Extensive properties and gardens of all sizes often consist of smaller intimate spaces that may demand specific attention that fits their unique nature. What is a small space? My definition is a spacewhose delineation is obvious, outlined by environment, topography,structures or architecture. It is a space whose entirety, size and character can be easily observed from one set location. Space may belimited but design concepts are many if one heeds the Genius Loci, the spirit of the site. Every component counts acutely. 

In designing gardens within small spaces the grasp of Gestalt philosophy is critical. The notion that the Gestalt whole is something else than the sum of its parts; extends to living systems as well as art. Gestalt theory asserts that the overall feeling and experience of a composition is different from a mere collection of sensations, or its parts and pieces. In creating a garden in a small space the sensitive expression of line, form, pattern, texture and color transcends the garden’s concrete dimensions. 

So how can a garden designer warp space? Not with black holes.However, paying attention to Euclid’s first axiom; “Things which are equal to the same thing are equal to each other”, is key. In design practice, this applies to repetition of elements, and understanding that repetition equals emphasis. For example, a bed line or pattern that emulates the line and orientation of a wall, repeats the wall. Repeating or accentuating a wall or particular element may or may not fulfill the design goals and expand the sense of space. The opposite ofrepetition is contrast. Manipulating this fundamental axiom makes music and pleasurable gardens. 

The following small gardens express designs that exhibit obedience to the Genius Loci.

Belmont, MA Garden



Pawtucket, RI Garden



North Grafton, MA Garden