Two years ago we moved house and from a large and rural garden to a much smaller village garden. I confess to being a plant collector, and one of the removal vans had a considerable amount of plant and garden paraphernalia to bring from the old garden to the new one. Luckily, all the relocated plants and items have found homes in the new garden, and the nearby allotment.

Having gardened in a big space for over 30 years, a smaller space felt like a challenge at first and mostly based restrictions for how many of my favourite plants I could fit into a lesser area. But I am appreciating the fact I can maintain the garden quite quickly, and that I can step outside the house and immediately enjoy the benefits of seeing the entire garden. I am enjoying the beauty of a small garden, and I am also enjoying how to introduce features and planting ideas into the garden, and not to hold back on these.

What things should you consider when developing a small garden area?

Structure, boundaries and focal points

Use every space in your garden, including vertical lines. Can you add a pergola to give height and the opportunity to grow climbing plants and add some shade, perhaps adding a seating area underneath? I have an area of sunny wall in my new garden and I’ve planted trained fruit trees and climbing roses along it with dahlias underneath in the summer and tulips in the spring.

Consider your boundaries. Often these are fenced, but there are a range of different styles of fence panel that can change the feeling in your garden. I have put in some open slatted panels in front of an older fence, and this brings a contemporary edge to the garden. Also consider painting your existing fence panels, but check who the fencing belongs to first and ask your neighbour first if they belong to them.

Focal points and features

There are many choices of different water features that would be a good focal point in the garden, or consider a sculpture. A gazebo or pergola makes a good feature, or use plants for architectural impact, and topiary can be created into many shapes and sizes to create interest and structure.


There’s always room for seating in your garden, and some could be screened off to make a secret garden area. Choose areas near the house for eating, or further away for a place to sit and relax and enjoy your garden. Think of using raised beds made from timber or brick along a boundary which will give height to planting and a handy space to perch on the edge of the bed.


Whatever your planting style, don’t hold back because you have a small garden. You can have as little or as many plants and different types as you like, and lots of plants can be grown in containers. A carefully chosen small tree can add architectural impact and be a feature and focal point. Amelanchier, crab apple and Japanese maple are perfect for a small space and bring interest across the seasons. I like to use lots of tall plants for a contemporary look in my own garden: Stipa giganea, Verbena bonariensis, bronze fennel, Phlomis and Cephalaria gigantea are some of my favourites.

If you want more inspiration, take some time to visit some small gardens open this month for the National Garden Scheme.