Small backyard with bench garden bed and barbecue

This small backyard design proves big things can be achieved in modest spaces


With an experienced designer and a creative approach, this small backyard design proves you can achieve big things in small outdoor spaces

A small backyard design can have just about everything a larger outdoor space can have — you just have to be creative. Having built a new home in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, the owners wanted to make the most of their modestly-sized rear garden but they didn’t really know what might be possible, so they turned to Matthew Sears, founder of Rich Earth.

“They had the desire for a garden that would be low maintenance, beautiful and function as a seamless extension of their home. It needed to be a practical entertaining space for family and friends and be able to cope with the owners’ large dogs,” says Matthew.

Matthew’s innovative design, which he describes as “relaxed, unfussy and contemporary”, cleverly addresses every element of the brief. To maximise the space and keep the plants from being trampled by the dogs, there are raised beds around the perimeter. These are home to hardy plants that need little attention. The Ash granite paving is an easy-care choice; one that looks sophisticated and modern. This is contrasted by the warm, rich tones of the blackbutt, vertical batten screening, installed to enhance the privacy of the courtyard-style space.

“To provide somewhere to sit when entertaining, we constructed a built-in, L-shaped bench. To complement the screening, blackbutt was used in the creation of the bench, also the cabinet for the custom-built barbecue,” says Matthew. The barbecue is a feature of the design. Tucked discreetly into a corner of the garden, it boasts a polished concrete bench top and splashback by Pittorino Designs that works in harmony with the colour of the paving and the in-built planters.

In smaller spaces where everything is very much on show, great care needs to be taken when selecting every element, including the plants. The main feature tree is a Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’. This is a compact deciduous tree that provides shade in summer, beautiful pink blooms in spring and, in winter, when its leaves drop, it maximises the amount of sun the garden receives. The raised beds are also home to Alpinia caerulea ‘Red Back’, a fast-growing plant that’s ideal for use as a narrow screen in smaller spaces, as well as Crassula, Senecio ‘Ice Sticks’ and Philodendron ‘Xanadu’, all hardy but beautiful plants. Says Matthew, “There is now a lovely flow from inside to out and the owners have an outdoor entertaining area that is lush, makes the most of the available space, and keeps every family member happy, including the dogs.”

Matthew brings extensive global landscape gardening experience to every project he undertakes. With more than 15 years’ experience under his belt, he has transformed gardens in Australia, England, Ibiza (Spain) and France. He has also been involved with several design and builds for the world-renowned, London-based Chelsea Flower Show. It is Matthew’s passion to help all clients achieve their particular vision and guide them every step of the way along their journey to creating a personalised garden sanctuary.

For more information

Rich Earth Landscape Gardens

This project is an entrant in the Outdoor Design 2022 NSW Landscaper of the Year Awards, celebrating residential design innovation and construction excellence. All entrants were featured in Outdoor Design Issue 42, with winners to be announced in Outdoor Design Issue 43.