Tiny Gardens – Big Splash on Garden Walk Buffalo


When designing small gardens, often designers think big. Most people would think designing a small space is easier than one much larger. That is not the case by any means when dealing with a space measured in square feet. Every square foot needs to count.


Large gardens are viewed at a distance, where in small gardens, one gets up and personal. Every weed becomes visible. Changing patterns of shade from dappled to deep and pools of sunlight, filtered or strong contribute to create the ambiance of a space.



The best small spaces are those that are bold and strong. Large furniture is used to add punch to a space and keep everything from looking trite. Trying to achieve too much in a tiny area can backfire.

So a balance has to be struck.


In a small garden, success is in not noticing all the individual components, but having it become the sum of its parts. But that is not to mean there is not standout plants in the small garden, especially those big-leaved plants.

Ornament or art should be well placed, giving the space a feeling of the unexpected.


Paths are a critical element to good design, but don’t have to be made from expensive materials. Even found or reuse materials make interesting foot paths. They can be softened and enhanced by having plants spill into the path. Not every garden depends on the splash of color either – some depend on the textural qualities of the space and the massing or contrast of the plants.

Sometimes the big splash is made deliberately by being understated. Click each gallery to see why these gardens make a splash.


Some of the difficulties of small space gardening is that it needs to look good all year long, even in winter where both built and plant structure, and hardscape really are the focus. Often a small garden is multi-sensory in sound, fragrance and circulation through a space filled with year-round color, texture and form.

Tiny gardens that do the things mentioned create the big splash to make them memorable.

On Nature and Wildlife Pics, a nature park has a grisly tale where ghosts of the deceased are still seen by some.

About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at: http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com
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35 Responses to Tiny Gardens – Big Splash on Garden Walk Buffalo

  1. Debra says:

    I learn so much about garden design here. Thx, Donna. I agree that small spaces are difficult to do right and that it requires balance to work. I think maybe I will take another look at how Japanese courtyard garden design elements pull that off. Maybe that is what my space needs. All the pictures are lovely but the one that really captured my attention is the one with the — is it a hydrangea?

    • Japanese gardens are so much more serene than those shown here. Each element has a purpose in the design, no matter how “insignificant” it appears to those not familiar with the design principles. I myself don’t tackle Japanese gardens for this reason. The meaning is too intrinsic to the design, yet would bypass a novice. I have studied the design principles, but find it a difficult type of design to pursue in the manner it should.

      • Debra says:

        Oh, I totally agree, I couldn’t possibly create a true one but I think there are some good tips to be found in the style. Like, keeping it simple (avoiding clutter), working with seasonal changes, using perspective to advantage. With all my shade I think keeping things simple might be easier and more effective than trying to create a colourful cottage garden look. Of course I’ve seen some people pull that off but so far I haven’t been able to do it.

  2. These are great examples, Donna. Definitely inspirational! They remind me of Helene’s garden.

    • I guess the gardens are better seen in person to really see how well they are done. Being small, like my own garden, I cannot get enough in the frame to show them in their entirety. In my own garden, I can show it from many angles and people get a “wider” understanding of what and how it is planted.

  3. bittster says:

    Beautiful gardens. So many good ideas and just plain old well grown plants! I’m mentally going around my own yard and it’s really coming up short, I think I need to get out there and do some watering at least!

    • Small can be mighty! There is more planted in these small spaces than in gardens many times their size. Most have been on the Walk for many, many years, even 20, so the gardens are well matured and revamped to the owner’s liking. Many also water daily. I was thinking on doing a post on watering. So many bloggers act like one can plant a garden and never water it. I haven’t been watering the garden myself for about ten years, and my garden has suffered from not doing so. I find in seasons of drought, I behead the blooms to save the plant. But what this does is not provide for bees, and since bees are so important, I have started watering the last couple of dry years. The post I was thinking on was because butterflies are not visiting home gardens according to bloggers. I found by WATERING, the blooms are refreshed and have nectar for them, so I have had lots of butterflies this year just because I have kept the blooms hydrated.

      • bittster says:

        I’m at a point this summer when I need to decide what lives and what goes dormant (my plants are used to dry spells, the water lovers died off long ago and the rest pack it in for a while if there’s not enough water).
        I feel so much better if the grass is green and the plantings lush but I feel a twinge of guilt letting that perfectly clean drinking water spray all over the yard.
        For the first time here I broke down and ran the lawn sprinkle for something other than entertaining the kids… the weather is cool enough to grow grass, but just too dry. The grass looks great now but no rain in sight so I have to decide if I keep it up…. Maybe one more time (I’ve done it twice this summer). A good soak should get it through another week and will be good for the butterflies.

        • I had to laugh a bit, because like you, I feel guilty as well. I know we are facing a water shortage in no short time, I conserve constantly. I carry bath water out to the garden. I carry cooking water out to the garden. I use the same glass over and over, so as not to have to wash constantly. I wear clothes more than one day to keep wash down. It is almost endless what I do to conserve. I hand water by the bucket rather than use the sprinkler. But what I found this year especially is that the insects are very appreciative. My husband does not understand my obsession on “hand watering” the plants.He is a plumber and was even asking this week if I would like a faucet put in the front garden so I don’t have to keep carrying all the buckets of water. I said no thanks it is good exercise. As for the grass. I don’t have grass, I have weeds and they do stay green. I let them grow too which does not make my lawn watering, herbicide using neighbors all that thrilled.

  4. I think what surprised me when I visit gardens like this is that they do use large elements– not just benches and furniture, but bushes and tall plants, too. Those are the things that give these small gardens their charm.

    • Design requires all elements to be considered. Massing gives impact and taller plants works well when these gardens are not impeding sight-lines from motorists and pedestrians. In most cases, the furnishing are not just functional, but create pleasing garden vignettes. If you notice in magazine images, they often have an entertainment area featured. Why? Because it shows the gardens are places to relax for the homeowners and they are actually used, not just a show piece to be viewed from the interior. That is why circulation is also important. Paths take one on a journey of discovery. – especially if flanked with taller plants. A couple of gardens I featured recently, did this very well. I should have noted that to readers as a designer tip.

  5. Erika T says:

    These are spectacular gardens & photos, thanks for sharing! I am SO envious!

  6. I agree small spaces are not easy to design. But these are amazing and so many wonderful things from fountains to arbors and my favorite the pond/waterfall with the arbor behind it…and I agree it is the colors and plants working together that make the biggest statement.

    • That is a beautiful sight. So many ideas for home gardeners on Garden Walk Buffalo, because many of them are created by home gardeners. They show that beautiful gardens can come from the love and commitment that homeowners have in this area.

  7. I can understand how a small garden can be much more challenging than a big one. Every single detail is visible and can make a huge difference! I love small gardens… ๐Ÿ™‚
    Happy full moon, Donna!

  8. A well designed small garden is always a joy to visit,

  9. I went through this several times and took notes. The suggestions are amazing and the supporting photos are superb.

  10. As a colleague and garden lover I totally agree and love your photos ๐Ÿ™‚ as always! Very nice gardens and plant combinations, what a richness and beauty!
    I would love to use these pictures in my book on Feng Shui gardens due in The Netherlands with an English e-book version following soon thereafter. Most of our homes have small gardens, even smaller than in your pictures, and my book is meant to turn these into lovely harmonious spaces. Your photos would make beautiful illustrations. Is that okay with you?
    I am thrilled to have written my first book. It is currently being reviewed by some of my best friends and enthusiastic clients. I want to keep momentum to be able to launch it at a lovely garden event at the end of Novembre. Very excited and quite some steps to take to make this happen.
    Love to hear from you. Sunny regards, Mariรซtte

  11. I just took a walk around Buffalo’s gardens through some of your postings, Donna. A delightful experience! I learned a lot from this one — I have a large space, but have divided it into small gardens, so your suggestions are applicable here. P. x

  12. A.M.B. says:

    What magical spaces! These gardens are so beautiful. I can only imagine how difficult it must be to make sure every square foot meets its potential.

  13. Annette says:

    Some very inspirational designs there and I still can’t get over the colours, brave people and so very different to what you see on the continent where it all seems to be about restraint. Be brave and crazy!!!

    • It is very brave on their parts because I don’t really see this around the country. Being from Pennsylvania, it is much more retrained in color combinations I think, yet having overflowing garden beds is quite common there.

  14. debsgarden says:

    I love all the wonderful color in these gardens, which sometimes comes from the accessories. Accessories are a great way to dress up gardens, like mine, that are primarily foliage. I am also drawn to those gardens that take advantage of all the space, vertical as well as horizontal.

    • I find the gardens that are similar to your garden having wooded areas, are much more reserved and peaceful in feeling. Like a garden I showed a while back in a wooded location, the art was much more “natural” in appearance. Colors were more complimentary to the surroundings.

  15. Audrey says:

    Oh Wow!!! These are such beautiful gardens chock full of gorgeous design elements and possibilities for me to try in my own garden …which I’ll be doing once the drought is broken and we start to get some rain. Thanks for the fabulous pictures!

  16. Wow! What beautiful gardens in such small areas! So well planned out. I love all the art and the paths, and the flowers just look great. Loved the big-leaved green plant.

  17. Jean Marsh says:

    “Trying to achieve too much in a tiny area can backfire.”
    …perfect – great article wonderful observations and advice.

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