Tips for designing smaller gardens

Garden design – small gardens

The Design-For-Me website asked me (and a number of other Garden Designers) to write some tips for designing smaller gardens. Designing a big garden can be time consuming, but the luxury of extra space can make it easier to accommodate different areas and functions.

When thinking about small garden design, think ingenuity, restraint, and sometimes a bit of daring.

Here are the two ideas I contributed to the article, if you want to read the full version (which includes many other good ideas from the other Garden Designers), I’ve included a link further down.


Choose Wisely

Where space is limited, make sure everything you choose for your garden truly earns its place, and ideally does more than one thing. With hard landscaping, seating walls can provide space to sit as well as retaining planting or creating changes of level. Can storage be built in as well?

seating wall garden design for small gardens bingley

Above: Seating walls provide space to sit, can create terraces, manage changes of level and retain planting areas. 


With plants, make sure that they are multi-taskers and offer up something different throughout the year. For example, Viburnum tinus ‘Ladybird’, a compact Viburnum suitable where space is limited. It has year-round glossy evergreen foliage, fragrant flowers in winter – when little else is happening in the garden – followed by berries to attract the birds.

Above: Viburnum tinus has attractive foliage, flowers, berries and fragrance.


Think Big

Don’t fall into the trap of feeling that you should downsize everything in the garden when space is at a premium. With hard landscaping, using large paving units can increase the feeling of space and look less fussy than smaller units in a small area. Features such as a series of oversized planters can be a dramatic addition to a small space, but must be chosen with care as they’ll act a focal point.

large planter in corten steel for small garden design leeds lewis williams

Above: These large Corten steel planters by The Pot Company make a statement in a small space, and work in both contemporary and traditional settings. (If you are interested in this style of planter, get in touch – I am a supplier for The Pot Company and can help you choose the right products for your garden)

And, don’t dismiss trees. Choosing wisely based on their eventual size is critical, but there are trees available for the smallest of spaces. The addition of a tree to any size garden gives a special presence unmatched by any other plant or feature. Now is a good time to research, choose and order a tree ready for planting in the dormant season.


acer garden design for small gardens trees for small gardens leeds

Above: Many Acers are suitable for small gardens and some varieties have truly stunning foliage and stem colour.


Originally written for the article “Small Garden Ideas from the Experts” on the DesignFor-Me website, September 2017 which can be found here