How to design a small garden with big impact

Our gardens are getting smaller as land becomes less available. But they can still be a valuable space for getting outdoors to enjoy the sunshine and connect with nature. Here are 5 tips for designing a small outside space that packs a punch.

1.   Build in seating

Edinburgh garden design with floating benchWork out what you want from your space. Distil your ideas to make every inch count. Built in garden seating takes up less space. Be versatile – low walls and steps make extra seating when friends come round. Pergolas can double up as climbing frames or supports to hang swings from. Tables can fold away, sandpits be covered and wash lines retracted.

2.   Keep to a simple palette of materials

small garden with swingCreate a well thought out scheme using the same style for all elements in the garden. Pare it down to a limited palette of good quality landscaping materials. Use the same material in different ways. The same stone could be used for the walling, paving and aggregate, or the wood used for a garden arch could also be used to create a bench. Use only a few different well combined plants from the same colour palette.

3.   Lose boundaries

Japanese garden Chelsea
RHS Chelsea 2013

To make your garden feel larger, like it extends beyond the boundary, cover fences and walls with trees, shrubs, hedging and climbers. This can also hide neighbouring houses, making your garden feel more secluded.

4.   Maximise on light

water feature for a small gardenInner city gardens are often surrounded by tall buildings casting shade, so bounce light around your garden using reflective surfaces. A cool contemporary pool that reflects the sky can light up the garden. Incorporate garden lighting to enhance shapes and create intrigue.

5.   Use large plants with large leaves

The Bowel Disease Garden Hampton Court
RHS Hampton Court 2016

Planting a few large plants with large leaves makes a garden feel bigger than one with lots of small fussy plants. Make the most of your vertical space by planting small upright trees and pleached hedging. This will allow light to filter through. Have climbers cascading over vertical structures.