Side Garden

Transforming Side Yards into Side Gardens

Sometimes, one area that many homeowners struggle with is what to plant in their side yards. It can be an awkward place with little sun and not much room for plants to grow. Most of these narrow spaces along the side of our home are little more than “yards,” but there is potential to turn them into “gardens.” On a visit to a client’s house, I saw a great example of this, where the homeowner had created side gardens.

Symmetry and Blooms: A Closer Look at the First Side Garden

Bougainvillea with Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) in side garden

First, her first side garden was planted with upright Bougainvillea shrubs against the wall with Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) planted in between. I liked the symmetry of the alternating plants. They covered the wall so well – I’m not a fan of a view of a bare wall outside my window.

Lush Green Backdrops: The Other Side of the Side Garden

Most of the time the star jasmine produces small white fragrant flowers in spring. The bougainvillea produces vibrant blooms spring through fall. What is interesting about this plant combination. is that the base of the wall in a narrow side garden rarely gets much sun. The star jasmine does well in the shade. After all, bougainvillea does best in sunny spots. The top part of them gets just enough sun to promote blooms.

Yellow oleander (Thevetia peruviana) and 'Orange Jubilee' (Tecoma x 'Orange Jubilee') in side garden

In the other side of the garden, Yellow oleander (Thevetia peruviana) trees grew along the wall toward the back. ‘Orange Jubilee’ (Tecoma x ‘Orange Jubilee’) shrubs covered the wall closer up creating a lush green backdrop.

Enhancing Your Side Garden’s Aesthetics

I did make two suggestions in regards to this side garden. Remove the ‘Orange Jubilee’ shrubs growing in-between the yellow oleander trees. Right now, they make that area look overcrowded. You cannot see the beauty and symmetry of the tree trunks against the wall.

Brightening Your View: The Importance of Plants in Side Gardens

If you never see your side garden or it serves as your utility area, you may not want to spend time and money on adding plants. However, I do recommend focusing on placing plants directly across from any windows. For the windows that face into that area, because who wants to look out onto a bare wall?

Want to add art and creativity to your desert side yard? Try these three inspiring ideas.

What do you have growing in your side garden?

Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a author, horticulturist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."
7 replies
  1. Rohrerbot
    Rohrerbot says:

    I agree with you. Side yards sounds really ugly. I call the different sections "gardens" because each is as unique and different than the other. The true side gardens here are themes. One is a fern garden….using desert plants with light fernlike leaves like the Desert Fern, Jacaranda, Mesquite, Desert Willow, etc.
    The other garden is the Fruit Garden. The center piece is a canary palm trained to look like a pineapple. Peach, apple,loquat, mulberry trees.

  2. A Daughter of the King
    A Daughter of the King says:

    I have a very small side garden right ouside my gate. It is a pot garden — big pots — filled with plants that my landscaper husband has brought home. Right now I have blue plumbago growing up the wall, about 10 feet tall, a pink oleander tree, some variegated myrtle, an arch of star jasmine and two mock orange plants flanking our gate. I love walking through the little garden on my way to the back "garden." Recently, we added it to our drip irrigation line so I didn't have to hurry outside to water in the summer temps.

  3. Indie
    Indie says:

    Very pretty! I'm rather obsessed with side gardens, as they are so neglected normally but offer such a chance for a 'hidden pathway' among the garden. I'm still working on my side garden and fighting voles on both sides, but at least my paths are taking up shape!

  4. Bonnie
    Bonnie says:

    I still haven't planted my "side garden" on the west side between a masonry wall and a storage shed. It has a great watering system and I'd really like more veges there…any low sun vegetables?

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