Big Ideas for Small Gardens

We’ve all learnt to value outdoor space a little more over the last year. If you’re lucky enough to have your own garden, however small, here are some helpful ideas from Belderbos Landscapes to inspire you to make the most of it.

Survey your space – work out how you want to use your garden, where it is in relation to the sun and how you want to organise it.

This tropically themed courtyard in Kensington is enclosed by two sides of a house so is sheltered from the elements. It means the garden can be seen from two different viewpoints inside so it’s important to give some thought to the position of areas of interest and frame them well – especially given that our climate dictates we are more often enjoying our garden from indoors than out!


The green wall is artificial so there is consistent year round greenery without the hassle of maintenance. Here it provides a verdant backdrop to the seating area but living walls are also a good way of zoning your garden (or hiding unsightly items such as bins). Even Ikea is getting in on this act if you feel like doing your own. There is always the option of combining them with real greenery to give a more realistic – and more environmentally-friendly – effect, in which case an irrigation system is a good idea.

The tree ferns thrive in this enclosed, shady environment, they give structure and are slow growers so are ideal for a small garden.

Zoning – is a great way of creating interest in your garden, lending a sense of space and defining function. There are a variety of ways of doing this: incorporate different materials in your scheme to add interest but not too many – the rule of three is a good one in all of these. The mix of limed oak decking and porcelain tiles cleverly broken up by a cement pebble channel strikes a good balance tonally and structurally. Elsewhere in these examples, introducing different levels is a good way to define zones, as is varying the planting.

Accessorise – Outside of the planting and hard landscaping, there are numerous other ways to ‘dress’ your garden. These inexpensive decorative screen panels are perfectly set off against the white walls of the house and draw the eye to the extent that you hardly notice the adjacent drainpipes – also painted to further camouflage them – with pretty planting beneath. For other ideas, see below the mirror and sculpture.

This Notting Hill project came about at the end of a house refurbishment when builders have often trashed the garden. It’s a small space and needed to meet the needs of a young family to provide space for the children to play as well as a more sophisticated area for entertaining. Sinking the trampoline makes for safer play for younger children but also allows the space to be used for other activities. 

The horizontal cedar battening takes the eye across rather than up so gives a greater sense of space and allows more freedom in terms of boundary height. It also helps to disguise the storage box which has been put together in the same materials.

Be Pragmatic – if you’re not a committed gardener, find low maintenance options. 

Artificial grass provides year-round greenery and a more robust, practical surface for small children to play on. The quality now available makes it difficult to tell it from the real thing.

Less is more but go big. These oversized planting pots – filled with multi-stemmed amalanchias –  give dappled shade which is then echoed in the shadows of the pretty wrought iron furniture.

This relatively small garden ticks all the boxes, accommodating a practical play area for the children, a grown-up entertaining space, discreet storage and year round greenery.

If you have limited space, make the most of every inch. This unusual transitional space leading up from the basement of a house in Wandsworth to the main garden was neglected and unloved but had potential. With the addition of an attractive feature mirror – which increases the light and reflects the greenery – and some black planters to match the wrought iron staircase, an intimate courtyard setting is created.

The vibrant rattan furniture give the space a function and bring colour, taking up minimal space while allowing the light to filter through. And shade-loving plants connect this space to the main garden.

You don’t have to rely on planting for colour. This garden features oversized corten steel pots with their beautiful rusty finish which sit in front of decorative screening panels. The multi-stemed Amalanchier planted in these pots provide gentle shade during the day and drama at night when they are lit up by spotlights positioned at the base.

Consistency and Coherence The tonal colours of this terraced house are taken out into the garden and applied to the shed, which has been extended to the boundary to discreetly accommodate the family’s bikes.

Timber decking blends seamlessly with a seating area gives a more architectural feel while providing a natural transition from kitchen diner to garden proper. A simple planting scheme featuring Annabelle Hydrangea, Geranium and Pittosporum is the finishing touch.

A focal point in a small garden isn’t imperative but is useful in giving your eye somewhere to land. and perhaps to draw you outside. Scale is important, as is the style of garden. You may already have a focal point in the form of a pre-existing tree, ideally at the end or your garden, dominant without being overwhelming. But if not, don’t be afraid of including a piece of sculpture if you have a thing for one. It’s the perfect way to personalise your outside space and can add interest, particularly if you are entertaining guests outdoors. 

In this scheme, the sculpture, designed by David Harber and entitled Dark Planet, draws the eye from every angle, its spherical structure contrasting with the hard architectural lines of the garden whilst acting as a counterbalance to the softer planting which surrounds it. Constructed from smooth black pebbles, it is organic in both shape and material and demands to be touched – a sense too often neglected in garden design.

I love the Zen-like ambiance it lends to the space.


Cedar cladding in this Earlsfield front garden is complemented by a row of Portuguese Laurel pleached trees. These have straight, uncomplicated stems with a head of branches formally trained onto a flat bamboo framework. Traditionally used in more formal gardens, they are ideal for screening a small garden where you might be overlooked as they provide maximum privacy but take up very little space.

The planting underneath grounds the scheme while cedar battening is a more interesting way to support the shrubs in which the house nestles.

If you would like help with your garden, Belderbos would love to hear from you.

The sculpture garden was designed by Decorcafe Expert, Shelley Hugh Jones.

All the other gardens were designed and created by Decorcafe Expert, Belderbos Landscapes.

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