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 piece of the planet into a delightful oasis?
The first step is to identify the main features you want in your garden. This could be a nice position to sit or a good view beyond your garden. Once you have decided on your main feature, you can plan your garden around it. Don't assume that if you have a small garden, 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. For instance, you can 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 45-degree angle. Try interconnecting them at different points and use different size squares or rectangles to see how this makes a difference to how you perceive your garden. By leading the eye towards the diagonal view, this immediately elongates the garden and makes it feel bigger. 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 garden sculpture, a low-level planting bed, or an arbour seat.
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. Use bold feature plants in the corners and try to have beds of differing heights as this again, takes 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 garden 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.
A small garden offers endless possibilities for creativity, and with the right planning and execution, a small garden can become a peaceful retreat that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing.
Another advantage of having a small garden is that it requires less maintenance than a larger one. However, it is important to make the most of the space you have and use it wisely. That's where the principles of design and proportion come into play.
When it comes to plant selection, opt for varieties that are appropriate for the size of your garden. Large plants can easily overpower a small garden and make it look cluttered, whereas smaller plants can create an illusion of spaciousness. Consider the colours and textures of the plants and how they will complement each other and the overall theme of your garden.
In addition to plants, the use of hard landscaping elements such as stones, paving, and water features can add interest and dimension to a small garden. A well-placed water feature, for example, can create a soothing ambiance and add an element of tranquility to the space. Similarly, a carefully crafted seating area can be a perfect spot for relaxation and contemplation.
One of the most effective ways to create interest and a sense of depth in a small garden is to create a focal point. This can be achieved through the use of a sculpture, a unique plant, or an architectural element such as a trellis or garden arch. By placing these elements strategically, you can draw the eye to different areas of the garden and create a sense of movement and flow.
Finally, don't forget to consider lighting when designing your small garden. Outdoor lighting can highlight the beauty of the plants and hardscaping elements and create a warm and inviting atmosphere in the evening. By adding subtle lighting, you can also extend the usability of the space beyond daylight hours and enjoy your garden even after the sun has set.
In conclusion, having a small garden should not be seen as a limitation, but rather as an opportunity to create a unique and charming outdoor space. By following the principles of design and proportion, carefully selecting plants and hard landscaping elements, and creating focal points, you can transform your small garden into a peaceful haven that reflects your personal style and provides a source of joy and relaxation. So, embrace the challenge and let your creativity run wild!
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