Whether you have a small garden in a complex, a courtyard or just a small patch of grass, there’s loads you can do to make it seem so much larger. Try these small garden ideas and make the most of the space you have!
1. Plant a few big pots filled with lots of plants
Your garden will seem larger than if you have a clutter of little pots all over the place. It will also seem much tidier and more stylish, especially if you stick to the same material for them all — say, terracotta or glazed ceramic.
2. Make everything work twice as hard if you have a small patio
Use folding chairs that are easy to store, build your raised beds with walls wide enough to sit on, use modular seating or buy furniture with built-in storage for your cushions or chairs.
3. ‘Lift the skirts’
No, we don’t mean those skirts, we mean taking off the lower branches off deciduous trees and shrubs so you can pack in more. This is one of the easiest (and cheapest) small garden ideas to put into practice, and it really makes a difference. Plant spring bulbs, like crocuses and daffodils, underneath — they’ll be in bloom before the shrubs have leaves.
4. Paint your Wendy house or tool shed a pretty colour
This much-needed dumping ground for bikes and tools is often painted brown, which looks heavy and seems to suck up light. Paint it a pretty colour, but put up a trellis (which you could paint, too) and grow a climbing rose or black-eyed Susan up it. That way, it becomes an attractive feature of your garden.
5. Use mirrors to make your garden seem bigger
This is one of those super simple but incredible effective small garden ideas. The mirrors reflect the plants to make your garden seem double the size and flood it with light. They can make visitors think there’s another route through to a different part of your garden. We suggest that you don’t put the mirror flat on a wall, but rather angle it down so it reflects more plants — the prettiest part of your garden.
6. Divide up your space
Even if you just plant a lemon tree or add a border to your lawn, breaking up the line of vision will immediately make the garden seem larger.
7. Use blue plants at the far edges of your garden
They’ll recede into the distance, similar to looking out to the horizon. Try blue agapanthus, lavender or a plumbago hedge. Hot colours, such as oranges and reds, will make the edges seem nearer. Genius!
8. Match landscaping materials
So if your house is brick, for example, then have a brick terrace or brick walls, too. As a general rule, try not to use more than three different sorts of surfaces to make this work in your small garden.
9. Don’t use too many colours
This can also create a cluttered feel. You’re not trying to recreate a kid’s paint box, so keep a disciplined palette.
10. Change the levels in your garden
It’s amazing how much bigger it will seem. If you could walk out onto a patio, then up a few steps past a border to a lawn, for example, you’re getting three gardens in one. And you can use the retaining walls of the raised areas as seating for the patio.
11. Grow tall perennials to send the eye upwards
Sometimes to make the best small garden ideas work, you have to think big. So many gardens have teensy weensy little plants at below-the-knee level and nothing higher up. Choose from foxgloves, strelitzias, wild irises, verbascums or the airy Verbena bonariensis (commonly available at garden centres). And send the climbers such as honeysuckle, clematis and jasmine over arches and up walls or fences.
12. When it comes to trees, think dainty
Although they give height, they can make a garden feel crowded – which is why neighbours often argue about high trees. Try a pompom tree or birch, which are both small and pretty.
13. Divide the garden into different zones
For example, somewhere for sitting out near the house, with an arch in a border across the width, then a lawned area and a path leading to a terrace at the bottom — perfect for sun loungers or a braai area. A winding path slows your journey through the plants, allowing you to take much more in.