Skip to main content

How To Make The Most Out Of Small Gardens: 7 Tips To Help With Small Garden Design

NinaDanielle
Published on August 4th 2021
5

Front yard of modern city house

by blackCAT. :1261377882

A bench in front of a building
With large gardens, you have much more freedom when it comes to design.
From the kinds of plants and furniture to include to landscaping, you can turn a large garden into anything you want it to be.
When planning a small garden, your options can sometimes be more limited. But, do not let this put you off if you want to renovate. There is still plenty of fun and creativity to be had when designing a small garden, balcony, courtyard or patio.
Although you should avoid larger focal points, there is still plenty of choices when it comes to the plants, furniture and décor involved in planning a small garden.
To get started, make a note of your garden, the light levels and where the sun rises and sets. See if you have any natural barriers that you can work with, and begin thinking about how you might separate your garden into zones using different flooring and heights.
Next, start planning planting schemes and floral displays. Following this, you can begin to accessorise your outside space with beautiful pieces of furniture and décor to suit your environment and personal style.
Keep reading for more design tips or browse the collection for more inspiration:
Bird's eye view of a courtyard garden, there are containers and tools on the floor

The Small Garden Collection

7 Quick Tips For Small Garden Design:

1) Choose colour

Bright colours can really open up a space. Don't be afraid to get out a paintbrush and update your walls and fences with a fresh lick of paint. When choosing a colour, choose lighter tones to make the space appear bigger. White or neutral tones work well and also suit contemporary garden design, whereas terracotta or pale pink would look lovely as a part of a tropical or boho design. Place plants with dramatic green foliage in front of light-coloured walls to create contrast and draw the attention away from abrupt boundaries.
A contemporary style garden with modern furniture and a swimming pool

Contemporary Modern Style Garden

A garden room filled with boho style furniture and plants

Boho Style Garden

A plant in a garden

Tropical Style Garden

Another way to incorporate colour is by using flowering plants. Reds, yellows and oranges can bring warmth to a space containing darker features, such as brick walls. On the other hand, pale blues and purples can help open up spaces making your garden feel larger.
If you are working with minimal space, such as balconies and small courtyards, you can add colour by opting for a selection of pretty and interesting pots. Other accessories you can include are outside rugs, cushions and blankets. Not only will this help to draw attention away from small floor space, but it adds character and flair.

2) Layering

Layering is a common technique used throughout design and landscaping, and you don't need a big garden to practise it. Layering plants trick the eye into not knowing where your edges start and finish, making your outside space appear more generous.
When planning beds and borders, use a mixture of low growing plants, medium-growing and tall-growing perennials.
Small trees and shrubs can add to the effect and create natural barriers around garden boundaries.
You can even practise layering in your vegetable patch. For low growing plants, choose edible flowers such as Nasturtiums and Marigolds. For medium-growing heights, choose vibrant Brassicas, such as Kale or Purple Sprouting Brocolli. Complete your patch with tall-growing Beans and Sweet Peas. Filling your vegetable patch to the brim not only looks beautiful but also discourages weeds moving in and competing with your crops.
You can use use layering to freshen up small balconies and patios, too. Use a combination of colourful pots of different shapes and sizes to add interest to dark corners. One of the big advantages of layering with pots is that it's quick and easy to reshuffle your arrangement if you're not liking the current look. You can also use plant stands or wooden pallets to help with layering.
A close up of a flower garden
Layering of pots in a balcony garden
Find out about the best plants, pots and potting mixes for balconies and patio gardening below:

3) Create zones

Separating the garden into zones really helps with making the most of limited space. You can divide your outside space into sections using different ground materials, such as grass, paving, beds and decking. If it helps with planning, you can define each zone by function. Dedicate each zone to dining, cooking, floral displays, fruit and vegetables, relaxing and entertaining. If you have children, consider creating a section of the garden just for them.
A garden in front of a house
A garden patio split into zones with layered plants

4) Work with whatever space you have

Mirrors
When designing a small garden, utilising vertical space is a must! Indoors, we use our walls as galleries to hang mirrors and shelves, and you can use them for the same purpose in the garden.
Using mirrors helps to double the space you are working with. If you are unsure where to hang your mirror, choose an area opposite the most attractive area of your garden—experiment by placing the mirror against different angles to find the optimum spot.
Please note, when choosing where to place your mirror, take care not to place it in direct sunlight. Similarly, don't place it too high. Choosing a mirror with grids can prevent birds from flying into it.
Surround your mirror with potted plants and twining climbers to conceal hard edges from view.
Use walls and fences as a canvas
Install shelves along courtyard walls and place pots full of lush, trailing foliage. You can even install hooks beneath shelves to hang your gardening tools if your space is too small for a shed or storage box.
Cover areas of your wall with plethoras of colour using climbing plants and accessories. Most Clematis are easy to grow and maintain, offering plentiful flowers through the season. If you're looking to stimulate more of the senses, choose fragrant Jasmine, Sweet Pea or Honeysuckle.
Extend the vegetable patch to vertical surfaces using a living wall or window boxes. If you fancy growing something slightly more tropical, choose a small greenhouse against a wall receiving plenty of sunlight.
Potted plants on a shelf infront of a mirror in a garden

5) Keep things tidy

When our home is tidy, rooms instantly appear more spacious. The same applies to our gardens. To keep your garden well organised, keep tools and other maintenance equipment well hidden. If you have the space, keep a small shed or storage box for your tools and gardening equipment in a concealed garden area.
Tips to brighten up storage:
  • Give your shed a makeover by painting it with pastel and neutral tones or vibrant colour, if that's your style.
  • Surround the corners of your storage with layers of potted plants.
  • Train plants to climb the side of your storage box or shed using a trellis or wooden pallet.
Last but not least, keep your garden looking trim and tidy by ensuring your plants do not become too overgrown. A little bit of wildness can look stunning, but it can make the space feel claustrophobic if it gets to the point where the plants are getting in the way.

6) Choose the right furniture

Whatever space you're working with, finding the right outside furniture is key to making the most of small outside spaces.
For small balconies and courtyards, fold away furniture or bistro sets work perfectly. Whereas in a terraced garden, you can optimise marginal spaces by installing benches neatly between raised beds. Similarly, corner seating looks great in rectangular or square-shaped areas. For gardens enclosed with walls, consider using climbing plants behind seating to give the illusion of shallower walls.
Don't be afraid to think outside the box when it comes to choosing furniture. Hanging chairs or hammocks are brilliant for freeing up precious floor space, whereas bench seats with storage allow you to sit and relax and keep the garden tidy if you don't have space for a shed.
Other creative furniture choices include circular sofas that can be used for both lounging and general seating. Space-saving rattan is great for keeping chairs tucked away, looking tidy while they are not in use.
A dining room table in the garden

7) Create cover and privacy

Gardens on the smaller side are often overlooked by neighbouring houses. Lucky for us, there are lots of ways we can cover our gardens, not only for privacy but for shade when we need to escape the midday sun.
Here are some of the best ways for creating privacy and cover in small gardens:
A pergola can create privacy and can help to section off part of the garden. Use climbing plants to trail around the frame and blend into your garden backdrop.
A parasol works well in small gardens because it can be packed away when it is out of use.
Screening materials and bamboo can be used to disguise unattractive boundaries and enhances privacy.
Use layering to create soft boundaries and cover. Shrubs, trees and climbing plants all work well as barriers and when grown together, create the illusion of more space.
A bench in front of a house
Bamboo being used as a screen

For more ideas for small garden design, browse the collection.

Bird's eye view of a courtyard garden, there are containers and tools on the floor

The Small Garden Collection

Related articles

A close up of a flower

In the garden

71

The 5 Best Evergreen Shrubs for Small Gardens

There are many evergreen shrubs to choose from, but I've highlighted some of my favourites here.
AlanGardenMaster
9

5 Biggest Mistakes of Garden Design and How to Avoid Them

Bear with me; with more of us getting home deliveries - drivers are going to take the fastest and quickest route to your door...
A rattan sofa with blue blankets and cushions thrown over the top with tables and plants
5

Shop The Look: Our 5 Favourite Garden Design Styles For An Idyllic Outside Space

In a post-pandemic world with limited travel to holiday destinations, it's clear that more people want to transform their...
NinaDanielle