design is complete, we’ll help you connect with a local contractor from our network of vetted professional landscapers and contractors to install your new design. Want to see what pros we have available in your area? You can get started with Contractor Connect here! 

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