Five Small Garden Design Tips

Small Garden Design Tips To Make Your Space Work For You

I’m often asked “do you design small gardens” and my answer is always “of course”.  Size? not a relevant factor as to whether your garden will benefit from design.  Here, we’ll look at a few small garden design tips to help you make the most of your space.  In small gardens where space is at a premium it is all the more important and challenging to make the garden work from a practical perspective.  Form over function is an often heard adage when it comes to design in general.  It’s useful to consider our gardens in terms of lifestyle, answer the big questions in terms of practicalities; can i entertain six comfortably?  is there a spot to grow some veggies? and how can i store my bike?  Once we have a clear picture of what we need we can then turn to how it should look, reviewing the palette of materials we have at our disposal for both the soft and hard landscape.  A carefully thought out plan at the initial stages will later reap rewards…

Garden bike storage

Long gone are the days where you’d have to cram your bike into a cobweb festooned shed at the bottom of the garden.  Bike storage is now much more practical with a range of options on the market.  The Bike Shed Company offer both smart and secure solutions that can even incorporate storage or recycling bins.  All made from sustainable timber and available in a range of finishes.

Bike storage from The Bike Shed Company


Bespoke solutions will fit unique spaces such as around the bay window pictured above.

Green wall on a small scale

The popularity of ‘growing your own’  You don’t have to be green fingered or invest time and money in creating raised beds or a green house.  Lightweight fabric planters can be attached to a wall or fence and planted with edibles or ornamentals.  These planters available from Burgon & Ball come in a range of colours and at only 30cm wide and 50cm in height would be ideal for those with the smallest of spaces.

Burgon & Ball Verti Planter











Plant with strawberries as pictured here or a range of your favourite herbs.  Alternatively opt for a purely ornamental planting.  Choose evergreen perennial plants such as lavender or perhaps evergreen ferns for a shady spot.

Garden storage bench

Store away garden paraphernalia that is unsightly yet essential.  In a smaller garden these bits and pieces will be easier to spot and detract from the effect you are trying to achieve.  Garden storage benches with hinged lids are an ideal option where space is at a premium, not only offering a dedicated seating but also hiding away the watering can or storing garden cushions over winter.  Make them weather resistant by simply storing items in a water tight plastic box.  Or, if you are constructing your own bench, using marine plywood to create an internal lining or box, will keep it relatively water resistant .  The ply can then be clad in a decorative wood.

A low cost solution from Ikea









Small garden trees

Don’t try to squeeze too much in to your garden – this also applies to planting.  Numerous smaller plants in a small space rather than fewer larger species may create an overwhelming effect.  You may not consider a tree to be an option for a garden tight on space however, a small tree can have great impact in smaller spaces by creating a striking focal point.  A lower number of larger plants will be easier on the eye and easier to maintain.  When it comes to selection think of eventual size and habit of the tree.  Nurseries grow a range of  columnar and fastigate forms.  Feathered trees are an excellent choice having a central leading stem and shorter lateral branches.

Feathered birch tree in contemporary planter















A feathered silver birch makes a stubbing focal point throughout the year due to its striking white bark and sleek form.

Blur the boundaries

In a small garden fences and walls can seem imposing, defining the exact size of the space.  To make them recede paint or stain them with dark colours.  This may sound dramatic but dark tones recede and bright or paler ones advance, therefore choosing a dark colour will cause a boundary to retreat or feel further away.  Futhermore, greys and blacks make an ideal backdrop for the green hues of planting.


chris moss garden marcus harpur credit-3
Chris Moss garden, Marcus Harpur

This image perfectly illustrates the theory.  The wall painted a dark grey recedes and the light wood slatted screen in front advances.

I have tried to highlight a few ways in which a small garden can become something great with a little thought and planning.  You can see some of Iron Butterfly Design’s small gardens in the gallery.  Visit the Iron Butterfly Design Pinterest page for further garden design ideas and inspiration.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *