BIGGER isn’t always better when it comes to having a beautiful garden. In fact, there are many advantages to owning one on the more ‘bijou’ side.

They can be much lower maintenance, cheaper to create and easier to make dramatic changes to later on. Whether they are used for play, relaxation or for growing food, there is always potential in the smallest of spaces and there’s always a way to support nature at the same time.

At Patch of the Planet, we love working with all outdoor spaces and really enjoy the challenge that comes with designing small gardens.

There is huge opportunity for creativity and smart design can deliver a garden that functions well and is a pleasure to be in. Here are some things to consider:

Look out of the window

We live in the north west of England, so realistically, the weather means we’ll be spending a fair bit of time looking at the garden from inside! Can you see birds feeding or the beautiful colours in the leaves of a cherry tree in autumn? Does the garden lure you out?

Keep it simple

Clean lines and simple shapes work well in a garden that is so connected to the geometry of a house.

These lines soften nicely when planting is added, and the result can feel harmonious.

three is the magic number

This applies to the colours, plants and materials you select for the garden. It helps to keep things simple and uncluttered and give the garden a sense of flow. If this is tied in with the palette used in the house, then the effect can be even more dramatic.

Disappear the boundaries

Fencing around the border immediately makes the space feel limited and therefore smaller.

Clever use of planting can disguise this, provide much needed privacy and can help to ‘borrow’ plants from neighbouring gardens, particularly larger trees, creating the illusion of size.

Let the eyes wander

If you see everything at once, the show is over too quickly, and the garden feels small. Give the eye reason to move. Design around an interesting focal point, use the vertical space with climbers and tease the eye by hiding parts of the view. Use all the dimensions, adding height and spread with plants and pergolas.

Take a seat

Think carefully about furniture. Can it be built into the design as part of a raised bed, barbecue or retaining wall? Would a hammock work well in the space…remember those balmy warm summer nights?

Waste nothing

In line with our approach to permaculture design, we incorporate ways to make sure we don’t waste anything, especially in small gardens. That goes for space, but also water, light and compost.

Find space for nature

We’re a small part of a bigger picture (a patch of the planet, you might say). Helping to support nature in our gardens is more important now than ever before.

Choose plants that feed birds, pollinators and small mammals. Find space for water in the garden, however small and keep the bees hydrated over the summer. Include a variety of habitats (woodpile, bat/bird boxes, small pond). Leave gaps in fences for hedgehogs to explore.

But despite what you might see online, don’t put mirrors in your garden. They may give the illusion of more space, but they are a serious hazard for birds.

Food for thought

Incorporate edibles into your planting scheme. There are plenty of beautiful plants that both look and taste good, from stately Jerusalem artichokes to strikingly dark cavalo nero (Italian kale).

Grow a colourful border of edible flowers or a dramatic herb spiral.

Be inspired

Online information is helpful, such as Pinterest or Houzz, which are bursting with ideas for small gardens. Nothing beats being in a real garden. Book into your diary the Open Garden dates for 2019.

We recommend The Secret Gardens of Oxton for a magical day out and if you’d like a more personal helping hand get in touch with a professional garden designer.