Make the most of a small garden

Gardens today are smaller than ever. It’s no secret that urban developers, in a bid to solve our housing crisis, have been squeezing new homes into the smallest of brownfield sites. So it’s lucky that even the tiniest gardens can be among the most visually exciting. Think of the Chelsea show gardens – all designed to fit on a tiny template but packing in masses of perennials, shrubs, trees, water features and seating areas. None of those designers ever skimped on style or colour; they set out to get maximum impact and atmosphere, without overcrowding the space – something that’s critical to making any small garden look appealing and cohesive.

The interplay between hard and soft landscape can make or break a small plot. This is where good planning comes in – drawing shapes on paper to visualise how areas of paving, lawn, gravel and planting might slot together. Go for clean geometrical shapes and outlines; ‘wibbly’ indecisive lines lack the sense of purpose that a sweeping curve can impose.

In a small space you have essentially one view to play with, so make it spectacular for as much of the year as possible. Create an eye-catching seating area so you can sit out in summer, and surround it with fabulous plant combinations offering interest at every level – tall shrubs or small trees with spring blossom and autumn colour interest, flowering climbers to cloak the fences, attractive evergreen foliage for winter structure, and long-lasting perennials for summer colour. Plant drifts of spring bulbs under a deciduous shrub and you’re pretty much covered.

However, it’s all too easy to get a ‘bitty’ piecemeal look and for the garden to look bare in winter. Here we’ve asked three gardeners for their hard-won advice.

5 Top tips

1 Make a plan on paper. This will help you organise your ideas and give you a fixed template to work to. Include the plants you’d like to use, then edit down according to space and budget.

2 Hide the garden’s boundaries. Use climbers to conceal fence panels and plant tall shrubs so they make a visual break across the fence line.

3 Create an exciting journey. Lay a path between planting areas or features so visitors can enjoy exploring. Have it lead to a sunny seating area. 

4 Don’t forget to add height. Taller plants, obelisks and pergolas prevent the garden becoming too flat.

5 Keep the colour schemes simple. Make your plant list with a colour scheme in mind for best cohesion.

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