As houses tend to be packed closer and closer together and more people are living in town houses and apartment blocks, it seems to be only natural that the outdoor space that goes with these properties shrinks as well.

The peace and tranquility that comes with having access to some outside space means that it’s important for us all to make the very most of it, and we need to be creative when coming up with ideas for making small gardens.

a truly stunning looking small garden

It would be easy for your heart to sink at the prospect of having to work magic in such a small space, but good ideas for small gardens are just as plentiful as ideas for big gardens, they just have to be interpreted in a different way.

It’s true that designing with small gardens in mind does have its own set of challenges, but by using a clever combination of solid ideas, you can easily create impact and atmosphere by using less.

An added bonus of course, is that due to the reduction in size, jobs that may have been prohibitively expensive on a larger scale, could well be achievable in a small garden.

Generally, in their gardens, people want to grow plants, have space for entertaining or reach a compromise between the two.

One good idea for creating a small garden is to replace lawn area completely with hard landscaping, and provide growing space for plants by the use of garden pots.

By not having lawn care to worry about, not only is the work greatly reduced, but you won’t need a shed to keep the lawnmower, rakes, etc. which takes up valuable space.

By using garden pots, you can also incorporate different types on gardens in your scheme, such as a backyard bog garden, or rock garden. In a small garden, every inch of space is important, so doo keep in mind that gardens are a 3 dimensional affair.

There are plenty of garden pots available that have either trellis attached or where it’s possible; to use any one of the numerous metal shapes designed to carry a climbing plant vertically.

Hanging baskets are also a great feature for smaller gardens. They can be attached at varying heights to the walls of the property or the perimeter fencing and help draw the eye upwards and create visual interest and activity.

a hanging basket that looks perfect in a mini garden

Decent sized planters with tropical garden plants are very effective around an eating area.

Another feature that’s worth considering is the use of optical illusions. For example, by covering the perimeter of the garden fence with climbing plants, the eye is less likely to take note of where the boundary actually is.

Also, the correct positioning of large mirrors, perhaps on the fence, can reflect other parts of the garden but create a ‘window’ effect that implies that there’s more garden ‘this-a-way.’

Another really good tip is to create a winding path that simply stops in the corner, behind a big garden pot or bush; again this implies that the garden goes on much further.  A similar result could be accomplished by the use of an archway in a similar position.

Paler colored plants which are towards the end of the garden, give the impression that they are further away; again this gives the illusion of the garden being larger than it is.

Although plants generally come complete with recommended planting distances, it’s not always vital to adhere to these. Providing they receive plenty of water and nutrition, many can cope with being closer together.

Mind you, some will suffer from overcrowding, where the competition for the light is too much. It might be worth having one of these larger plants as a specimen in a garden pot as a focal feature.

Traditionally, in larger beds, plants would be grouped in drifts of more than one plant of each species. In a small garden, a similar effect can be achieved by not planting just one of each type, but one of each plant that are similar in color.

This again gives variety and interest, but allows a theme to be suggested without things looking ‘bitty.’ When choosing plants, it’s very much recommended that you choose something with multiple stems from the same root.

That way, you tend to get more flowers for your footprint. That’s not to say there’s no place for simple stemmed plants. In the right location, they can look stunning.

With the size limitations of a pint-sized plot; what you want to do to offset this is making clever use of foliage. A riot of color is great, but visually, the eyes need a resting spot; a pause from too much information.

various plants grown in shallow pots

The choice of foliage plants is huge these days, and by using garden pots to grow them in, they become moveable sculptures, and the range of leaf colors available means you have a much longer season from the plant. Herb or bog gardens can provide this type of variation.

Most gardens are attached to the property they belong to. This means that probably the whole garden will be visible from inside the house.

When you’re planning what you want to go where, consider the view from inside.  You may not intend to go outside at all during the winter months, but you will still be able to see your outside space.

Small gardens should include some interest for the quiet months of the cold weather. There are plenty of evergreen plants that will look stunning in the frost or snow, and they also provide a really good base around which to plant some spring bulbs that will start flowering in January, if you choose well.

It is possible to have some of everything, even in a limited space. Generating a bunch of wonderful ideas for designing small gardens, just like big gardens, always need to start with a plan.

The plan doesn’t need to be set in stone of course, but can evolve as your ideas change and you decide, actually you’ve ‘gone off that idea.’ Your small garden doesn’t need to done all in one go either.

That’s part of the fun and challenge in any garden; watching it change and take shape and being able to stand back and say ‘Wow, that’s starting to look really nice!’