Windswept Landscape Studios
Spring 2004

Small landscape spaces can have a big impact on an otherwise looking home or town home. With space at a premium in the city, proper planning and execution of an outdoor living space is the key to creating an interactive space with the architecture and outdoor uses for how each individual homeowner uses his or her outdoor living areas. In Houston, residents use their outdoor spaces for a variety of functions. Whether it is to create a visual impact for an entry arrival or for an outdoor evening to relax in after a hard day’s work, these landscapes can comprise a variety of elements including, patios, water features, arbors, lighting, and plantings.

Patios act as a transitional element for homeowners to interact with their landscape. Not only do these outdoor surfaces allow furnishings, grills, and planters to become a part of a landscape, but they also bring people into a small outdoor space that would normally only be viewed from inside the house. Materials can range, depending on the architecture of the home or the size of the patio. Something as simple as a stained concrete surface or as detailed as a plaza brick cobble can be used for a patio surface.

Water Features bring movement and sound to a space, in addition to creating a visual statement for a small space. Small to large water featurescan become a life-giving force to a variety of birds, frogs, fish, and many other living critters within an outdoor space. Even small wall water features bring a sense of tranquility to a vertical garden where space is virtually nonexistent. A simple boulder or Greek urn with a small reservoir can become the perfect accent within a small outdoor space. Fountains constructed out of stone in a more architectural style can still capture the essence of nature while integrating itself with outdoor space and architecture of the home.

Arbors provide shade and relief to a small outdoor space, especially during the hot summer months in Houston. These structures can be covered or semi-covered. Materials such as canvass can provide a water proof covered space that can be enjoyed when it is either sunny or raining. Open beamed structures provide support for vines to create a filtered screen from the sun. Ceiling fans, outdoor lighting, and other amenities used within an arbor can bring additional comfort to the extreme summer climate of Houston.

Lighting is a key element that provides enjoyment of a small outdoor space into the night. This element is especially important for homeowners who enjoy the outdoors in the summer evenings when the temperature not so unbearable. Focal elements such as a water features, sculptures, or accent trees/shrubs become illuminated within the outdoor space by using lighting. Either a high or low voltage lighting system can easily be incorporated in to an outdoor living space.

Plantings are the transitional element used in a small outdoor space. They can be a simple scheme of one accent specimen or a complex array of forms, colors, and textures. We are lucky, since Houston’s mild climate offers an array of trees and shrubs for a small outdoor space. This gives residents of Houston the opportunity to introduce bold textured plant material in additional to some of the more traditional trees or shrubs in to a planting scheme. Textured Trees or shrubs such as palms, crinum lilies, ginger, fatsia, cycads, aspidistra, dracaena, or magnolia can bring life to an otherwise unsightly corner or act as an accent focal that ties a planting scheme together.

Overall, these elements listed above are just a few options that can be used in a small outdoor living space. Contacting a professional landscape designer can help you plan and determine what elements best suite a homeowner’s needs for his or her outdoor living space. Once a conceptual master plan is designed, execution of this design can be implemented for the homeowner to enjoy in the years to come.