25+ Secret Gardens Hiding In City Spaces
Some city dwellers with the tiniest of yards are savvy enough to carve out a little slice of Eden for themselves. Want to know their secrets? Read on and plot how to turn a postage-stamp backyard into a world of wonder.
The beech trees in homeowner Jennifer Stewart’s dreamy Toronto backyard outline the garden perimeter, creating a private space inspired by a quaint French courtyard.
Blooming hydrangeas, white roses, Irish moss, hellebores and Japanese anemones reign supreme in the lounge area punctuated with woven furniture and sea blue striped throw pillows.
Sweet sounds of mother nature abound, like the buzzing of bees or the trickling of the tiered fountain. The space is made extra cozy with indoor-outdoor accents including a trough festooned with succulents and a fence-hung shelf displaying a dainty potted plant.
Nestled in Toronto’s The Beaches neighborhood, this heritage guesthouse has folding doors that open up to unveil an English garden-inspired oasis and make al fresco living easy. A retractable striped awning shade ensures shaded lounging.
This blue-black fenced deck may be small — a mere 225-square-feet — but it works hard. Wall-hung lanterns cast a glow in the evening, planters brimming with easy-to-grow hostas infuse greenery and a cushy sofa redolent of a built-in keeps things inviting.
Striking the perfect balance between hardworking terrain and lush greenery can conjure a spa-like vibe. This backyard checks all the boxes: Loungers for lazing, a built-in hot tub to dip into and a zen reading nook with tulip trees underplanted with alabaster-hued blooms.
A number of zones — a barbecue area, dining nook and multiple lounge spaces — create intimacy in this sprawling escape by designer Katherine Newman. Boxwood shrubs maintain the formal aesthetic, while pink and purple blooms soften the space.
A sophisticated mix of perennial blooms inject a refined feel in this backyard oasis designed for dining and lounging. Painting the fencing in the same hue as the window trim is an easy trick to create a seamless feel throughout.
The Grecian blue waters of this Victorian plunge pool in Toronto’s West End proves no space is too small for a water feature that cools in the wake of summer.
Complete with a beautifully manicured lawn, evergreen hedges that adorn perennial blooms and loungers that promise a good-looking view, this tree-fenced oasis sits 10 minutes from the heart of Toronto.
A standout lattice pergola functions as an artful frame for the fountain in this enchanting backyard space.
Designer Jennifer Scott’s Vancouver backyard is an entertainer’s dream, boasting a summer spread–worthy picnic table, a traditional garden trellis and a towering tree that promises a shaded siesta following wining and dining on the property’s lush, green grass.
Homeowner Anne-Marie Gauthier and Don Damiani’s Toronto backyard is a study in form and function. From the sunken garden beds dancing with Golden Japanese forest grass, boxwood and Euonymus — that counter water and dirt running off onto the patio — to dining bench seating that maximizes the view, this green haven does it all.
Disguise hardworking elements like pipes, vents and water taps with greenery and fencing for a city quarter that feels streamlined, and throw in some decoration for extra measure.
Many city gardens don’t have a lot of light, so choose plants that thrive in shade such as ivy, fast-growing Virginia Creeper or other climbing vine that will envelop structures for a romantic effect. Create a focal point with a stone fountain.
If you don’t have room for plant beds or have a “dead space” where nothing will grow, create character with architectural fragments and planters. Designer Theresa Casey mimics her favorite travel destinations in her Toronto backyard with brick, stone, rustic iron pieces and lots of classic boxwood and ivy for a vignette with instant history.
In this downtown property, a decrepit deck was removed to make way for a courtyard. The homeowner wanted to keep the garage for resale value, but the addition of accordion doors made it feel like a private, open-air café. A section of pavers layed in a herringbone pattern lends old-world character.
Create big impact in a small yard with vertical arrangements: include a lush focal point and your space won’t need wall-to-wall greenery or grass. Pee Gee hydrangeas are under-planted with boxwood and topped with a bird-of-paradise to draw the eye up.
Consider a water feature. Traffic noise can break the spell of a soothing retreat, so muffle it with burbling water sounds from a fountain.
A pool doesn’t have to be huge, as this 7′-x-14′ example proves, and it’s economic enough in size to be heated up as a hot tub. Adding a patio to the back of the garage makes a picturesque seating area.
This circa 1913 house’s garden was full of scrub and two lone trees. Now, a meandering flagstone path weaves between perennials and a lilac tree is underplanted with no fuss eunonymus, while astilbe and hydrangea offer color.
In this city garden, a pond was filled in to make way for an easy-care fountain that adds sound and movement to the small yard, with no upkeep. Tall bamboo stalks in large, contemporary planters act as natural screens and don’t drop leaves. A low stone wall provides extra seating.
Customize a DIY playhouse from a big box store and turn a yard corner into a kids’ zone. A French-style wrought-iron fence cordons off the woodsy 25’ x 35’ garden, planted with a butterfly bush and edible berries.
A pergola doesn’t take up much floor surface but serves as an airy divider, so you can get more “zones” from your space. This 35’ x 110’ Toronto backyard doubles as a cottage with the addition of a pool.
Invest in whimsy. This narrow alley beside a coach house is given the feel of a secret garden with romantic wrought iron gates. Use climbing plants such as a Jackman clematis, seen left, to soften hardscaping.
If the garage is an eyesore, dress it up with weather-resistant sheets of marine plywood, topped with shadowboxes for display. The green paint visually extends the garden, and symmetrical cedars convey a polished look.