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How to maximise your small garden space

No matter the size, a well-maintained outdoor space will add value to your property and offer a range of health and wellbeing benefits too. Here, we show you how to make the most of a small garden space with clever planting, design, and decor advice.

The first step in making the most of your small garden space is to consider what you want from your outside area.

This way, you’ll tick the box in terms of the functionality you’re after before creating your desired aesthetic.

Your small garden space wishlist

small bistro seating area in a garden

So what’s on the wishlist?

In a compact courtyard, you may want a relaxing area to enjoy a morning coffee and host the odd alfresco dinner.

Perhaps you dream of growing your own veggies? Or watching movies in the garden on a projector? Maybe you’d love to be green-fingered and plant dense beds of flowers to tend to.

With clever planning, you can design your dream outdoor area even in a more compact space, creating a garden you will love and use all year round.

How to plan a small garden space

Whether you have a blank canvas or an overgrown area, designing a garden can feel daunting. We will help you to start the process of planning a small garden with confidence.

1. Research and planning

Social media, websites, garden magazines, and public gardens provide a great deal of inspiration for garden design.

Gather your ideas together on a mood board. This will help to identify the images you’re drawn to and steer your creative vision for the space.

2. Understand the space

  • What aspect is your garden? North, south, east, or west-facing?
  • Spend time in your garden at different times of the day to understand where the sun falls
  • Are there any exposed parts of your garden? For example, where plants or structures would be vulnerable to high winds
  • What’s your soil type? Chalk, clay, or sand, and what’s the pH?

3. Start sketching

Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a garden designer for this part. Simply take a piece of graph paper and a few coloured pencils and start mapping out your garden wishlist in a series of designs.

This will help you to visualise the space and consider all options before you embark on this project.

  • Zoning the space into areas with specific purposes can help to make your garden feel bigger
  • Adding different levels creates interest, for example, a raised terrace area

Top tip: If your garden is wide but shallow, alter the perspective by designing your hard landscaping and planting at a 45-degree angle to the back of your home. This will create the illusion of a deeper space.

Garden design sketch

Tips for small garden design

The following tips explain how to make the most of a small garden space without scrimping on style or function.

1. Planting

Tall, slim trees take up more vertical space than horizontal space, making them ideal for smaller gardens. They can also help create privacy around the garden’s perimeter.

An experienced gardener can advise on the best variety for your needs, whether you want colourful leaves, flowering varieties, or an eye-catching structure.

Climbing plants and flowers can be grown up or along fences or walls to create a strong framework of foliage. You may even want to consider a living wall and/or window boxes.

Colour scheme

In a smaller space, many gardeners opt for a simple colour scheme of up to three colours in varying ‘cool’ shades to create a cohesive feel. But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t vary the colour and variety of your plants!

Small garden

2. Borders

Slim beds and borders can make your garden appear smaller. Add a sense of depth with deeper borders and a layered planting scheme with varying heights, including alliums, agapanthus, and lilies.

When it comes to choosing plants and shrubs for your borders, opt for compact varieties that won’t overwhelm the space, or grow climbers such as sweet peas up an obelisk. Their fragrance will infuse a smaller space too.

If in-ground planting opportunities are limited, opt for a few large pots instead for maximum impact.

3. Hard landscaping

In a smaller garden space, consider if it’s worth keeping the lawn or whether you could better maximise the space if it were gravel or paved.

Create a focal point with a relaxing water feature. A huge variety is available, making it possible to add water’s restorative properties to your garden regardless of your space.

Fences

Rather than installing standard fences, why not consider horizontal, slatted fences to draw the eye up the length of the garden? They’re great for hanging planters on too!

horizontal fence with planters

4. Outdoor furniture

Folding bistro tables and chairs don’t take up much room and can be easily stored away when not in use. While an extending table will seat more guests if hosting a dinner party.

Multi-purpose furniture is well-suited to a smaller garden. For example, build a bench into a raised planter and incorporate storage underneath for garden cushions. Or choose a gas fire table rather than a separate fire pit.

5. Garden structures

Garden buildings, such as sheds, garden rooms, and summerhouses, add an extra element of functionality to an outdoor space.

Whether you need the extra space for standard storage, for working from home, or enjoying a hobby, a bespoke design could be just the ticket.

If you’ve always dreamed of an arbour or pergola, why not speak with a local carpenter to see what’s possible in your small garden space? It’s a great way to add height, shelter, and natural shade.

Pergola with garden seating underneath
AI concept image

6. Privacy

If lack of privacy is a problem in your small garden space, you’ll be pleased to hear there are plenty of solutions, including planting, screens, trellises, and more. Check out our guide to garden screening for a range of ideas.

7. Lighting

Garden lighting can really help maximise your small garden space, creating a cosy, inviting atmosphere, or making architectural plants and features pop. For example, uplighting a row of birch trees or hooking festoon lights around a seating area. We love how this homeowner has used lighting to accent the incredible features of these giant plant varieties.

Garden plants lit up

8. Finishing touches

It’s well-known that mirrors help to open up a space, so where better to use them than in a small garden?

If you want to grow herbs, consider a tabletop planter with tools hung conveniently above.

And if those herbs are to garnish cocktails, get creative with a wall-mounted, fold-out bar made from upcycled pallets.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to be bold. A dark-painted fence or wall behind pops of foliage creates a striking effect, while pops of colourful furniture or cushions add a playful vibe.

Find a landscape gardener near you

A qualified landscape gardener has the experience and know-how to transform your small garden space into a functional and beautiful area.

An expertly designed garden will give you a space you can maintain and enjoy for many years to come, soaking up the sun with a morning coffee or watching the sun go down with a cold drink in hand.

To find highly rated landscapers in your area, simply add your postcode to the search box below.

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