Questions That Might be Considered When Designing a Small Garden

Last Updated on December 10, 2023 by Kimberly Crawford

Small gardens can be a delight and can be used in a variety of ways. Here is advice about planning, planting, materials, features and low maintenance.

Some houses, particularly in towns and cities, have very small gardens. This may be very attractive for owners as some people are not interested in gardening, or may have only a small amount of spare time. Some may take extended holidays or may not have the stamina to maintain a large garden.

Owners may wish to employ a professional garden designer but an alternative is to save money by planning the garden oneself.

What Will the Small Garden Be Used For?

Many people like to have access to an outdoor space during pleasant weather where they can sit and relax and maybe occasionally eat and drink.

Other priorities could be storage and a place to hang out the washing. Many people will wish to design a garden that allows for a combination of several of these factors.

Basic Questions to Bear in Mind When Planning a Small Garden

  1. Is the garden well drained?
  2. What is the orientation of the garden? This will have an impact on the location of the sun and shade.
  3. What is the shape of the plot?
  4. Do neighbours overlook the garden?
  5. Are there existing walls and/or hedges and/or fences?
  6. Is a focal point needed such as an ornamental tree or a water feature?
  7. Is low maintenance a priority?

What Types of Plants will be Used?

The main factors to bear in mind are:

  1. What is the type of soil? – this may have an impact on what can be grown.
  2. Where is the direct sun and the shade and how will this affect the choice of plants?
  3. How quickly will different types of plants grow?
  4. Is there a need for evergreens and/or climbers and will different coloured foliage be desirable?
  5. Is there a plan to provide colour and blooms throughout the year?
  6. Will a great deal of pruning and other maintenance be needed?
  7. Will containers and pots be useful when planting? The displays can be changed every few weeks.
  8. If there is room for a small tree then an edible one makes sense – most fruit trees have attractive blossom as well as fruit.

What Types of Materials can be Used?

garden path

A mixture of materials, colours and textures often enhances the look of a small garden. If low maintenance is a priority then it may be an idea not to have grass. If there are flowerbeds they could be covered with weed-inhibiting materials such as wood bark. Other materials, used in combination, could include:

  1. Brick
  2. Pamments or tiles
  3. Stone paving
  4. Cement paving
  5. Pebbles and gravel

Wooden fences or boundary walls could be painted. Off-white, silver-grey and sage green are safe yet stylish options, while shades of blue and charcoal-grey can look stunning.

Are Any Extra Garden Features Needed?

extra garden features needed

Is there enough room (or a desire) for:

  1. A water feature?
  2. A pergola?
  3. A summer house?
  4. Screening?
  5. A shed?
  6. Wooden decking?
  7. A barbeque area?
  8. A compost bin?
  9. Birdfeeders and birdbaths?
  10. A wooden water butt?

A carefully placed large mirror can sometimes create the illusion of a larger space. Other options might include a gazebo, patio furniture, a garden bench, stone troughs, wrought iron or wooden gates, garden lighting, a sundial, stone urns or other garden statuary? But – do not over fill the small garden!

The Main Advice the Author can Offer is:

Keep the design simple and do not try to pack in too much. Remember when designing the garden that plants grow at different rates, therefore, take a long-term view and consider what the garden may look in two years’ time. Be patient!

Although garden designers can be helpful, many owners will wish to design or re-design their garden without professional help. It is important to consider what the small garden will be used for and whether low maintenance is a priority. Use a variety of materials but be careful to select plants and features that will suit the small garden.