Table of Contents
It can sometimes feel that not much can be done with a small garden, let alone on a budget, but with the right advice this can all change.
There are some clever and affordable ways in which you can transform your small garden into the outdoor space of your dreams.
Our biggest pieces of advice is to always work on the view from inside the house first, and avoid overcomplicating a small garden with many different materials, zoned areas, and different types of plants. Continue reading for the best small garden ideas to help you transform your outdoor space.
Modern small garden ideas
• Create an outdoor living room
Limited space shouldn’t be a barrier to creating a cosy seating area outdoors – but zoning is key. Carve out a spot for an outdoor sofa (and accessorise with cushions) or even a small bistro set, framed with a garden rug. Fold up furniture is also helpful in a small garden as it can reduce clutter and be stored when not in use.
• Privacy but make it stylish
Always think about privacy. It’s unusual to find a smaller garden that’s not overlooked in some way but with a carefully placed shrub or a line of trellis along the top of a fence, it’s possible to minimise the problem. Think also about where you put your sitting area; there might be a corner of the garden that’s completely private.
• Utilise space with a garden room
What do you want to use your garden for? If a spot for lounging isn’t a priority for you, would you find a hobby room more useful? Consider installing an outdoor room or pod. You can use even the smallest of gardens as a gym, home office, craft room, art studio, games room etc. The possibilities are endless.
• Get clever with flooring
Diagonal paving can be effective in smaller gardens – laying slabs on the point so they are in a diamond shape can give the optical illusion of a bigger garden. Small spaces can also be made attractive with a crisp, contemporary look and strong landscaped lines. Creating interesting interlocking zones with distinctive materials like wood-stained decking or decorative stones, will help to achieve a stylish look in even the smallest of gardens.
• Install an outdoor kitchen
Outdoor kitchens are considered a luxury in terms of desirable garden features, but it’s a must-have for modern gardens, even in smaller outdoor spaces. If you love entertaining guests or you’re a foodie and would benefit from having a barbecue, pizza oven and sink and prep area for meals alfresco, then it’s definitely worth considering.
How to make your small garden look bigger
These small garden ideas will help you make your space look bigger and more beautiful.
• Paint it
Paint walls and fences a pale colour. In small spaces, especially in towns and cities, light is at a premium and where bricks and wood absorb light and darken areas, white paint bounces the light back and brightens up the space.
• Plant it
The easiest solution when it comes to plants is to go minimal with numbers but maximum on impact. So try large leafed varieties Fatsia, Dicksonia or Mahonia, which thrive in semi-shade. And keep these shrubs under control so the space isn’t encroached upon too much. For container gardens, tiered planters or ladders can maximise ground space available for flowers and herbs.
• Light it
This is where the magic starts to come in. Light it, not for sitting out on the odd occasion when it’s warm enough, but for every night or afternoon in winter when you want something lovely to look at. There are oodles of professional lights which will require an electrician to install, but try warm white outdoor string lights for a less expensive option.
The trick is to layer the lighting. The first layer is for practicality: light the steps, sitting areas, paths. Next, light any features you have: water features, small trees, interesting wall surfaces. Finally, add a really subtle layer of light at ankle level to make the whole place glow. If you have these on three different circuits you can mix and match for different effects.
• Fake it
Finally, consider finishing touches with mirrors. Garden mirrors are particularly useful, as they will bounce light back. But, consider the placement and don’t buy one too big as birds may mistake them for open space and fly into them.
Small garden ideas on a budget
Richard Miers of Richard Miers Garden Design has been designing gardens for over 20 years and has some helpful points on how to get the small garden you desire, on a budget:
• Plan your garden design
Make sure you really do want to make that change and see if you can keep and reuse what you have already. Draw or sketch what you have in mind and get it right first time. Measure out the garden, as getting it right will save money by not having to do it twice. Spend as much as you can on the best materials, as they will last longer and save money long-term.
• Recruit helping hands
Have a garden party. Offer your friends a BBQ and drinks if they help you clear the garden, build the fence, lay the terrace, dig over beds and plant the plants. Paint existing fences rather than buying new ones. Use self-binding gravel rather than stone or bricks for paths or terraces, for example, Breedon Aggregates Amber Gravel or Wayfarer. The material costs are less and the labour costs are cheaper than when laying natural stone.
• Shop around
Shop around for natural stone as supply costs vary enormously if you’re not too picky. Maybe use ceramic tiles rather than natural stone too but make sure that it’s slip resistant. Visit recycling centres for unusual containers rather than buying pots. You might even pick up tools there. Reclamation yards are also a good hunting ground for all things exterior.
• Penny pinch with plants
Grow your plants from seeds or cuttings, swap plants with friends and neighbours, make your own compost and plant food. Herbaceous perennials or shrubs rather than annuals come back year after year. Be smart with your purchasing – bulbs are very inexpensive in the autumn. Bare root plants are more affordable in the autumn or winter rather than container grown in the spring or summer. Bare root trees or hedging plants in the dormant season are much less expensive than container grown. And don’t be put off by smaller shrubs than you may initially want, as they will grow, you just need to be patient.
• Recycle furniture
Use unfashionable brown indoor furniture outdoors and paint it to make it last longer. It won’t last forever but could see you through until you can afford more robust and weatherproof teak or oak chairs and tables.
News, advice and ideas from the team at House Beautiful UK