Photo courtesy of Eric King Landscaping
Photo courtesy of Eric King Landscaping

There's nothing interesting about a narrow strip of turf. But a long band of land actually lends itself to zones designed for entertaining and quiet solitude.

In this second installment of a four-part series on challenging terrain, landscape designers explain how to break up boring backyards by creating distinct spaces.

This week's edition: Long and narrow

The opportunity: Make it “roomy.”

How: Consider a house with a “shotgun” floorplan. There’s the kitchen, which leads to the dining area, which leads to the living room. You can see from one end of the house to the other, but it’s divided into three distinct rooms.

Apply the same principal outside.

King begins by establishing a plan for each space, or room. Then he’ll determine how each room will transition to the next. Each could be distinct with its own terrain. For example, one room might be hardscaped with pavers, while another has turf that will transition to a room at the end with a boxwood garden. “It’s important to maintain as much division of space, visually, as you can,” says Eric King, owner of King Landscaping serving the greater Atlanta area.

At the end, add a focal element, such as an inground spa with weeping wall, to draw the eye through the entire length.

If the client wants the yard more proportionate, there are ways to make a narrow garden appear wider with plantings.

Begin with tall trees to screen out anything offsite that draws the attention beyond the yard, such a neighbor’s roof with an ugly air conditioning unit on top, offers John Zito, owner of Zito Landscape Design serving southern Florida. A dense layer of tall vegetation in the back will obscure the property line. Then you can create the illusion of width using a mix of colors and textures along the sides. This can be achieved by layering squat succulents, palms and a hedge of some sort, Zito adds. Then create something visually interesting in the foreground, such as a waterfeature.

Another trick: Create a rectilinear design with pavers and throw some curves into the landscaping along the sides. The mix of lines will add width, Zito says.