Design Tips for a Small Garden

There are some really simple yet effective ways to create the illusion of more space in a small garden, whether you have a courtyard, a compact urban garden, or an awkward corner in a larger space. We have come up with some tips on how you can make the most of your space, making it feel as large as possible. Why not have a go?

Selecting Materials and Plants 

Be brave - designing with larger paths, borders, pots and plants can make a space feel bigger and less cluttered.  

Less is more - a paired down selection of plants, with a long season of interest. Amsonia for example performs as two plants in one, blue flowers early in the year, and then in the autumn depending upon the variety its foliage turns to either a wonderful shade of yellow or purple.  Repeating similar plants through the garden, also helps with creating rhythm, bringing a sense of calm.

Choosing plants that flower repeatedly throughout the year, such as Geranium ‘Rozanne’, which can bring colour from June right through to October, making every space work hard. 

If you are new to gardening and selecting plants seems a little overwhelming, how about beginning with plants that have an RHS Award of Garden Merit.  They are a great choice as they have been tried, tested, and proven to be reliable varieties. 


Lighter colours give the illusion of more space.  Using lighter coloured plants along a boundary can make it feel further away.  Alternatively, if you plant warmer colours the garden may look smaller or shorter. These principles apply to both plants and paving materials alike.


Plants vary in texture; some, such as grasses, have very fine leaves, tending to fade into the background.  Whereas bold leaved plants, such as hostas and ornamental rhubarb, draw the eye. It can be fun manipulating perspective, using the finer leaves towards the back and the larger leaves towards the front, making the space feel deeper than it actually is.


Water, by way of a pool or pond, will bounce the light around the garden.  The reflection of the sky can add another dimension, giving a sense of more space. Not only that, the bonus is that it can also act as a haven for wildlife.

Mirrors are another way of creating the illusion that a space is larger than it is.  Carefully placed they can reflect light into shaded areas of the garden or, be used to reflect desirable plants and features. 

Plants with glossy leaves, can also help reflect light.  In a dark corner, plants such as Fatsia japonica or hart’s tongue ferns offer these reflective qualities. Who knew plants could have so many attributes!

Hidden Boundary

If you are lucky enough to have trees beyond your garden, or a neighbouring garden has plants that spill over your boundary, why not take advantage of this.  Select complimentary plants or some more of the same for your garden.  This will create the illusion of the garden extending further than it does.


The possibilities seem endless, but we feel they provide inspiration for even the smallest of spaces. We hope you are feeling as excited as we are about giving some of these ideas a go.