Small Backyard Landscaping Ideas in Portland, OR

Landscaping small yards and backyards in the Vancouver, WA, and Portland, OR, area has its challenges but also has endless landscape opportunities. 


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Landscaping small yards and backyards in the Vancouver, WA, and Portland, OR, area has its challenges but also has endless landscape opportunities. 

The best approach to landscaping small backyards is to identify your goal with the space. Do you plan to host parties there? Is it going to be your serene getaway? Will you grow fruit and vegetables? Due to the limited space of smaller backyards it is important to establish a priority of needs as they will inform the larger elements you include in your build. It is totally possible to have a small space that is capable of all these goals but generally spatial sacrifices will need to be made to make the most of a smaller space. 

Every backyard, regardless of size, needs the appropriate plants in order to shine. Smaller spaces require spatially efficient plants which will help narrow down your search. As with any landscape, we recommend a diverse range of heights, colors, and textures in your plant selection. This will create the most immersive and enveloping space.

Here are some of our favorite picks for small spaces:

Golden bamboo stalk in West Linn, OR

Tall Pick: Golden Bamboo

Growing 8-20 ft depending on container size, Golden Bamboo is a beautiful bamboo species noted for its golden yellow shoots. We highly recommend only planting bamboo in above ground planters with no connection to the soil below (whether a clumping or running species). Bamboo is notorious for spreading beyond its desired location when planted in the Earth but when planted in isolated pots it is a wonderfully decorative plant that offers screening, noise reduction, beauty, and character. 


Tamukeyama Laceleaf Japanese maple in Vancouver, WA Nursery

Medium Pick:  Laceleaf Japanese Maple 

Growing up to 10 feet tall and 10 feet around, these trees can become quite sizable after decades of growth but will take their sweet time getting there. This timeless tree will add immense beauty to any space and depending on the size you obtain can take up as little as three feet vertically and 2 feet horizontally. 


Blue Fescue Grass by Basalt Steps in Vancouver, WA

Short Pick: Blue Fescue Grass

Blue fescue is a stunning ornamental grass that will max out around 12 inches tall. This species has a lovely light teal hue to it and adds great texture to any landscape. Being so small, blue fescue is a great color spot for any size yard.


Woolly Thyme ground cover at GRO Nursery in Ridgefield, WA

Ground Cover Pick: Woolly Thyme

Woolly Thyme is a soft looking ground cover with a pleasant fragrance (being a spice and all). It also doesn’t mind being stepped on. Ground covers are great for small spaces as they can cover as little or large a space as needed. 


Plant Color Palette GRO for Landscaping in Vancouver, WA

Choose a Plant palette

Picking a color palette will help inform your planting decisions and help you adhere to a visual plan. The plants we selected above  (aside from the Woolly Thyme) follow a tertiary color triad. Imagine a primary triad (red, yellow, blue) but shifted over twice on the color wheel. The result is red-violet (Laceleaf Maple), yellow-orange (Golden Bamboo), and blue-green (Blue Fescue Grass). A smaller backyard will require greater adherence to a color plan because of the closer proximity the plants will have to each other. 


Water feature bubbler pot in Vancouver, WA

Add a Water Feature

Water features come in all shapes and sizes and always add character and serenity to backyards no matter the size. The sounds can drown out noisy neighbors (assuming the smaller backyard means closer neighbors) and cover up the drone from any nearby roads. 


Backyard Garden boxes beds in Vancouver, WA

Add Garden Boxes

Garden boxes don’t have to occupy much space in order to be effective and can therefore be a great way to maximize the value of a small backyard. Our team is more than capable of building custom sized garden boxes to ensure the most efficient use of your space. This scope of project falls under our enhancements, for more of our enhancement projects, click here.