Adding soft furnishings to your outside space can bring even the most miniscule garden to life. Whether it be colourful rugs, bright cushions or strips of fabrics streaming from the trees, colour makes a small space seem all the more inviting, and adds a fun element for a party.
Drama is created in a simple linking passageway at Riad Madani with a brooding shade of magenta plaster twinned with the green tiled floor. Potted bananas interspersed with young Philodendron Bipinnatidum add hot tropical notes.
Make your own vertical garden by stacking crates. Make sure to reinforce them with wood planks!
Grasses are planted in front of the original wisteria-hung loggia at this house designed by William Smalley, while a stone table makes a great permanent dining space.
No room for a fancy bar? Try installing a Murphy bar outside, which simply folds down into a table whenever you’re ready to use it! The shelves are perfect for storage, and you can stack cute plants on top.
It is important to consider the size of the space when choosing your plants, says award-winning garden designer Marcus Barnett: ‘Using light green, grey and silver foliage tend to make a space feel bigger while bolder, darker green foliage is best used in larger gardens as a foil for coloured planting.’
This roof garden in west London was designed by Adolfo Harrison Gardens in collaboration with interior designers Maddux Creative. The design was based on the four classical elements of water, fire, air and earth which can be seen in the water-blade feature, bio-fuel fireplace, western red cedar and basalt stone cladding.
No room for a garden plot? No problem. This blogger’s container garden allows flowers to soak up the sun on top, while storage for tools and accessories can be found down below.
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Mirrors on the back wall of this garden in Kensington make the space feel larger. Designed by Richard Miers Garden Design, the garden is split across two levels, creating a cosy seating spot within a beautifully planted area, where flowers bring colour and fragrance to the space.
Sussy Cazalet Design were asked to create an organic, mystical, jungle inspired space using natural and organic materials that soften the glass extension opening onto this small garden. A bespoke designed lava stone table was installed, along with teal lava tiles wrapping around the seating area. The bamboo canopy was designed and built to feel natural and unobtrusive, with the hope in time to be completely overgrown with plants.
This west London garden belongs to designer Butter Wakefield and is filled with an abundance of geums, foxgloves, nepeta, roses and geraniums; a wildflower meadow sweeps across the centre of the lawn, which is handsomely framed by clipped box pyramids. Disguised behind a trellis is her workstation – apple crates overflow with knapweed, daisies and wild carrot and there are planters of orange, salvia and cow parsley.
Use a rectangular plastic tray divided into planting cells to display an enchanting succulent garden like this one.
Having a small garden doesn’t mean you can’t make use of the space. onefinestay’s East 51st Townhouse owners has used atmospheric lanterns and delicate fairy lights to create a cosy dining area.
Outdoor living rooms are in! Even a petite patio can be converted into a comfy space with some strategically placed chairs and planters. And don’t forget the outdoor string lights!
If you’ve got an old tree stump in your backyard, rejoice—they make the most beautiful planters.
Paint and plant (and carefully counter-balance) a flea market or yard sale find for an upcycled planter.
We didn’t need an incentive to drink more coffee, but now we’re glad we have one.
Lean louvers (old or new) against an exterior wall and fill slots with hearty plants such as succulents or mosses. Succulents are nearly indestructible, but can get scorched in direct sunlight, so put them on the shady side of your home.
You may also like: Balcony & Rooftop Gardens | Patio & Decking Ideas | Small Garden Ideas | Thoughtful design by Jinny Blom for any size outdoor space
Consider a colour scheme. According to garden designer Marcus Barnett, colour can be used to blur the boundary between inside and outside, creating a sense of space. Similar colours can form a visual link between interior and exterior.
Designer Jane Gowers discovered her London terrace house by chance, but its restoration and decoration have been the result of good judgement and a sympathetic approach.
This city garden is party-ready. A bespoke barbeque is located a level down, near the kitchen, while the upper level features a basalt-clad fireplace and comfortable lounge seating. The combination of smart hard-wood flooring, the clean lines of the furniture and the Italian-designed lighting give the space a contemporary vibe.
If you don’t have space on the ground for the garden of your dreams, use porch ceilings to display your plant babies in hanging baskets.
You can pack this container fairly tight with succulents, because these trendy plants don’t grow quickly or crowd out their neighbors the way other varieties do. Succulents can even do well in shallow containers as long as you provide good drainage.
Paint an old pallet and show off your favorite flowers near your front door or in a corner of your garden. The vertical display takes up very little space, and you can change out the flowers or decor with each season to keep things fresh!
When you’re stuck with a narrow spot to plant herbs, this skinny DIY garden is the perfect solution.
This townhouse garden off Portobello Road provides a sanctuary from the bustling streets of Notting Hill. With the dining area situated on the roof terrace, the garden has been simply, symmetrically designed for pure visual pleasure. If you’re unable to take your alfresco dining elsewhere, opt for fold-up or portable tables and chairs, which can be easily removed when you want your garden to function solely as a beautiful green space.
Some wooden slats and a few coats of colorful spray paint can miraculously transform old tires into delightfully cheery backyard planters.
Full-length bi-fold doors create a seamless meeting of the interior and exterior at this nineteenth-century Kensington townhouse and using similarly toned flooring adds to this continuous effect – a clever trick with colour that creates the illusion of space.
For a fast way to perk up a porch, relocate pots of lush flowers from indoors to out. With a limited palette, like the pink and white blooms here, the collection feels cohesive, not chaotic.
Not only does this DIY take up less surface area than multiple pots would, but it can also serve as a privacy fence for nosy neighbors.
A brilliant small garden design idea – the uber-pretty porch at this Dominican Republic hotel, painted in what the owner describes as ‘faded bathing-suit colours’, is furnished with a vintage macrame hammock and peacock chair.
Architect Alan Higgs converted a Georgian pub building in London into a subtly modern flat for himself. He constructed this sleek roof terrace to maximise the natural light within his interiors. A line of pleached trees planted in pots softens his urban rooftop view. The white hydrangeas edging the decking are the perfect floral choice for any minimalist.
Terrariums look exotic and high-maintenance, but they’re actually one of the easiest horticulture projects to make and maintain. We recommend planting fern, moss, African violets, and peperomia.
Want a water feature, but don’t think you have enough room to install one? Not anymore.
Growing a maximum of 10 feet tall, many dwarf tree varieties do extremely well in larger pots and can be shaped, moved, or repotted to suit your needs. Choose a tree that can survive at least two zones colder than where you live, because planters will freeze faster than the ground.
The handle on this vintage toolbox makes relocating succulents to a sunnier spot a snap.
This seating area in the courtyard garden of a Kent barn conversion was designed by Kate Gould.
To create contrast and visual vibrancy, situate curvaceous containers on stairs and fill them with interestingly shaped plants, like scallop-leafed geraniums or spiky, serrated agave.
Hang an old canvas or over-the-door shoe organizer on a fence or wall, then fill the compartments with dirt and wispy ferns or vines.
A small vegetable garden sits in front of the guest house at this elegant Georgian home in Oxfordshire. The guest house was the conversion of a former garage behind the house, which means that friends who come to stay can be independent.
If your urban garden is the tiniest of balconies, do not despair. Embrace the pot plant (you could even grow your own herbs), choose a pretty fold-up café-style table and chairs and make a feature of your railings with entwining vines. Voila! A green oasis a few floors up.
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Hanging your plants leaves extra space below; plus, these colorful colanders make the most adorable vessels for flowers.
In the garden of Henrietta Courtauld’s 1850s London terraced house, yew balls surround the main bed, which is planted with vegetables, Melianthus major and Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’. Among the small but thriving vegetable garden is room for a small shed which works as a studio space. Beyond this vegetable patch is a communal garden that has been a labour of love for Henrietta who is one half of the gardening duo the Land Gardeners who run a thriving flower garden based at Wardington Manor in Oxfordshire.
Symmetry will always be visually appealing, and the lines of this Notting Hill garden beautifully mirror the curved elements of the house. An undulating glass conversatory which leads on to a garden for entertaining, and a target-shaped combination of paving slabs and bricks focuses the eye to the central dining space. A similarly symmetrical scheme would work well in a much smaller space: just like in the home, maintaining order avoids the sense of an overly cluttered space and creates a feeling of calm.
Lighting is the simplest way to create mood in a garden. A few hurricane lanterns or tea lights hung from a tree can add instant romance to a summer’s evening.
If you’re lucky enough to have a brick wall, cover it in wisteria. If your wall is moderately tall the vines will quickly scale it and each year you will be rewarded with the most beautiful spring display. A perfect idea for an outdoor space without much space for planting.
To make the garden feel bigger and create a calm backdrop for the creative planting, Garden Club London designed the fences to be clad in western red cedar, while reclaimed timber was used for the seating.
Wooden decking and box hedges are an instant winner when it comes to smartening a small space. Add a chic café table and chairs and we couldn’t imagine a lovelier spot for breakfast.
An inset seating niche in the formal courtyard garden at the front of the house by David Bentheim is paved in a variety of French stones from Exquisite Surfaces.
The outside of Cameron Kimber’s house in New South Wales is covered in charming clapboard. Gravel, generous tubs, and a lovely white bench come together to create a welcoming entrance to the house.
By obscuring parts of the yard, a curved ivy fence can visually enlarge it. “You can’t see the entire garden from any one vantage. You’re unsure where it ends, so it seems bigger than it is,” says landscape designer Louis Raymond. “
Garden designed by Marcus Barnett for RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2015.
Another way to cram more greenery onto a backyard patio with minimal square footage—hang your plants in tiered baskets.
We’ve already told you paper lanterns are the new fairy lights, so take them outdoors and create an instant party atmosphere (just check the weather forecast for unwanted rain showers first).
This collection of pots arranged in front of an outdoor mirror in the west London garden of interior designer Louise Jones brings a touch of the countryside to her city space. They are planted with a combination of white geraniums, cosmos and lobelia.
Attach clay pots to a pallet with nails and stainless steel cable ties for a living art display that keeps your rosemary and basil at the ready. Space out the pots so your plants have room to grow
In the modern scheme of this Victorian house, outdoor space has been created where there wasn’t any with the addition of an internal garden, which divides the back sitting room and kitchen extension.
If you don’t have much space, plant upwards. Jos and Annabel White’s six-storey town house in Manhattan’s West Village has window boxes full of flowers and trailing ivy framing the patio windows. (For more inspiration, see our favourite exteriors and patio & decking ideas.)
Incorporate a small water feature for big impact. This rustic fountain consists of stacked wooden barrels to utilize the vertical space.
A rooftop terrace garden has been created above the kitchen.
Louisa Jones developed a passion for David Austin roses when she was planning the garden of her Victorian cottage in south west London. She planted an arbour of roses to separate the patio and lawn of her country-style city garden.
Gold-medal-winning garden designed by Marcus Barnett for RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2015.
Pergola perfection – we’ve found it in this wisteria-clad pergola installed by Sean Walter of The Plant Specialist. Hanging wisteria provides shade for the outdoor dining area, while striped cushions make this a stylish corner in the garden of a London flat designed by Charlotte Crosland.
The tiny courtyard at the home of the interior designer Helen Green comprises of simple but elegant touches: a trellis of roses, a feature stone water plinth and plants potted in a variety of vessels, from wooden crates to wicker baskets and pewter milk pails.
Turn a wooden ladder into a space-saving stand for flowers, veggies, and herbs with just a few boards and a coat of paint.
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The best thing about small gardens is creating cosy corners. In this small west London garden designed by Richard Miers Garden Design, a built-in bench is piled high with plump decorative cushions, and lit by lanterns at night, creating a pretty seating area. The flowers were chosen for their long length of bloom time.
Grouping pots on the patio or porch is a good way to start gardening. Once a plant starts dying or wilting, you can easily water it, move it, replant it, or toss it altogether. Easy come, easy go.
In this small townhouse garden the dining area is given a decorative backdrop with climbing foliage and simple window boxes.
Repurpose old doors and windows into a cute mini gardening shed, just big enough for all of your essential tools.
The pretty shuttered doors leading onto the garden at the French country house of textiles designer Susan Deliss have been painted bright white. They look clean and fresh nestled amongst green foliage and vines that climb the walls of the house.
Try Forest Garden’s ‘Dining Pergola Without Panels’, £406.99, for a similar design. It measures 280 x 304 x 244cm.
The brief for this Regent’s Park garden, designed by Kate Gould, was a year-round green space with a ‘hint of Portofino’. Neatly clipped buxus hedging, potted olive trees, lavender plants and a striking cobbled mosaic floor combine to create exactly this effect.
– Extract taken from ‘Gardens of Marrakesh’ by Angelica Gray. Photographs by Alessio Mei. Published by Frances Lincoln at £14.99 in paperback.
Jinny Blom’s small city garden is a neatly walled space, replanted only months before this photograph was taken. Clipped box cubes contrasts with a clever planting scheme that mixes large-leaved exotic plants with cottage-garden favourites. A wide pond is traversed by a clever walkway.
For backyards with poor (or nonexistent) soil, turn to raised beds for a little help. These simple planters give veggies a little boost that can result in magnificent results.
To create contrast with terracotta pots, transform inexpensive galvanized-steel washtubs into planters. This long, low oval version, with drainage holes poked in the bottom, shows off a basil crop.
The small city garden of this Edwardian house follows the modern, functional style of the rest of the home. Topiary and an ornamental vase add interest to the neat design.
This clever table works hard for your yard: Not only is it a neat way to showcase plants, but it’s also a nice spot to place your book as you sip lemonade.
The London home was extended with the addition of a basement, creating a brighter, larger space that flows perfectly for better, more modern family living.
Diamond pattern paving leads back to a shady seating area in the garden of a timeless townhouse in Bray decorated by Christopher Howe.
Choose a container which is at least 30cm (12″) in diameter and depth for optimum growth. Use multi-purpose compost and add a slow-release fertiliser for strong growth. Plant tubers as deep as you would when planting in the ground.
Very much a working garden designed for functionality, the outdoor space at Wardington Manor in Oxfordshire manages to look effortlessly beautiful while simultaneously sustaining a cut flower business.
Laid flat on the ground, a pallet’s segmented rows are perfect for planting everything your kitchen needs, side by side. (Just check that your pallet is safe for food first!)
Hardy succulents, which stow water in their stems and leaves, will thrive in a shallow birdbath perch. Add pebbles to hold more moisture in the soil.
With more foliage than flowers, a garden full of greenery is not only ultra low-maintenance, but also more bang for your buck. Petalless plants, like this ghost bramble, don’t need deadheading and leaves last longer than briefly blooming blossoms.
Tressling and the upkeep of tomato vines can take up a lot of space. So, hang your tomatoes from the roof instead.
The strict, geometric layout of Jinny Blom’s small garden is reinforced by a backbone of structural planting: great big squares of box – ‘I’ve always loved box in squares, long before Christopher Bradley-Hole did it at Chelsea,’ she says with a twinkle in her eye – and a bold peppering of big-leaved, exotic plants that give the garden a distinctly contemporary feel.
Tiered planters will maximize the ground space you have available for planters and herb boxes.
An industrial-style glass and steel wall is all that separates the small patio garden and the living room of this Notting Hill home. The continuation is highlighted by the exposed brick wall that runs all the way through and the result is a light-filled living room and a view of an oh-so-inviting garden.
The trick to making use of any small space is to consider how every inch might work practically. Here, a sheltered spot provides the perfect dining area (because, let’s face it, alfresco dinners can often be interrupted by rain showers) and the Juliet balcony offers support to a rattan swing chair.
Plant your herbs in a spiral to fully utilize all the space you have.
Use some Mason jars to plant a cute herb garden that can even be displayed inside your kitchen.
You don’t have to call Versailles home to design a stunning outdoor space. Even with a petite patch of green, these creative planters and unique ideas will make your small yard or garden fit for a king.
Moroccan garden with pink plaster walls and turquoise floors
The Los Angeles garden of interior designer Michael S Smith is a lesson in modernism. The minimalist scheme is clean and simple with just a few well chosen and perfectly placed sculptures providing visual interest. It’s an idea that can be scaled down to even the smallest of gardens.
Two adjoining town houses were combined to create this modern Chelsea home. The buildings had an unusual formation in that they were each shaped around a courtyard garden in the centre. When the dividing fence between the two gardens was removed, the effect was to create a central courtyard in roughly the shape of a keyhole. This quirky feature has become the focus and defining element of the new layout. Inspired planning of fenestration means that, from every aspect of the house, you have glimpses and vistas of this intriguing space, as well as several points of access to it.
Apple trees can make the perfect addition to small gardens. ‘Choose dwarf-bush, spindlebush or stepovers for small gardens,’ recommends the Royal Horticultural Society. This particular outside space surrounds antique dealer and decorator Max Rollitt’s rural Hampshire house. Most of the land belonging to the farm was sold separately, but Max and his wife Jane bought 10 acres, as well as the farm buildings opposite the house.
How many pots does it take to make a double-tiered planter? You need three to create an impressive stacked container garden that is much more than the sum of its parts.
This genius DIY requires minimal room and you can enjoy it whether you’re inside or out.
When it comes to backyards, bigger isn’t always better. Small outdoor spaces can be just as enjoyable for entertaining in the spring and summer as spacious ones—and tiny yards and patios also mean much less maintenance. From vertical gardens to miniature storage and water features, these beautiful, space-saving landscaping designs and small backyard ideas will transform any outdoor space into a cozy retreat with big style.
Green up your patio or deck with oversized terracotta or plastic planters overflowing with anything from tomatoes to wildflowers. (The lush lineup here creates a pretty privacy wall!)
Small garden? Pot your flowers in buckets for a chic look. (Just remember to make drainage holes to ensure they don’t drown.) This also allows you to protect them easily over winter. Sarah Raven recommends the following:
In this city garden designed by Adolfo Harrison Gardens, the long roof terrace has been laid out so you can sit immersed within the planting whilst facing the extraordinary city views. Planting and slatted screens have been installed to act as a shelter from the wind, whilst a water feature disguises the hum of the traffic below.
The bottom right corner of the garden is planted with Geranium ‘Patricia’ and a multi-stemmed Catalpa x erubescens ‘Purpurea’, which is perfect for small gardens if pruned every year.
In The Land Gardeners’ English garden, cut flowers are placed in buckets ready to be sent to florists and customers signed up to the bucket scheme. ‘People leave their buckets on the doorstep and we fill it with whatever we happen to be cutting that week.’
Terrariums are a great way to decorate any indoor or outdoor space—and they’re super low maintenance.
Offering the illusion of luscious green lawn, a faux-grass rug will help make your patio space look bigger than it really is.
Water features can soften a garden scheme and create a sense of space in a small area by reflecting light. Running water can also muffle intrusive ambient sound, making it a clever addition to an urban home.
If you have a tiny garden, create a snug corner that features tiling and pretty textiles – then everybody will be too cosy to notice its diminutive size. Bonus points if you frame the hideout with a beautiful arch.
Covered with English ivy, a frill-free fence acts as a natural privacy barrier to shield a suburban garden from view.
This elegant sunroom is an addition to a Wiltshire farmhouse, standing in its own paved area with a collection of pots and lush flowerbeds.
Visit Adolfo Harrison Gardens on The List to see more of their work
Visit Adolfo Harrison Gardens on The List to see more from this project.
‘The owner of this garden loves the simple generosity and glowing fowers of the Plumbago family. Here, Plumbago Auriculata has been trained over an arch in the riad to frame a view of the beautifully painted niche, which makes the perfect hideout on hot afternoons. Inticately patterned tiling decorates the interior of the alcove seating area.’
You can’t change the size of your backyard, but you can make it seem larger than it actually is by using this neat trick: Hang a few vintage mirrors on your fence so they reflect the surrounding greenery.
Liven up a plain patio wall with a sun-seeking climber, like bougainvillea or sweet autumn clematis. A simple stake in the dirt is all the trellis you’ll need.
Instead of planting horizontally, plant vertically! Use a wood trellis, tin cans, and IKEA pot hangers to recreate this look.
French doors lead to a paved outdoor seating area at London home of architect and designer Giles Vincent.
Extract taken from ‘Gardens of Marrakesh’ by Angelica Gray, Photographs by Alessio Mei, Published by Frances Lincoln at £14.99 in paperback
Use cinder blocks to create a small table or bar for your outdoor space, and use the holes in the blocks for planting. It’s a 2-in-1 deal!
Helen Fraser and Non Morris, founders of garden-design company, Fraser & Morris, haven’t let space restrictions stop them from creating an abundantly green and wonderfully lush garden, complete with a beautiful fig tree. Think big, people.
Use a rolling cart to hold a miniature herb garden that can be brought inside or kept outside.
This Kensington property was given a modern interior refurbishment and the garden was designed to reflect this. Formal lines were combined with contemporary materials like glass and stainless steel, and for a low-maintenance lawn, grass was replaced with artificial turf.
Eye-catching as well as edible, herbs bunched together on a table transforms a small patch of porch into hardworking acreage. Burgundy coleus in a timeworn metal tub provides a colorful counterpoint.
This small roof garden features potted herbs on rustic shelves, which offer a fantastic way of maximising on space outdoors. For more inspiration, see our balcony & rooftop garden ideas.