With a little creativity, it’s amazing how much you can fit in to a small garden.
Chosen with care, all of your garden features – plants, structural items, furniture, water features – can make the space appear larger than it actually is.
Discover inspiring ideas for making the most of a small space, below.
Sit back and relax
A simple bistro set is one of the most versatile ways to include seating in a small garden. It can be moved around, takes up little room and the chairs can be folded up when not in use. The table can also double as a potting bench, so it’s great value for money.
Water in a small garden adds movement, light and reflections, and can attract wildlife and birds into the space. Water features come in all shapes and sizes, from trickle fountains to ponds in pots and containers. Look for wide, shallow pots and seal drainage holes with silicone, or recycle an old tin bath lined with plastic. For wildlife, ensure there’s a way for creatures to climb out.
Welcome in wildlife
Wildlife needs food, shelter and breeding sites and gardens are increasingly providing this, especially small gardens in urban areas. Keep your hedges for the dense cover they offer, rather than replace them with a fence. Grow a wide range of plants like climbers, shrubs and trees and leave seedheads and fading stems to provide shelter and food.
Fill with fragrance
Scented plants turn a garden into a fragrant oasis, with the effect intensified in a smaller garden. Look for plants with different seasons of fragrance to provide scent all year, and grow them near the door or paths for best effect. Place pots of fragrant herbs next to a bench or around a patio, and squeeze plants that release their scent when crushed, such as thyme, into gaps in paths.
Seating is essential in every garden, providing somewhere to relax and entertain. Integrated benching against the boundaries means no space is wasted behind and allows more space to sit. Plant shade-loving ferns under benches. Brightly coloured chairs can become focal points and garden features in their own right.
Structural features such as obelisks (bare or clothed in climbers), arches, pergolas and tall structures will all lead the eye skyward, as will tall trees and shrubs. They’ll help to broaden the view of the garden and can help break it up into smaller areas, giving the impression that the space is bigger than it really is.
Mirrors are a simple way to make a small space look bigger, helping to reflect light and points of interest in the garden. Hiding the edges with plants will further help to perpetuate the illusion. To reduce the risk of birds being tricked by mirrors, use smaller mirrors and place airy transparent plants or trellis in front.
When space is limited you don’t want tools and equipment cluttering up the garden or sheds. If you have a shed, reduce its impact by covering it with plants, such as climbers or a green roof. Box benches with storage are great places to stash toys and smaller tools. Cover bare walls with shelves, painted cupboards and hooks to make purposeful, attractive focal points.
Small gardens are often overshadowed by houses, walls or trees. Many plants have adapted to cope with lower light levels, so get to grips with the extent of your shade and choose plants accordingly. Ferns, foxgloves and heucheras are a good choice. Improve your soil with compost or leaf mould when planting.
Trees for interest
Trees bring structure, height and shade and are an invaluable habitat for wildlife. Fortunately, there are plenty of beautiful trees ideal for small gardens and many will also grow happily in pots. If you only have room for one, go for something that offers as long a season of interest, such as Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’ or Amelanchier lamarckii.
Use the shelter
Gardens surrounded by buildings or walls are often protected from the wind making them warmer. Choose a sunny corner and create a cosy seating area, taking advantage of the boosted temperatures to grow slightly more tender ‘tropical’ style plants than you otherwise could. Use tall airy plants, such as palms, to enhance the sheltered feeling and create privacy.
The tiniest nooks and crannies are potential planting opportunities. Gaps in paving slabs can accommodate compact and low-growing plants like thyme or creeping jenny. In the crevices of shady walls you can plant ferns and toadflax. The dry soil at the base of walls can be planted with hardy succulents like sempervivums and crassulas.