10 plants for small gardens

A small garden needn't have fewer plants or less variety than a large garden, but it's important to avoid growing large plants and shrubs, which can exclude light from the garden and compete with smaller plants for water and nutrients. Here, Monty Don and James Alexander-Sinclair share their top 10 plants for small gardens, which offer year-round interest and colour.


Common box, Buxus sempervirens

Common box can be grown as a tree or shrub, but its dense habit makes it ideal for clipping as a hedge or a topiarised shape. It's a versatile shrub, suitable for growing in small gardens.

Allium sphaerocephalon

The round-headed leek, Allium sphaerocephalon, bears round flower-heads that open green and turn a deep red with maturity. It prefers full sun and well-drained soil, and reaches a height and spread of 90 x 8cm.

Sedum spectabile

Sedum spectabile has flat, tightly-packed heads of pink flowers over blue-green rosettes of succulent foliage in autumn. It thrives in poor soil and grows to a height and spread of 45cm.

Snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis

Snowdrops are the first of the spring bulbs to emerge after winter. They prefer heavy soils, and are ideal for naturalising in grass. Transplant them 'in the green' after they have flowered, as dry bulbs do not establish well. Height and spread 15cm x 8cm.

Climbing beans

The deep green foliage and attractive flowers of climbing beans make them ideal for growing in ornamental borders. They take up little space, as they can be grown up a trellis or bean poles, reaching a height and spread of 2m x 40cm.

Hellebore orientalis 'Harvington Hybrids'

Hybrid varieties of the Lenten rose, Hellebore orientalis produce large clusters of saucer-shaped flowers in a variety of colours from midwinter to mid-spring. They prefer full sun to part shade and grow to a height and spread of 45cm.

Cut-and-come-again salad

Easy to grow, cut-and-come-again salad leaves require little space. They come in a range of prepared salad mixes, and include species such as rocket, mizuna, mibuna and pak choi. Harvest the leaves when young to encourage fresh new growth.


Chard is also known as seakale beet, silver chard and ruby chard. Its leaves are eaten like spinach and its thick, fleshy stalks are cooked and used like asparagus. It can be grown in pots and provides winter colour as well as an edible crop.

Cowslip, Primula veris

The native cowslip, Primula veris is ideal for naturalising in wildflower meadows. Its yellow, funnel-shaped flowers contrast with crinkly oval leaves. It grows to a height and spread of 25cm.

Foxglove, Digitalis grandiflora

Foxgloves come in a range of colours from traditional purple to pink and cream-orange. They happily self-seed  around the garden and grow no taller than 1.5m in height. 


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