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Designing a Garden for Small Spaces: Creative Ideas and Tips for UK Gardens

Garden patio and pergola design

Designing a small garden can be a challenge. With smart design choices and a little creativity, even the tiniest of spaces can be transformed into a beautiful and functional garden. Here are some useful ideas to help you make the most of your small garden in Hampshire.


Assessing your small garden space

Before diving into the exciting design process, it’s essential to assess your available space. Also identify your gardening goals, and consider your personal style preferences.

Evaluating available space and layout for the small garden design

  • Measure your garden’s dimensions, taking note of any irregularities or awkwardly shaped areas.
  • Note any permanent structures, such as walls, fences, or large trees, that may impact your design or cast shade on certain parts of the garden.
  • Take into account the available sunlight, shade, and wind exposure. Be mindful of how these factors might change throughout the day and across different seasons.

Identifying your gardening goals and priorities

  • Decide what you want to achieve with your garden. This could include relaxation, entertainment, growing vegetables or herbs, or attracting wildlife.
  • Prioritise your goals based on the available space and resources. For example, if you have limited ground space, consider growing vegetables in containers rather than dedicating a large area to a vegetable patch.

Considering your personal style and preferences

  • Reflect on your preferred garden style. This might include modern, traditional, cottage, tropical, or minimalist aesthetics.
  • Choose a colour scheme and plant palette that align with your desired aesthetic. Keep in mind that certain plants may thrive better in specific regional conditions or microclimates.


Maximising vertical space in the garden

One key strategy for small gardens is utilising vertical space. Here are some ideas to help you maximise the height in your garden, along with specific examples for each:

Vertical Space Ideas Description Examples
Climbing plants and wall-mounted planters Train plants to grow up walls or attach planters to create a living tapestry Ivy, clematis, climbing roses, wall-mounted herb planters
Trellises and pergolas Add structure and height to your garden while providing support for climbing plants Wooden trellises, metal pergolas, obelisks, archways
Hanging baskets and window boxes Beautify windows and walls with an array of colourful blooms and foliage Petunias, fuchsias, trailing lobelia, ferns, succulents
Living walls and green roofs Transform your walls or shed roofs into lush, green spaces Sedums, sempervivums, mosses, ferns, small grasses


Creating multi-functional spaces

In small gardens, it’s essential to make the most of every square inch. Incorporate multi-functional features to maximise the usability of your space:

Foldable and multi-purpose furniture

  • Choose compact and foldable furniture that can be easily stored away when not in use, such as foldable bistro sets, collapsible benches, or nesting tables.
  • Invest in multi-functional pieces, such as benches with built-in storage, tables that can double as plant stands, or convertible seating that can transform into a sun lounger.

Built-in seating and storage solutions

  • Integrate seating into your garden’s design, such as built-in benches around raised beds, seat walls along garden borders, or seating integrated into retaining walls.
  • Incorporate hidden storage solutions, like storage boxes that double as benches, compartments under seating areas, or hollow garden sculptures that can store small tools and accessories.

Dual-purpose plants

  • Select plants that serve multiple purposes, such as edible, ornamental, or wildlife-friendly varieties.
  • Examples include fruit trees, berry bushes, lavender (which attracts bees and can be used for its fragrance), and herbs like rosemary or thyme.


Incorporating smart space-saving features

Utilise space-saving features to help your small garden feel larger and more functional:

Container gardening and modular planting systems

  • Grow plants in containers or modular systems to save ground space and allow for flexibility in your design. This approach also makes it easier to rearrange or move plants as needed.
  • Use containers of varying heights and sizes to create visual interest. Examples include repurposed crates, colourful ceramic pots, or even recycled items like old watering cans or boots.

Raised beds and narrow borders

  • Install raised beds or narrow borders to define planting areas and maximise planting space. These features also help to improve soil drainage and can make gardening tasks more accessible.
  • Choose plants with a vertical growth habit to make the most of the available height, such as upright grasses, tall perennials, or columnar trees.

Mirrors and strategic lighting

  • Place mirrors on walls or fences to create the illusion of a larger space. Mirrors can reflect light and add depth to narrow or dark areas of the garden.
  • Use lighting to highlight key features, draw the eye through the garden, and create a sense of depth. Consider using uplights, downlights, or path lights to illuminate focal points, pathways, and borders.

Using dwarf and compact plant varieties

  • Select dwarf or compact plant varieties to prevent overcrowding and maintain a sense of spaciousness in your garden. Examples include dwarf conifers, compact hydrangeas, or smaller ornamental grasses.


Utilising small water features

Incorporate small water features to add a sense of tranquility and movement to your garden:

Tabletop and wall-mounted water features

  • Choose compact water features that can be easily installed on tabletops or mounted on walls to save space. Examples include small fountains, tabletop waterfalls, or wall-mounted spouts.

Small ponds or water gardens

  • Create a small pond or water garden using a pre-formed liner, a container, or even a repurposed item like a galvanized tub or an old sink. Add aquatic plants, small fish, or water-loving wildlife to create a thriving ecosystem.

Incorporating water features into existing structures

  • Integrate water features into existing garden elements, such as patios, walls, or even steps, to conserve space and create visual interest. Examples include water blades mounted on walls, cascading fountains integrated into steps, or small rills built into patio designs.


Designing the garden with colour and texture

Use colour and texture to create a visually appealing garden that feels larger and more inviting:

Using bold colours and contrasting textures

  • Incorporate bold colours and contrasting textures to create visual interest and draw the eye through the space. For example, pair bright, colourful flowers with contrasting foliage textures, such as feathery grasses or broad-leaved perennials.
  • Mix and match different plant shapes, sizes, and foliage to create layers and depth, which can help to make a small garden feel more spacious.

Employing colour schemes to create depth and spaciousness

  • Consider using colour schemes that help create a sense of depth. Such as cool colours in the background and warm colours in the foreground. This approach can help to visually ‘push’ the back of the garden away, creating an illusion of more space.
  • Choose plants with variegated or colourful foliage to add year-round interest, as well as seasonal blooms to provide bursts of colour throughout the year.


Creating a sense of privacy and seclusion

Transform your small garden into a cosy retreat by adding privacy and seclusion:

Screening options: trellises, hedges, and fences

  • Use trellises, hedges, or fences to create privacy screens that separate your garden from neighbouring properties or public spaces. Examples include wooden lattice trellises, evergreen hedges like boxwood or yew, or decorative fence panels.
  • Choose plants with dense foliage or evergreen varieties to maintain year-round screening, ensuring privacy even during the winter months.

Strategic plant placement for natural privacy

  • Position plants in strategic locations to create natural privacy barriers and separate distinct areas within your garden. For example, plant taller shrubs or small trees along boundaries, or use taller plants to screen a seating area from view.
  • Layer plants at different heights to create a sense of enclosure and intimacy, using a mix of ground cover plants, medium-height perennials, and taller shrubs or small trees.

Incorporating cosy nooks and hidden seating areas

  • Design secluded seating areas or cosy nooks by nestling them amongst plants or behind screening features. This can create intimate spaces for relaxation, reading, or enjoying a cup of tea.
  • Use cushions, blankets, and soft lighting to create inviting and comfortable spaces that feel welcoming and sheltered.


Practical tips for maintaining a small garden

A well-maintained garden is crucial for ensuring your small space remains functional and visually appealing:

Regular maintenance and pruning for healthy plant growth

  • Schedule routine garden maintenance, such as weeding, watering, and pruning, to keep your plants healthy and thriving.
  • Prune plants regularly to maintain their shape and size, preventing overcrowding in your garden and ensuring that all plants receive adequate light and air circulation.

Using space-saving garden tools and equipment

  • Invest in compact and foldable garden tools that are easy to store and transport. Examples include collapsible garden waste bags, foldable pruning saws, or telescopic tools like loppers or rakes.
  • Choose lightweight and easy-to-use equipment that is suitable for small spaces, such as cordless or small electric tools, which can help to make gardening tasks more manageable.

Efficient watering and fertilising techniques

  • Use targeted watering methods, such as drip irrigation or watering cans, to conserve water and reduce waste. This approach can also help to prevent overwatering and encourage healthy plant growth.
  • Always apply fertilisers sparingly and as needed to prevent over-fertilisation. Also ensure that your plants receive the right nutrients they need to thrive.



Designing a small garden can be a rewarding and creative endeavour. By assessing your space, maximising vertical areas, creating multi-functional spaces, and utilising smart space-saving features, you can transform your small garden into a beautiful and functional outdoor haven. As a landscape gardener in Hampshire, I hope this guide has inspired you to embrace the challenges and opportunities of small garden design. Don’t hesitate to share your own small garden ideas and experiences with us!