How to Create a Dreamy Garden in a Small Space

The creative mind behind Tiny Canal Cottage shares her secrets.

Photography by Whitney Leigh Morris

Whitney Leigh Morris, the blogger and designer extraordinaire of Tiny Canal Cottage, knows a thing or two about small space decorating—and gardening. After all, she and her family live in a Venice Beach home that measures 362 square feet and has not one, but three outdoor areas. When Morris moved into the cottage in 2011, the outdoor spaces were little more than a few cement pavers and some patchy grass, but now the garden is a lush, cozy dream space. The transformation is truly jaw-dropping.

Morris updates the garden regularly depending on her needs, and always maximizes the small space to fit a variety of functions, whether it's a play room for her son West, a dining room to host friends and family, or a relaxed home office. Here, she shares her top tips for designing a functional, yet totally gorgeous garden, no matter how tiny your outdoor space is.

 Small Space Gardening & Decorating Tips- Go Vertical
Photography by Whitney Leigh Morris

1. Go vertical

Morris has a slew of suggestions for maximizing vertical space. For planters, you can create a potted lattice garden, install rail or balcony planters, or hang “gutter gardens.” For tools, opt for a hanging system rather than a box. This can be as simple as nails on the wall, or you can take a page from her book and hang a weather-proof pocket organizer or install a lattice fence that can hold planters.

2. Consider the elements

Living in Southern California means that Morris doesn't often have to worry about the rain, but the sun can be overwhelming, so some type of protection from the elements is a must-have. In the eight-foot wide porch between the two cottages, Morris created a play space for her son and installed a canvas between the two roofs to turn the exposed area into an extension of the interior.

Photography by Whitney Leigh Morris

3. Stay flexible

One of the best ways to maximize your space is to use versatile furnishings that can collapse and be repurposed around the home and garden. You can also use flatware or dish caddies to transport items between the interior and exterior without having to acquire separate sets for indoor vs. outdoor use. “And use your stoop,” suggests Morris. “This often overlooked space can be used as a temporary office, mini dining space, or petite lounge.”  

Photography by Whitney Leigh Morris

4. Choose pieces that do double duty.

To get the most out of the tiny garden, she opts for accessory pieces that can work double duty: a hanging basket tray, which both stores gardening tools and displays plants, and a wicker storage ottoman, which neatly organizes outdoor pillows and blankets while also serving as extra seating.

 Small Space Gardening & Decorating Tips- Whitney Leigh Morris of Tiny Canal Cottage
Photography by Whitney Leigh Morris

5. Opt for furniture that can be easily tucked away.

folding bistro table and chairs are perfect for easy clean-up, should you need to free up some space. Morris has a few seating and table combinations that allow for a slew of different situations. She can use the small table to create an intimate al fresco dining room for date night, or set up a picnic-style table for a large group dinner.

 Small Space Gardening & Decorating Tips- Stay Flexible
Photography by Whitney Leigh Morris
 Small Space Gardening & Decorating Tips- Create Ambiance
Photography by Whitney Leigh Morris

6. Create ambiance

Incorporate café lights, lanterns, and candles (safely!) to get that cozy feeling, and add outdoor area rugs to define different spaces and create texture.

 Small Space Gardening & Decorating Tips
Photography by Whitney Leigh Morris

7. Choose plants that work with your landscape and climate.

The biggest key to success of any garden is to make sure you're choosing the right plants. That means understanding your climate and your light. What works for Morris in Southern California will probably not work for a backyard in Portland, Oregon (here's exactly what Morris has planted). 

To maximize greenery in a small space, think vertically. Opt for leafy vines that will climb your fence, or use baskets for trailing plants. There are an abundance of hanging and over-the-railing planters that make it easy to cover your perimeter with plants.

Photography by Whitney Leigh Morris

Follow Whitney Leigh Morris on Instagram @whitneyleighmorris for more tiny cottage updates!

This story was originally published May 11, 2017. It has been updated with new information.

Related reading: 
Whitney Leigh Morris: Tour This Gorgeous 362-Square-Foot Canal Cottage 
7 Genius Hacks For Small Outdoor Spaces
How To Grow Vegetables, Even If You Have No Space

Published on May 29, 2018 - 5:20pm EDT

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