Q. How can I make the most of my empty newbuild back garden?

Transform a small blank canvas into a tranquil garden haven

Garden design for small newbuild plot

by Liz Potter |

NEWBUILD GARDENS TEND to comprise a patch of turf but very little else. While this is an uninspiring scene when you first move in, it does offer the keen gardener a fantastic opportunity to make their own mark. However, an empty space can also prove daunting, particularly if the garden is small, shady, overlooked and your wish-list of requirements is long.

This design aims to create a flexible space, dividing the garden into different zones. The dining area is tucked away beyond the shed – making good use of an awkward spot and doubling up as a place to work from home. It’s private and gives a feeling of seclusion for al fresco meals.

The terrace by the house with shade sail is a multi-purpose outdoor living space that can be used for relaxing and entertaining, or exercise, as can the central lawn area.

To make these separate zones more cohesive, we’ve painted the shed, timber supports and fences black to match the rattan corner sofa. Black makes the fences recede and helps the garden seem bigger. This dark backdrop will allow plants to stand out as the real stars of the show.

As well as being decorative, the timber frames add height and structure, and support the climbing plants and shade sail. They also help divide up the small space without the oppressive, heavy feel a full pergola can generate, and won’t block light from entering the house.

Creating privacy in an overlooked garden is key to making it a space where you want to linger. Strategically placed trees can screen views and block sight lines from neighbours’ windows. Here multi-stemmed trees have been used – they’re a useful choice for small gardens, giving the illusion of denser planting. They grow slowly and rarely get as tall as single-trunk trees.


1. Exploit a suntrap: Plant sun-loving herbs such as rosemary, sage and thyme in containers and position them in the sunniest part of the garden for instant flowers and fragrance.

2. Keep paving simple: To create a simple, unfussy design, use the same hard landscaping throughout. For interest and variation, lay it as stepping stones across the grass.

3. Assess sightlines: Consider views from the house and line up paths and focal points with windows and doors. This creates an important visual connection between house and garden.

4. Work the angles: Echo the straight lines of the hard landscaping and timber supports with angular containers and furniture. Architectural plants help soften the effect.

5. Choose your palette: A planting palette of greens, white and pale yellows creates a relaxing atmosphere and makes the garden feel bigger and more cohesive.

6. Add water: A water feature provides sound and movement and attracts wildlife. Position it so it can act as a focal point from the house, or from a seating area in the garden.

7. Use your vertical space: Make the most of the limited growing space by exploiting the vertical and planting climbers against the fences.

Planting plan for small newbuild plot
Planting plan for small newbuild plot ©Garden Answers
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