5 clever ideas for small gardens from a Chelsea Flower Show designer

how to make a small garden look bigger
5 tips for a small gardenHannamariaH

The gardens at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show are rarely short of spectacular, but, if you're a small garden owner, you may well look at them and wonder how you could possibly recreate any of the designs when you have limited space.

However, there are plenty of clever small garden ideas which can help you make the most of whatever size garden or outdoor area you have at home.

To find out how, we spoke to garden designer Kate Gould, who is previously showed her "Out of the Shadows" Sanctuary Garden at Chelsea Flower Show last year.

“I work a lot in central London, so I'm used to doing what really works in a small space," says Kate, of her garden design work for clients outside of the Chelsea season.

Below, we sum up five of her top small garden ideas which could help you transform your outdoor space for the better.

How to make a small garden look bigger: 5 small garden ideas and tips

how to make a small garden look bigger

Go big

Firstly, Kate Gould says she advises clients to user larger pieces in a small space, as it can actually help the garden look bigger.

“It's a bit like a downstairs toilet. You often find that interior [designers] put really big tiles in it, because it makes the space feel bigger as it's less busy,” she says. “The same in a garden. Always, for a small garden, go bigger and bolder than you would in a large garden.”

Think multi-use

Our relationships with our gardens have changed in a lot of ways over the pandemic and Kate has found people want their gardens to work a little harder. For instance, people might want them to double as a social, exercise or extended interior space.

Before you begin selecting pots and plants, think about what you want out of your own garden, “whether that’s…exercising or whether it’s something you do, like sitting round a fire and just relaxing with a couple of friends,” says Kate. Start with a purpose and then create a plan around it.

“Aways give yourself more room than you think you need for things that you want to do, you'd be amazed how much space a dining table and chairs takes,” says Kate, something that is especially important when you have limited room to begin with.

small garden ideas

Less is more

Keeping a small garden in tidy and in order can make all the difference when it comes to preventing your outside space from feeling cluttered.

For that reason, garden designer Kate Gould says that, “sometimes less is more. Have one really nice big thing - a big pot with one lovely thing in it, or three pots but all of a good size.”

With fewer pieces taking up space, “the dirt can't get in the corners and it's easy to maintain,” she says.

Plant in stages

When it comes to planting, Kate advises adopting a step-by-step approach to build up your garden in layers and avoid overloading it.

“I would start with my evergreen structure, and then I might add some deciduous plants to it, to lighten it up. And then I would probably add my perennials, and then I would add my bulbs," she says. "It's about taking it in easy stages.”

small garden ideas

Plant for the whole year

A small garden doesn’t have to mean a sparse garden, but that does mean thinking about how your garden will work throughout the year.

“I would love to champion the evergreen shrubs,” says garden designer Kate Gould. “They cover the ground in the winter, and they give you something to look at the darkest times of the month when, if you just had a very pretty summer garden, you'd be looking at dirt.”

If you want to add a little seasonal variety into your garden, Kate’s advice is to, “go once a month [to the garden centre], and see what's good that month,” and chose a variety so there’s always something in bloom throughout the season in your garden.

“Otherwise, if you go in May you’ll just buy a garden for May,” she says, which, within a couple of months, could have all but disappeared.

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