Ideas for Designing a Small Garden

Although many people may think that having a small garden is a hindrance to having a ‘nice’ garden, it is often the case that small gardens make the best gardens with the most interesting features. 

So how do you convert your small patch of land into a delightful oasis?

If you start by identifying the main features of the garden which could be a nice position to sit or a good view beyond your garden, then work your plan around these. Don’t assume that if you have a small garden that you can’t have a lawn – if you want a lawn, then you can have one, but it needs to be a proportionate scale to the garden size. Alternatively, it’s quite possible to create a small garden without a lawn and for it to not even be missed. 

If your garden is square, you don’t need to think of it that way. One trick to make the space seem bigger is to lose the boundary fence by drawing your eye away from it. 

Start with the principle of using three interconnecting square or slightly rectangular lawns and then turn them at an angle to each other so they are at a 45degree angle. Try interconnecting them at different points and use different size squares or rectangles and see the difference this makes to how you perceive your garden. Suddenly, you have a big corner area for a patio, another corner for a small tree and a raised bed and two smaller opposite corners for other features such as a water feature, a sculpture, a low-level planting bed or an arbour seat. Also, you have detracted your eye from the squareness of the garden and drawn your eye to the biggest feature at a diagonal angle such as the small tree or the arbour seat. By leading the eye towards the diagonal view, this has immediately elongated the garden and made it feel bigger.

If you like the idea of having three interconnecting lawns, make sure you have these 100% accurately positioned so then angles are all at 45 degrees and then edge the lawn to make it a permanent feature and easily maintainable. Use cobble setts to demarcate the lawn shapes or a more economical version would be to use concrete edging or even timber gravel boards. Ensure the finished height is just below the lawn so you can mow straight over them. This is far easier than trying to keep the edge tidy with an edging spade. 

For ease of maintenance, use decorative gravel or pebbles in the beds on top of a weed membrane once you have planted through it. Use bold feature plants in the corners and try to have beds of differing heights as this again, take the eye in different directions. Use paving slabs at the same 45 degree angle to complete the theme. 

If you are after a more curved feel to your garden, use some of the same ideas to draw the eye in a different direction. Again, if you would like a lawn, consider a long lazy S shaped lawn heading towards a corner. By making the top part of the S narrower this will have the effect of creating a perceived perspective making the lawn appear as though it is disappearing further into the distance than it actually is. Use a sculpture or a small tree at the end as a finishing touch. You could also consider a long crescent shaped lawn or a rainbow shape with the furthest end narrower than the nearest end. This again gives the impression of creating distance from the start to the end. By using different shapes like this within the garden creates a multitude of pockets for placing furniture, planting beds and other features to make the garden more interesting. 

If you would prefer to not have a lawn, you can still use the same principles, but consider the lawn areas as pathways or seating areas instead. It could be that you use the principles for the three lawn design, but instead create a series of three raised planting beds at different heights, again with interesting pockets of space around the perimeter that you can use for seating and other features. 

Use the crescent shape instead as a cobble setts pathway meandering through the garden and erect a pergola over it that can be used for fragrant climbers. The magical pathway can then lead to a quiet arbour seat to enjoy some solitude. This approach will still leave room nearer to the house for a patio where you could have a bistro set and enjoy breakfast in the garden.

When planning a smaller garden. It’s important that features and planting are scaled proportionally. Don’t use anything that is individually too big, although don’t be afraid to be bold either, especially when it comes to using height as this is another dimension that should not be overlooked just because you have a smaller garden. Create balance and harmony in the garden by evening out high features on one side of the garden with a different high feature on the other side. For example, it could be a small tree at the back corner of the garden. Balance this out with three conical features such as pea frames at staggered heights in the foreground on the opposing side.

Adding features in groups of three often works better and creates a more complete look. So if you are using the three pea frames idea, have a group of three staggered height posts in another corner. By taking the eye up and down, it once again prevents the boundary being so noticeable. 

If you have a good view beyond your garden, lead your eye towards it by clever lines in the garden that draw the eye in that direction. In essence, you are borrowing the view beyond. 

Add quirky features, such as sculptures and specimen plants within the garden to take your eye on a journey within the garden as well. Once you get started on this approach, there are lots of tricks you can try to take the focus away from the boundary fence. 

Overall, this is a blank canvas that it is exciting to start work on and not too big to become a real chore or unmanageable. 

We hope you enjoy reading our article!