How to Tap the Capacity of a Big Side Yard

When the property on either side of your home is nearly as large as the structure , you might feel overwhelmed. The apparent solution is to treat it as a personal arboretum or golf course — a distance worthy of grass grass.

But think again: Would you invent a different design motif that provides special focus to this oversized site? Make use of mature trees and shrubs instead of petite perennials or ground covers on your landscaping. Define the wide sweeps by emphasizing the remote vistas. Create a point of view using vignettes of plants, art and furnishings in the foreground.

The huge side yard provides you an opportunity to feel big and go bold. Treat that vast area with thoughtful planning and intentional particulars. You will be rewarded with unexpected beauty each season.

Here are a few of my favorite examples of confident design, especially for the often overlooked plus-size side lawn.

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Andrew Renn

Two special details make this expansive lawn feel more romantic, appropriately scaled to the people who walk here. The first looks in the foreground in which two deep planting beds are summarized by low boxwood hedging, mirroring one another on either side of the lawn. Anybody who walks through this opening feels welcome and safe. This detail is much like path treatments that vary in width, encouraging pedestrians to slow down and respect the garden’s sensory abilities.

The second curvaceous detail emerges in the distance — an arbor that acts as a door to the hidden garden beyond. This arbor’s placement is powerful because the lawn continues beneath it such as a walking path — and plantings on either side prevent anybody from side-stepping the journey.

Randy Thueme Design Inc. – Landscape Architecture

Hard and soft components give this side lawn a modern sensibility which makes coming here a cure. This is a clearly linear distance, with lawn, path, planting bed and fencing lined up in parallel.

That kind of treatment could feel quite intense, however, the designer has used several tips to soften the scene:
The blue rock walkway looks like a ring that well frames the lawn.The trees are limbed up and implanted in a row, hedge-like. The small clipped boxwood balls replicate the green, natural shapes of this trees.The cedar fencing is more natural instead of painted, silhouetting the sculptural trees; fence boards are aligned horizontally to fortify the modern vibe.

Re-imagined from ordinary lawn to extraordinary plant set, this exceptional side garden supplies a journey through a verdant, leafy understory. There is a different feeling of separateness, thanks to the mature shade tree that makes a canopy. It filters the sunlight and casts a dappled shadow pattern on the ferns and hostas below.

The winding path, laid with crushed rock, offers a method to easily navigate the distance. It also simplifies maintenance tasks because you’re able to bring a wheeled cart or wagon over the road.

Read photos of beautiful garden paths

Westover Landscape Design, Inc..

The round seating place links a huge side yard using the equally large front lawn, providing both a raison d’etre.

The rounded”carpet” of crushed stone has some fine detailing, including the block edging and the flagstone path that cuts through it. Not overly casual; not overly formal. Definitely inviting.

The rounded area (complete with 2 enchanting turquoise Adirondack chairs and a small side table) serves the same purpose as a front porch, providing bonus seating to the 2 chairs on the entry threshold of the traditional home. This side yard treatment is both appealing and neighbor friendly.

Narofsky Architecture + ways2design

This side lawn has ideal proportions, starting with its own width, which is equal to the elevation of this architecture (this can be an often-used design technique — imagine flipping your house on its side to the lawn — to calculate the measurements of a garden space).

Longer than it is wide, the side garden is well divided into thirds, and every slender band plays with a part to create its energy and drama.

To the left, right against the home: A vibrant bed with permanent plantings closer to the structure and seasonal plantings at the border.

At center: A picture walkway containing 30-inch-square pavers. I really like the rhythmic vibe of the treatment. The strong lines have a magnetic quality which holds the whole side garden together and direct the eye to the seating area/patio because its destination.

On the right, furthest from the home: An allee of trees. They will soon mature to visually offset the burden of this design — and provide this unwanted garden a sense of enclosure. Brilliant!

The Garden Consultants, Inc..

The side lawn has given way to the side meadow — and nothing could be dreamier than this stunning treatment which uses prairie-inspired perennials and ornamental grasses. The designer calls this installment”drifts of naturalistic plantings.”

The soft, billowy effect is a huge success, mainly because the components are massed into irregular rows tiered by elevation. Closer to the home you find the row of tall, slender feather reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora‘Karl Foerster’) — burnished tips catching the morning light. Following that, there’s a group of Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium purpureum‘Atropurpureum’), together with lavender dome-like flowers on tall stalks. Other perennials and unstructured grasses continue the theme in the foreground.

And while this place could look hard to naviagate, the tall arbor in the distance indicates otherwise. I, for one, want to meander through the meadow to discover where it leads.

Learn more about natural garden layout

AMS Landscape Design Studios, Inc..

A large side garden becomes updated to a private courtyard with complex lines, incredible information and luxe accessories. This is more than an outdoor”room,” it’s a grand, fresh-air surroundings where two or 20 can easily gather.

A low wall encloses the distance and defines it as a different surroundings, while the flooring’s importance is elevated, thanks to rings of rock that turn a mass of crushed rock into an interesting patterned carpet.

Low, closely clipped boxwood supplies”baseboard” detailing, linking the horizontal and vertical planes with precision.

The minimalistic furnishings are all that are needed to complete the scene: Two chaises, placed for impact with lemon-yellow pillows. They visually balance two rounded objects — an oval-clipped tree in the distance and a stainless steel orb in the foreground.

Just like a stone box, this distance opens to reveal treasures within. You might not want to disturb and enter its own perfection. But then again, nothing can be more lavish than to sit here with a tall, cool drink, soaking up the sun.

Woodburn & Company Landscape Architecture, LLC

Sometimes, the simplest solution is easily the most appealing one.

Here, a broad band of lawn turns this side yard into a pleasant trip, linking two shade gardens for a completed composition. The vast proportion of this grassy swath makes it a winning solution.

Instead of limiting the road to something barely broad enough to accommodate the lawn mower, this area of lawn is at least six feet broad and seemingly endless in its own length.

For a design element, the lawn occupies significant”negative” area, in equilibrium with all the side garden’s”positive” components: mature shade trees which flank the middle path.

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