Design and planting tips for small gardens

17th October 2020

Home » Design and planting tips for small gardens

In a recent fact-finding survey, we carried out, 29% of our customers said they had a small garden. This got us thinking about the different needs of a small garden compared to those of a mid-sized or large space.

The benefits of a small garden are of course that they require less maintenance and therefore more time to spend relaxing or entertaining.

Here are some things to consider if you have a smaller space to work with:

  • Start with function: Be clear about what you need to include in the space before being distracted by what you want.
  • Choose an overall style: This can be led by the interior or exterior style of the property, the location, or the types of plants that will thrive best in that aspect.
  • Garden room: Consider the garden an extension of the house. Another room if you like. Explore ways of physically and visually connecting them using similar materials inside and out.
  • Create privacy: No one likes to feel overlooked so use trees, hedges, pergolas, sails etc to hide unwanted views and feel more intimate.
  • Be bold and compartmentalise: Keep the layout bold and simple, not busy and cluttered. Consider creating areas that are hidden from your key viewpoints. Not being able to see everything at once makes the garden feel bigger rather than smaller.
  • Angle paving and vary texture: Angling paving at 45 degrees to the house often alters your direction of view and often creates the illusion of a larger space. Subtle changes in paving texture add interest without impacting on the feeling of space.
  • Add trees: Trees (especially those with a clear stem) take up little space but screen unwanted views, offer privacy and seasonal interest and bring the natural sights and sounds into the garden (see below)

    Use the verticals: Green up fences and walls to create a natural courtyard rather than manmade box.

    Choose foliage over flower: Evergreens will deliver all year and are a great foil for flowers that only appear for a season.

    Create a living space: Gardens are living things. Encourage wildlife into the garden to help feel part of nature and improve the environment. Insects and birds can thrive in the smallest spaces and bring real joy.

    Invest in furniture: Stylish furniture that helps you relax is timeless and can be taken with you when you move.

    Keeps colour palettes simple: Use different shades of just a few colours and compliment with greens to create a harmonious and tranquil effect.

    Use sound, movement and light: Moving water is a create way to concentrate your attention on the space and away from outside distraction. Lights add drama and bring views into the house at night.

    Borrow views: Consider the view beyond the garden. Introducing elements of it within your own garden , help to blur the sense of boundary and can make it feel integral to that view.
    In a smaller area, flow from the house through to the garden is essential.

    Which plants to use?

    Go big! Don’t be afraid of using big plants in a small space. Committing to one or two larger specimens will really transform the space. If you only stick to small plants in a small garden, the result will have a bitty, disjointed feel with no impact. Big plants will break up the area and create drama rather than having lines of narrow bedding. Remember to keep it simple, choose a colour palette or theme and stick to it. Repeated plants will bring the garden together.

    • Architectural plants in a garden add height, structure, and drama and are particularly effective in smaller gardens for creating atmosphere.
    Dicksonia Antarctica (Tree ferns) are great for adding height and drama
    • A good way to create a low-maintenance but visually pleasing garden is by introducing drought-tolerant plants. These plants look great set in gravel which helps keep the moisture in and the weeds down, saving more time.
    • Evergreen planting
    • Shade tolerant
    • Height but not width & depth (such as Trachycarpus fortunei)
    • Plants to suit the conditions, sunny areas etc
    • Instant screening
    Shade loving Heucheras

    Things to avoid

    • Plants that consume too much width – think up rather than outward
    • Over complicating with different themes
    • Multiple materials – try to stick to one element, such a brick or wood
    • Clutter – one main feature such as a water feature is enough
    • Keep focal points in proportion; don’t overwhelm the garden