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Tips To Get The Most Out Of A Small Garden This Summer

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On the JJ Barnes Blog, with Summer finally being here, I check out top tips for how to get the most out of a small garden so that no matter the size of the space, we can enjoy outdoor living in the sunshine!

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Summer’s here! Time to soak up the sun and enjoy the outdoors. But what if your backyard feels more like a closet than a relaxing retreat? As the average urban garden in the UK measures around 16m2(1), many are turning to TikTok for small garden ideas this summer, with #smallgardendesign and #outdoorliving trending at 309.7 million views2.

So we can make the most out of gardens, no matter the size, I’m sharing tricks and tips to turn your garden into a summer hangout you’ll love.

To help me out, Ali Wooldridge, co-founder of luxury garden furniture company, Gardenesque, sent over her top design tips to get the most out of a small garden this Summer.

Tips To Get The Most Out Of A Small Garden This Summer

Divide the space.

Divide your garden space and unlock its hidden potential! Here are some creative ways to create distinct zones that maximize both function and beauty:

Frame Your Entrances

Usher yourself into different areas with dramatic flair. Plant fast-growing climbers like clematis or morning glory around archways or entrances. Alternatively, use a collection of large terracotta pots overflowing with colorful blooms to create a welcoming and visually striking division.

Dine Under the Sky

Carve out a dedicated patio space perfect for al fresco dining or social gatherings. Lay down paving stones or wooden decking to create a solid foundation for your outdoor furniture. This defined area will instantly make your small garden feel more organized and spacious.

Gravel Gardens for Low Maintenance Fun

Don’t shy away from using gravel! A designated gravel area can provide a low-maintenance solution for walkways, social spaces, or even a small fire pit area. Add outdoor furniture and throw pillows for instant comfort and voilà – a charming spot for conversation and stargazing!

Bamboo Screens: Privacy and Tranquility

Bamboo screens are a fantastic way to create separate zones within your garden. These lightweight and natural-looking dividers can be used to create a secluded reading nook, hide unsightly areas, or simply add a touch of privacy. Let your imagination run wild and section off different areas to suit your needs!

A trick in landscape design is to divide a garden into zones to make the overall space seem larger.

-Ali Wooldridge

Make use of pots and planters.

Don’t let limited space or challenging conditions cramp your gardening style! Pots and planters are your secret weapons for creating a flourishing mini-garden, no matter your situation. Here’s why they’re perfect for small space gardening:

Patio Powerhouses

Living in an apartment with a balcony? Pots are your best friends! They allow you to transform your balcony into a vertical oasis. Line your railings with hanging plant pots with cascading herbs, overflowing flower boxes, or even miniature trees. They add pops of color, soften the concrete jungle vibe, and create a sense of privacy.

Decking Delights

If your garden boasts a lovely decked area, pots and planters can add another dimension. Group colorful planters of varying sizes to create a vibrant focal point. Use hanging baskets overflowing with trailing plants to add a touch of whimsy and soften the edges of your deck.

Soil Savior

Worried about poor soil quality in your garden? Pots offer the perfect solution! Fill them with fresh, high-quality potting mix specifically formulated for optimal plant growth. This allows you to bypass the challenges of amending existing soil and cultivate a thriving haven for your favorite flowers, herbs, or vegetables.

Digging Dilemma? No Problem!

If your garden has features like underground pipes or cables that make digging tricky, pots are your lifesaver. Simply place them on your patio, walkways, or even directly on existing grass (be mindful of drainage!). This flexibility allows you to create mini gardens anywhere you desire, maximizing your usable space without worrying about what lies beneath the surface.

Cluster large pots with smaller containers to add interest and create a plant display with height and structure. Tall stemmed Echinops plants with their globe blue flowerheads pair well with the spike shaped veronicastrum. If space allows, you can also add tall grasses to create a feeling of fullness.

Container gardening is also great for the generation of house movers who can simply pick up the pots and move on.

-Ali Wooldridge

Plant upwards.

When your precious outdoor space is measured in square feet, not acres, maximizing every inch is crucial. Enter vertical gardening, your secret weapon for transforming walls, fences, and even unused corners into lush green havens! Here’s why planting upwards is a game-changer for small spaces:

Defying Floor Space Limitations

Vertical gardening allows you to completely bypass the limitations of floor space. Walls, fences, and even railings become potential canvases for your botanical creativity. Utilize hanging planters, wall-mounted pockets, or vertical herb gardens to cultivate a flourishing display without sacrificing precious ground space.

Creative & Eye-Catching

Vertical gardens aren’t just functional, they’re stunning! Cascading vines, vibrant flower arrangements, or a cascading herb wall add a unique and eye-catching element to your small space. This design trick creates a sense of lushness and visual interest, making your tiny garden feel more expansive and inviting.

Perfect for Sun-Seeking Plants

Many herbs, vegetables, and flowering plants thrive in ample sunlight. Vertical gardens allow you to position your plants strategically, maximizing their exposure to the sun. This is especially beneficial for small gardens with limited sunlight availability, ensuring your plants receive the light they need to flourish.

A Boon for Small Balconies

Living in an apartment with a tiny balcony? Vertical gardening is your best friend! Hanging planters overflowing with colorful blooms or cascading greenery can instantly transform your balcony into a vibrant escape. Utilize vertical space to create a private oasis, perfect for enjoying a cup of coffee amidst the greenery.

Planting upwards not only maximises space, but it can also create privacy and shade in terraced housing where gardens are often overlooked. Utilise climbers, plant supports or obelisks to grown your plants upwards.

This design trick is perfect for green thumbs who love to garden and grow fruit and veg but are limited in space for veg patches.

-Ali Wooldridge

Use foldaway furniture.

Traditional bulky furniture can quickly eat up valuable real estate, hindering the functionality and flow of your outdoor oasis. Here’s where foldaway seating and dinner sets come in as heroes for space-conscious gardeners.

These clever furniture solutions fold down flat when not in use, allowing you to easily reclaim your patio or balcony when the sun sets or guests depart. This flexibility is a game-changer for smaller gardens – you can have dedicated dining or lounging areas without sacrificing precious space for other activities like gardening or sunbathing.

Foldaway sets come in a variety of styles and materials, ensuring you can find options that complement your personal taste and garden aesthetic. So, invest in a set of foldaway chairs and a matching table – you’ll be surprised at how much more functionality and enjoyment you can squeeze out of your compact urban garden!

You can store the furniture away if need more floor space for gardening, but can bring it out for social occasions, such as garden parties or BBQs over summer. This is also a great option to protect your garden furniture from the harsher elements over autumn and winter months to uphold its quality.

-Ali Wooldridge

Brighten the space.

Feeling hemmed in by the limitations of your small garden? Don’t despair! A few clever tricks with lighting and mirrors can create the illusion of a brighter and more expansive space, making your little haven feel like a hidden oasis.

Harness the Power of Light

Strategic lighting can work wonders in a small garden. String lights hung overhead twinkle like captured stars, instantly adding a touch of magic and ambiance. Solar-powered lights are a trendy and eco-friendly option – perfect for illuminating pathways, highlighting key features, or creating pockets of light for late-night entertaining.

Up-lights placed around the base of plants or trees can dramatically alter the perception of space, drawing the eye upwards and creating a sense of height. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different lighting colors and intensities – warm white lights create a cozy atmosphere, while cooler tones can evoke a more contemporary feel.

Outdoor Mirror on the JJ Barnes Blog
Outdoor Mirror

Mirrors, Mirrors on the Wall

Mirrors are another secret weapon in the small garden arsenal. A strategically placed mirror can reflect light and greenery, instantly doubling the visual impact of your garden and creating the illusion of additional space.

Lean a large mirror against a fence bordering a narrow walkway, or hang one on a wall opposite a vibrant flower bed. The reflected image will give the impression of a more extensive and visually interesting space.

Installing a mirror along a garden wall or fence will reflect both the plant foliage and the sky, creating the illusion of a bigger and extra space.

Outdoor lighting plays a significant role in the appearance of your garden, too. It can create a sense of depth and highlights architectural features in the evening. Placing your lights below plants and bushes can highlight greenery or emphasise the height and silhouettes of garden structures.

-Ali Wooldridge

About Gardenesque

Ali founded Gardenesque five years ago from a desire to transform her London city garden into a more artistic, rich and exotic green space. Inspired by the Gardenesque design movement, the brand grew out of the belief that every garden can be brought to life by beautiful gardenware that accentuates the natural beauty of your plants, and creates an organic extension to your home.

For more small garden inspiration, go to Gardenesque’s blog: https://www.gardenesque.com/blogs/the-garden-journal/how-to-make-the-most-of-a-small-garden


1.   https://www.chessingtongardencentre.co.uk/blog/urban-gardening/

2.  TikTok data – true as of 30/05/2024

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