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  • Writer's pictureDan

Small problems for a small garden..

If you are one the many people in the UK who has a very small garden or outdoor space, chances are you are not making the most of it. Hopefully I will be able to give you some idea of where to start if you are looking for ways to maximise the use of your own outdoor sanctuary. 


Picture the scene

You have a small garden, possibly a courtyard, a shared area which just about qualifies as ‘an outdoor space’.   If space is a premium, you can’t have a cat let alone swing it, and this space has become very impractical do read on!

I think very small gardens can often be the most interesting to design, making the best use of the limited space is a challenge for the mind and the heart.

Ideas and priorities

Where you get your inspiration from is very important. The ‘Insta-garden’ might seem unachievable but this could be a good starting point for ideas as you can take your phone around the garden easily. Garden centres can be overwhelming if you are not green fingered as they are set up to make everything look appealing at the moment you buy it and it won’t always be clear what will work in the space you have.

If you can’t see the solution think small, think simple and make a list of your ideas and answer these questions:  what are your favourite things to do outdoors? What is your favourite view in the garden? What will you use it for?  Who will be using it and when? Think; see, sounds and sensations.

If I were in this position my lists would point me towards two people sitting with a glass of wine, ideally with muffled sounds of traffic, looking at the wildlife.

This will help you prioritise what is important and what you want to use the space for. In a small garden it isn’t possible to include all of your ideas.

Preparation and process

I believe the process is all about preparation and this is a key part of spatial design, if you are anything like me you will enjoy this part. You will need a blank canvas in order to make sense of the plans you want to put in place.

A designer would start by measuring and surveying the garden using accurate dimensions, from here they will create the initial design based on the brief you have provided. If you are unsure about using a designer and want to give this a go yourself, then drawing up roughly what your vision is for the garden is a great idea.

Draw rough shapes of the area, put your key view points in, where will you be eating, drinking, sitting etc? Even draw your self!

Alternatively, start by clearing out what you don’t want from the garden, when its completely clear stand in your favourite spot and imagine your one top thing to do from there.

Basic needs first, don’t compromise on those top priorities and try not to over complicate. 

Small steps 

The aesthetics of which plants, what type of new patio slabs, what colour to paint the fence come at the end, when you have worked out exactly what is priority no.1, worked out a rough price and committed to raising the money. Be brave and spend a bit on that singular initial element and the rest can come over time because you will enjoy being in the space everyday and wont mind a bit that it isn't finished straight away. 

Then buy the glossy magazine, see what colours are on trend and read that ‘tips and tricks with mirrors for courtyard gardens’ article you know you want to. You can also take your time in deciding on all that stuff you removed and whether or not you really need it.


Get a designer to do it...

If the idea of drawing yourself on a bench seems impossible to you or your imagination cant quite get over all the weeds and junk in your outdoor area, then of course you can ask me to do it for you. Have a look at my website to give you an idea of how I do things, my prices for small garden ideas start at £300.

Happy designing, solving and making the best use of your small space.

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