Make the most of a small garden


Most British gardens are tiny, but don’t dispair! Naomi Slade offers tips for creating drama on a small scale

Small gardens always present a challenge. How to create the verdant dream, grow your own fresh fruit and veg, experiment with new planting ideas and store the mower in a hemmed-in space the size of a match box? According to a report from DIY chain B&Q, the average British garden is 190 square metres (or three-quarters of a tennis court), while newer plots average 113 square metres. Victorian terrace gardens are always a narrow squeeze, and roof terraces and balcony spaces measure far less.

Yet we are a nation of gardeners and garden we will. And though a tiny plot may not always be easy, it does present its own opportunities. You only have to take a look at RHS Chelsea show gardens to see what can be achieved in a minute space – the artisan gardens are a masterclass in focusing on a theme. Closer to home, the National Garden Scheme offers plenty of relatable, budget-conscious inspiration too. Look out for group openings where lots of smaller gardens are open together and take design tips straight from the owners.  

Small gardens are often urban, overlooked and shaded by buildings. High surrounding walls and fencing make them feel even smaller than they are, and a square of shabby concrete might seem pretty short of potential. Crammed, untidy spaces help to diminish a garden’s horizons. 

Identifying the issues and embracing the positives can go a long way in realising your dreams:

• Know what you want: gather ideas that excite you and have a vision that’s achievable.

• Love the plot you’ve got and choose plants accordingly: a shady spot on heavy soil can be wonderfully lush, with forest-floor plants such as ferns and foxgloves, while a suntrap suits gravel, alpines and succulents.

• Rejoice in its manageability: no need to mow acres of lawn or dig over a large veg patch. Instead, enjoy harvesting tomatoes from tubs and deadheading sweet peas, gin-and-tonic in hand. Bliss! 

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