Garden Design Ideas for the Small Garden
Having a small garden doesn’t mean you can’t have a feast of colour and foliage shape all through the year. Of course your garden design has to be ingenious and well thought out and it is helpful if you know the tricks that can be employed to make your space feel lush and inviting.
People ask me what is the hardest garden to design and I always answer the small garden. Everything has to be perfect. If a shrub or tree gets too big or a line of sight is not right the whole garden is effected. It is much easier to hide design flaws in a bigger space!
The Garden Room
Even though it has become a cliche, a small garden can be thought of as another room of the house. The benefit of thinking this way is that you use the same principles of simple function, focal point and proportions as you would if you were redecorating your lounge.
Also as in each room you might decide to invest in a well chosen piece of furniture or painting, the same goes for the small garden. In fact the more you can invest in beautiful objects or materials the better as they easily become the focal point of the garden and each detail is noticed.
Be Big and Bold
When designing your small garden I recommend buying very large and bold pots for a small courtyard garden. Small pots look like you are trying to squeeze as much as you can into the space where one big pot gives the space a sense of power and gravitas. The bigger the better sometime as the pots, seating or raised beds exude a sense of generosity of spirit.
As with trees- it is much more effective to buy one really wonderful big specimen than three little shrubs. With paving materials because you don’t have much area to pave you can go for an expensive basalt or porcelain tile which will offer you endless pleasure.
Also, investing in a really original sculpture can give your space a sense of creativity and purpose.
You can bring the elements into a small garden- in fact in designing your garden this is imperative as most smaller gardens are quite hemmed in and often don’t have other neighbouring greenery to enrich the outer perimeter.
A fire bowl can be stored under the stairs or in your shed and brought out when a few friends pop over. Once you sip a G and T and the fire is roaring under the stars you will forget where you are and your little space will feel timeless!
A water feature will give you the sound of water which is generally calming for the nerves and gives an echo of larger bodies of water that you have visited in the past. Birds will frequent you feature or pond and the sky will fill the reflections.
Movement- Ornamental grasses, dwarf willow trees or pendulous trees like Betula pendulosa will sway in the wind and bring an element of wildness and unpredictability.
Space Creating Tricks
The creative use of curves can make your garden seem to go on and on past the fence lines.
Mirrors can reflect the light from one side to another especially if the area is very dark (make sure they are not very big and in the open as birds will fly into them).
A small lawn can be made into a receding trapeze shape to give the effect of a greater sense of distance.
Rythmic planting can draw the eye to the repetition rather than straight to the end of the bed.
Parts of the garden can be hidden from the frontal view so one has to go on a little walk to see what is around the corner. This can be done in the smallest of gardens.
Painting the back walls and fences a dark grey, black or dark green can make the back of the garden recede to a greater depth than it actually is.
Growing a mix of evergreen and deciduous climbers can also have this effect and give the visitor a sense of interest with splashes of colour taking their attention away from the limits of the garden.
Most small garden designs shy away from trees and large shrubs as the fear is that the garden will look over crowded. However the exact opposite can be true. A line of obedient, shaped little shrubs can make the garden feel restricted and limited.
When designing a small back garden I will often concentrate on establishing a larger tree is a natural corner of the garden. Even if the garden is less than 10 meters long an apple tree with maximum height of 4 meters can give the garden a sense of age and majesty, and bring in the feeling of a complex ecosystem than reminds us of the countryside.
Under the larger tree one can plant a small swath of ornamental grasses, mid size shrubs or bulbs that can evoke a larger landscape.
If you can make your garden for you with multiply functions it will be a much more enticing place to be. Herbs can be grown from hanging baskets, tomatoes up the sunny shed wall, climbing roses can be piled up over sheds and up conifers, and fruit can be grown as espaliers along the edges of paths.
Good luck if you decide to re think your small space. And if you have a bigger garden you can create a network of smaller gardens within it to give it the feeling of a never ending exploration