Got a garden project in mind but drawn a blank when it comes to ideas? These ones should get the creative juices flowing
Houzz UK editorial staff. I’m an interiors journalist and editor, previously for… More
Are you at the early stages of planning for a garden makeover or improvement later this year? Are you still hunting around for the right ideas and inspiration to incorporate into your revamp? Start here by picking out the images you like and saving them to your own garden project ideabook.
These ideas are aimed at little gardens or terraces, but many can be adapted for larger plots, too. You can click on any of the photos below to enlarge them, to see the rest of the project and also to see other related and relevant photos.
Champion purple and grey
This winning colour combination is perfect if your taste is contemporary and restrained. The smooth, batten-style fence is also a shortcut to a contemporary-looking garden, as opposed to the more traditional rough-to-touch featheredge or closeboard panels.
This garden also shows how a small change in levels can go a long way to adding interest to a small plot. Just two shallow steps and that neat but only slightly raised bed really help to define the seating area, while also leading the eye towards the friendly yet ordered planting scheme beyond.
Sticking to one main colour for your planting is great if you’re not a very confident planter. You might not get your beds looking as professional as these award-winning ones, but you can have a go by choosing lots of lavender, dotting in taller blooms, such as alliums, as here, and filling the gaps with low-growing evergreens.
Create a ‘wow’ garden with the colour purple
Invest in excellent lighting
With a tiny garden, patio, roof terrace or balcony, you still have options for creating a really special space.
If you can’t add different levels, have no chance of a lawn and barely have one flowerbed, consider spending wisely on really good lighting design. With the right planting, whether in pots or growing up walls, as here, you can give your outdoor space drama and probably even induce garden envy from those with roomier patches.
It’s worth getting professional design advice about how best to create an impact with your lighting, though if you’re on a tight budget, even investing in a few uplighters and spiking them into your beds or pots will go a long way.
Chances are you’ll still need a pro to get the wiring in place for you, and this will ideally be done before the space is finished and planted, so wires can be tucked away.
Add a fireplace
An outdoor fireplace is arguably even more special in a tight spot, as you’ll enjoy it from every part of the garden. It’s also a good way to get more use out of your plot, as it’ll remain inviting even in cooler months. (But don’t forget to factor lighting into your plan, so you really will make more of those short days.)
There are so many choices for design. You could plan for something built and designed into the rest of your space, like this, or even just invest in an outdoor freestanding wood-burner or chiminea.
See the photo stream for more images of small gardens
Gravel, as an extensive garden surface, can be underused. We tend to think more about choosing between lawn, decking and harder surfaces, such as paving. But if you want something softer than the two latter options, but aren’t sold on grass or its artificial cousin (even though there are some brilliant versions around), then gravel could fill the gap and give your garden a Mediterranean accent.
13 design ideas when choosing gravel for your garden
Let dining take centre stage
Think about how you use – or, most probably, how you dream of using – your outside space. If sitting around a table is a big part of the dream, but you feel stuck by the available space, consider sacrificing other potential uses for your plot. Do you really need an area of lawn, a conventional patio or a shed? Would they get anywhere near as much use as a lovely big dining area?
Writing a wish list for your garden is a great place to start. You might discover priorities or possibilities you didn’t even realise you had.
Weave in some curves
Garden designers can often see our angular little gardens in ways we couldn’t even imagine. So don’t feel thwarted by the shape or size of your space, because there are almost certainly ways these can be radically rethought. Turning a square or rectangular plot into a circular or curved one is a classic example.
Again, try sketching out your garden and be bold with your pencil: could you cut off the corners and turn them into flowerbeds?
Learn the power of screens…
In the same vein, consider how a well-placed trellis or panel could give your garden new structure and secret areas. Even a weeny plot can have different ‘rooms’.
…or strategically placed beds
Built-in planters or, indeed, giant freestanding ones can also help to divide up your space. For example, you could create a secluded reading nook where you’ll be hidden from view, plus a socialising space closer to the house.
Grow a living wall – the old-fashioned way
Living walls look brilliant, and have become popular in recent years for good reason. But before clever vertical irrigation and planting systems were invented, there was the good old trellis and a few good climbing plants. These can look – and smell – just as wonderful.
Choose a pretty trellis if you’re unlikely to cover all of it, and seek out evergreen plants to give you a nice view all year round. Climbers such as jasmine and honeysuckle, depending on the variety you pick, will provide summer and winter coverage and are heavily scented, too. Passionflower produces exotic flowers and orange fruits and is pretty easy to grow.
Do some research into what will grow in your space, and save photos of climbers you like the look of. You might find a friendly garden designer on Houzz will help you to identify it if you post a question.
Treat yourself to a swing seat
Not just the preserve of dreamy, American-style, wraparound verandas or huge gardens, the swing seat can be accommodated in even the most petite of plots. Let this little garden inspire you.
Go for the biggest one you think you can fit in (the comfier and more inviting it is, the more use you’ll get out of it) and seek professional advice about how best to hang it, since smaller gardens are less likely to have large tree branches for the purpose.
Prettify your shed
Our sheds, typically at the bottom of the garden, are often the view from our kitchen windows. Is yours visually appealing?
A shed makeover can be a satisfying project, and one you may well be able to DIY. Start collecting images of painted outbuildings and think about what colour you could paint yours. You’ll be amazed at the transformation this in itself will have.
Now consider where you could train plants around it, or whether it has a roof you could ‘green’. Find ways to display plants and flowers at different heights around its entrance. If you have enough space, a shed ‘forecourt’, however tiny, is a great position for a solo seating spot, perfect for tea breaks, meditative glasses of wine and a good book or the paper.
You may have a pocket-sized outdoor area, but that doesn’t mean you need to treat it as such, with teeny furniture and diddy potted plants. Get some grandeur going on!
This little patio in the sky has the attitude of a large and smart suburban garden – that clipped box hedging, the confident trio of pots and the matching trees elevate this space into something very stylish.
Equally, don’t automatically think you need to create a tiny seating area – cut back on planting space instead (there’s always trellis) and let an outdoor sofa take up lots of room and give you some luxury.
Just because you have a small, urban garden doesn’t mean you can’t create the feeling of a country meadow – packed with bee-tempting flowers – and still make it a practical entertaining space. This beautifully designed plot proves that point perfectly.
Start drawing sketches of your outside plot and think of the different ways you could break up its angles to give you a space that twists, turns and blooms profusely. Step one: once you’ve drawn the exterior lines, banish the ruler!
Keep it simple
Don’t let Gardener’s Intimidation throw you off your revamp plans. The simplicity of planting some daffodils doesn’t take away from the cheeriness they’ll bring to an outside space.
The trick? Plant LOTS of them and create a view with impact. You’ll be amazed at how quickly a formerly barren patio or balcony can start to look like a proper garden. If you have ready-made things for climbers to cling to, put a couple of your favourites in pots, too, to disguise bare walls or fences.
Let your green fingers develop at their own pace, but determine to enjoy your garden meanwhile.
Check out 10 beautiful garden fences and walls
Work with what you’ve got
Luscious planting isn’t for everyone – or for every space or situation – but this patio shows just how powerful a paint job alone can be in a little space.
The black-painted French doors and window frames and left-hand wall give this garden a striking style. Instead of plants, the homeowners have displayed interesting objects, sculptures and artworks… though that dark green climber does look rather lovely with the inky paint.
Black remains a very ‘now’ colour for garden fences and woodwork. If you can’t paint architectural features, have a go at using it to spruce up old garden furniture, and spend a few hours at a salvage yard to see what interesting objects you might find to display. Don’t dismiss anything rusty – the colour and texture can look wonderful outside in the right setting.
Come to a compromise
Small gardens often provoke a tough choice: paving or grass? With limited room, and the need to use what little outside space you have for drinks and alfresco meals in the warmer months, paving, tiles or decked floors often feel like the only way to go. A small patch of lawn seems like a luxury you just can’t fit in, as do large beds, which only encroach on the already limited floor space. But how about this idea – a mainly paved garden with a verdant patch growing in the middle of it? Surely the best of both worlds!
If landscaping in a feature like this isn’t an option, research wildflowers, grasses, ferns and other billowy plants that suit the sunlight levels in your patch. Now consider the idea of letting them grow in giant but shallow planters, potentially ones on wheels if your space needs the flexibility. Et voila, your own portable flowerbeds…
Do you plan to revamp your outside space this year? If so, share your ideabooks with us and other Houzz users in the Comments below.