25 Small Garden Ideas to Transform Your Outdoor Space

If you feel limited by the size of your garden, Floral & Hardy can help! We have years of experience using architectural features, light fixtures, shady trees and built-in furniture to help our clients maximise their space.

Are you looking to create a place to entertain? Have you been wondering how you can possibly fit a vegetable garden on your tiny terrace? Maybe you want to make your garden more kid-friendly without sacrificing green space? With these 25 tips, you’ll find out how to do all of this and more in order to transform your small garden into a functional, beautifully designed outdoor oasis.  

Check out our portfolio for small garden design ideas

1. Install a Sleek Water Feature
Sleek Water Feature
Not only do water features act as a focal point and add motion to your garden, they can also soften it and create a sense of space by reflecting light.  While some people might think only of ornate cherub water fountains with clunky bases when contemplating a water feature, we’ve used several more modern fountains in smaller gardens that take up less space. For example, you could build a fountain into an existing wall or other structure to free-up a bit of square footage.

2. Go Vertical!

No space on the ground? Take advantage of climbing plants and build UP! Trellises are an especially smart solution to limited space because they’re low-maintenance. Simply root its stakes into the dirt, ensure your flowers get enough sun and water, and watch them grow. We recommend Clematis or Honeysuckle if you’re keen to add splashes of colour to your garden. If you’re working with a more muted colour palette, opt for Ivy or Jasmine.

3. Build a Raised Deck or Patio
Raised Deck
By building a raised deck or patio, not only will you be utilising your space, you’ll also make your garden appear larger. Take advantage of steps by strategically placing potted plants and other garden accessories like lanterns on the different levels.

4. Take Advantage of Raised Beds
Raised Beds
Raised beds offer a solution to everything. Is your soil poor or non-existent? A raised bed can help! Looking for something low-maintenance? In one, contained space, your plants will be easy to look after. Struggling to find extra seating for house guests? The low walls of the bed are perfect to perch on. Consider adding patterned cushions to the top of the walls for a more comfortable (and stylish!) seat.

5. Customise Your Furniture to Make it Work for You
Customised Furniture
When working with a smaller space, every inch counts. Pick (or build!) practical furniture that’s multi-purpose. Storage benches could house garden tools in the summer or blankets for chilly autumn nights.  You could even build your own table with a strip of soil in the middle, perfect for small succulents. Your furniture should also fit in your space. Instead of settling on a bench that’s either slightly too big or slightly too small, spend a bit extra on something custom-made. This way, you’ll be able to ensure that it fits snuggly, is functional and matches the overall aesthetic of your garden.

6. Small Furniture for a Small Garden
Small Furniture
With #5 in mind, you should also know that you don’t have to have furniture custom-built for it to work in you garden! If you have an especially small garden and want room for guests but don’t want to clutter your space, look for a small cafe table and fold-up chairs. If you’re working with a bohemian style, consider floor cushions and hammocks, too.

7. Breathe New Life Into Your Garden with Trees
Garden with Trees
We know what you might be thinking: My garden is too small to add trees! We can assure you that it’s not. No garden is too small for trees! Crab Apple trees, in particular the Golden Hornet, is perfect if you’re looking for a tree that doesn’t take up much space but that still offers shade and attracts wildlife.  If your garden isn’t quite big enough for a Crab Apple tree, a potted Topiary tree looks lovely, too and works well in just about every style of garden.

8. Treat Your Kids to a Sunken Trampoline or Playhouse
Sunken Trampoline
It can be difficult to make room for big fun in a small space. Instead of nixing the idea of a trampoline because of its size, consider a sunken trampoline. This will give your children a space to play that doesn’t interfere with the rest of the garden. From afar, you won’t even be able to see it! This works especially well in modern style gardens. Not interested in a trampoline? Small playhouses are also great for kids and are an attractive alternative to a playground.

9. Refurbish a Shed
Refurbish a Shed
If you have a shed (or some other garden structure) that’s an eyesore, transform it to make it work for you. A fresh coat of a paint and beautiful French Doors could make it a focal point of your garden. If you’re looking for a more involved DIY project, consider upcycling your shed and turning it into a workspace or even an outdoor kitchen.

10. Create Movement With Curved Walkways
Curved Walkways

While you might not be able to increase the square footage of your garden, you can create the illusion of more space. By adding a curved stone or gravel walkway, you’ll encourage visitors to meander around. Even if they don’t take a stroll, the walkway will add a nice, soft shape to your garden, effectively distracting from its size. Curved walkways can also help guide the placement of plants and flowers, making design a bit easier for beginners.

11. Increase Functionality with Lighting Features
Lighting Features
Functional (and space-saving!) lighting can also transform your space. Install LED bulbs, spot lighting, or mood lighting to create drama and to change with the seasons. This way, you’ll be able to enjoy your garden from day to night, from summer through to winter.

12. Make use of Muted Colours
Muted Colours
If you’re painting a fence or wall, we recommend using a light colour, particularly white, beige or grey. These lighter, brighter colours will reflect light and open up the space. These more muted shades also give you more freedom when it comes to decorative accessories like cushions and make colourful flowers stand out.

13. Play with Potted Plants
Potted Plants
We’ve already mentioned that potted plants can be used on shelves and on the steps of a raised deck or patio. Really, they can – and should! – be used throughout your garden. To add structure to your garden, consider Topiary, or, for something low-maintenance but beautiful, Nepeta is a great choice. Potted plants can even be used to create a makeshift (and moveable) privacy wall.

14. Add Structure with Greenary
Greenery Structure
Geometric lines help make your garden look uncluttered and modern. Without room for furniture or other architectural features, instead use shrubs and other greenery to streamline the look of your garden and make it appear larger. Draw inspiration from French style gardens and play with strong shapes and unique designs to create something eye-catching. Boxwood, Evergreen shrubs and Red Hot Pokers are all perfect for creating landscaped borders that’ll add dimension to your outdoor space.

15. Get Creative with Difficult Spaces
Difficult Spaces
Even if your garden is sloped, you can still turn it into a functional space with stone steps. Create a beautiful walkway or install large slabs of modern concrete to create a dining area for adults or play area for the kids.

16. Create the Illusion of More Space with Mirrors
Space with Mirrors
We’re sure you’ve heard of restaurants using mirrors to make their indoor space look larger. Why not apply this principle outside in your garden? Use a sturdy brick wall or shelf to hang a mirror that matches the style of your garden. This is especially effective if the mirror is located near a dining or sitting area. Make sure you’ve placed colourful flowers or structured plants across from the mirror so that your family and friends can enjoy a beautiful reflection of your garden.

17. Install Heaters to be Enjoyed Year-Round
In order to transform your outdoor space, functionality is key. While we’ve talked a lot about maximising space, creating a space that can be enjoyed year-round is important, too. With England’s fickle weather, heaters will certainly help keep you and your guests comfortable even during autumn and winter. Instead of using large gas heaters, instead have smaller heaters mounted to a wall so that they don’t take up valuable space.

18. Hang Planters From the Ceiling
Hanging Plants

Source: Pinterest

If you have any sort of overhead structure, take advantage of it! Hanging planters are low-maintenance and will create another level of interest in your garden. Hanging plants are especially attractive because the baskets are just as beautiful as the flowers themselves. Use unexpected household items like colanders for something quirky or place several succulents in a birdcage to complement a chic, country style garden.

19. Add Texture and Dimension
Texture and Dimension
It’s important to create a dynamic, interesting space in order to detract from your garden’s limited size. To do this, use a variety of materials, flowers, plants and pots. A smooth garden walkway can be juxtaposed by a course brick wall. A waxy succulent stands out next to flowering perennials. Mix and match rocks and decorative coloured stones. Even less noticeable features like pots and planters can contribute to the overall look and feel of your garden.

20. Work With Low-Maintenance Materials
Low-Maintenance Materials
Small gardens are naturally easier to maintain than large, sprawling properties. Make your life easy by working with low-maintenance materials and plants. In particular, we suggest artificial turf instead of grass, climbing plants like Ivy that don’t need too much water and that are easy to plant, and Needle Grasses that add texture to your garden but are easy to maintain.

21. Take Advantage of a Rooftop Garden
Rooftop Garden
If you have a rooftop garden, it’s likely small. But, it’s also sure to offer stunning views. In order to maximise your space, use sleek, modern materials like stainless steel and glass. The glass, like mirrors, will naturally make the space feel larger and let you see the surrounding city or countryside without obstruction.

22. Window Boxes, Window Boxes, Window Boxes
Window Box

Source: Home Depot

With a small space, it’s important to make use of every nook and cranny. While window boxes are great strictly for aesthetic purposes, they can also be used to transform a modern garden into a functional (albeit small) vegetable garden. You can even grow herbs and fruits! Strawberries, radishes, aloe and sage grow especially well in window boxes and dinner guests will be impressed with your use of fresh ingredients.

23. Create a Focal Point
Focal Point
By creating a focal point in your garden, you’ll draw and direct the eye. This is especially difficult in a small garden because you don’t want to sacrifice all of your space on one feature. What’s more, there likely isn’t room for a too-large water feature or Weeping Willow. Instead, get creative! Use a pop of colour as a focal point or create conversation around a strikingly unusual plant or flower. Bear in mind that your focal point shouldn’t be an afterthought. In order to create a cohesive, smart space, consider your focal point early on in the planning process.

24. Use a Fence For More Than Just Privacy
Fence Privacy
While we all know what a fence is traditionally used for, why not use it to creatively display potted plants, lights or to create a green wall with a set of vertical pockets?

25. Spend Time Planning
Time Planning

Last but not least, make sure you spend time planning. Even in a small garden, there is a lot to consider. Start by choosing plants that you feel comfortable maintaining and that will thrive in your regional climate. Ensure you choose a variety of plants and flowers that work well with your design theme and that complement any existing structures. Finally, envision how your space will be used and by who to create a garden that flows naturally and practically.  

While small gardens might present a challenge, relish in it instead of being discouraged. Use these 25 tips to help inspire you to create a garden that works for you.

If you want to find out more about maximising space, increasing functionality and transforming your small garden, contact us or check out our growing portfolio of work for garden design inspiration.

Copyright Floral & Hardy 2023. All rights reserved. Company No. 07900342.

40 Bloomsbury Way , Lower Ground Floor, London, WC1A 2SE


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