Giving a small garden a makeover can be just as enjoyable and rewarding as if you had a large garden with much more room to play with. Having a smaller area means you do have to be a lot more creative and make use of the space in the best way possible. It is more of a challenge, and you can have a lot of fun with it. Large gardens can often look empty whereas tiny ones can be fascinating and deeply satisfying to be in, so how can you get yours looking smart this summer?
Stick To One Idea
The most important decision when you are giving a small garden a makeover is to know what to leave out. While you can do a lot with small spaces. However, you can’t do everything.
If you attempt too many different plants, ideas, areas or functions into a small garden, and then of them work in their own right, it could all become one big mishmash. Keep it simple with one clear idea done well. This works far better than loads of ideas all over the place. The most successful small gardens focus on one thing, and they do it well. If the space to sit outside reading a book is what you want from your garden, then base the whole design around that. If you want a garden where you can eat and entertain outside, then make the seating area big enough for a table and work around that. If you love collecting plants of a particular type, then make the garden the perfect home for them. If you want somewhere for your children to play, then work the plan around that. And so on.
Go With The Flow
Specific rules apply to all gardens, however big or small they may be, but the most important of all is not to fight nature. Soil, climate and situation will dictate most of your planting for you, so grow what wants to grow and choose the plants that will thrive in your surroundings. If you are not sure what plants to choose, then have a look around and see what other people are growing well in your area. It will not be happening by chance, and it is not what you do but how you do it that makes things look good. If you are a beginner then you should get some expert advice too rather than just picking something because you want it, you need to know that it will survive in your garden.
Get Creative With Climbers
Walls and fences are going to be the same height whether you’re in a small garden or a large garden, so their importance actually increases as the ground area decreases. Every inch of your wall or fence should be exploited with greenery and flowers. Mix and mingle plant climbers to create the soft barrier you need that also excites with its colour and scent. It’s a good idea to invest in a really strong trellis to support your climbers. Then, within the garden, wigwams made of cane or metal can support climbers such as sweet peas, the cup and saucer vine (Cobaea scandens), morning glory (Ipomoea purpurea) or the Chilean glory flower (Eccremocarpus scaber).
Small gardens are quite often sheltered, so gloriously scented jasmine, trachelospermum or Clematis armandii can thrive better where they might have been too exposed in a large garden. If your garden doesn’t get much light and is in the shade for most of the day, make the most of it and specialise in plants that work best in conditions like this. Ferns, ivy, tiarellas, cyclamen, mahonias, hostas, hardy geraniums and sweet woodruff are just a few examples of plants that thrive in the relative dark and which look superb.
Prepare The Soil
The wonderful thing about soil in a small space is that this doesn’t take long even if it involves a major effort. All you need to do is to prepare the borders properly, get rid of any rubble and compaction and add lots of organic goodness, such as compost or well-rotted manure. Use every tiny space you can for planting as the gaps in walls are ideal for herbs such as thyme and the cracks in paving are an excellent spot for creeping mint.
Do You Need A Lawn?
Do you want a play area for children? Having a lawn in a small garden can be a lot of effort, however, if you invest in the best petrol lawn mower, then it makes the job a lot easier. If you do have a lawn, what you need to avoid is having the grass occupying most of the area and just having a ribbon of soil at the base of the fence a foot or so wide. If you do this, it can have the effect of emphasising the lack of space, so consider having a path between borders or having a circular lawn surrounded by some generous planting which creates an illusion of more space than there actually is. You should make sure that you have an area with the surface you want, whether that be paved, bricks, slabs, cobbles or whatever you like.
A paved area is really useful for a sitting area if that’s what you’re after and it’s a lot less work than a lawn. A paved area is also ideal for pots and if you enjoy pots, do you need to have an open space at all? You could have the entire garden filled with plants with just a narrow path to provide access and a small area big enough for a couple of seats and a little table so that you can sit surrounded by colour and beautiful smells. You don’t need to follow any particular rules, just the ones that you care about.
Get Your Pots Right
An exceptionally large pot can look right at home in a smaller garden – as long as you have chosen carefully. A small garden can look great with a large number of small pots packed together as well as a few huge pots. Any huge object or plant can look ideally at home in a tiny space as long as you are ruthlessly selective about it. If it does not look good, then get rid of it because every single part of your small garden should please you and make you happy, there is no room for compromise. Ask yourself about every paving stone, every individual plant and every pot. Think about whether it is the best use of that particular space, or is it the right thing but in the wrong place.
Divide And Rule
A long, thin garden looks really good if you make it into two or even three smaller square or rectangular spaces which are joined by a path. There are many options, such as a square yard could have two levels, an empty rectangular garden could have one area that is open and cooly controlled leading to another that has many plants – or vice versa. No garden is that small that it cannot be divided into smaller spaces. However, this is not to say that every garden should be; it is just something that you can consider and think about the advantages of breaking the garden up into separate areas to divide and rule.
The division could even be made with a solid brick wall or a hedge that is ideal for filtering the wind and is transparent in winter. A low hedge is excellent as you can see over but have to walk around or you could go with a trellis that you can see through as any kind of division will invite you in and create the opportunity for varied planting or colours. But remember that each individual bit of the garden needs to harmonise as a whole. While this approach does have its drawbacks as it involves more work than a more unified plan and can get fiddly, the beauty of a small garden is that it responds wonderfully to time put into it. You can usually hide mistakes in a large garden quite easily, but you can’t usually get away with it in a small space. Be meticulous and patient as it is better to wait than use the wrong thing. Attention to detail is vital.
One of the most common mistakes that people make when designing a small space is to think everything in it must be low when actually, the opposite is usually true. A few large plants can make a space seem bigger than it actually is while lots of small ones can make it look and feel crowded. Have a look at small trees such as crab apples, maples and cherries because even the most modest garden will accommodate and every garden can include height. Tall herbaceous plants and grasses that can be cut back hard in winter or spring are ideal as they do not become overly dominant.