7 Inspiring Ideas for Small Gardens from the Chelsea Flower Show
The message from professional garden designers at this year’s RHS show was clear – think big for your small space
Amid all the gorgeous garden designs, there were numerous inspirational ideas for those of us with compact plots. Here are just a few.
A snaking path that leads through lush, varied planting can bring a sense of discovery to even a small outside space. Not quite being able to see around every bend invites exploration and blurs the boundaries of the garden.
In The Boodles Travel Garden (pictured) by Thomas Hoblyn, the beds were mounded slightly to further hide the view and add to the sense of a bigger landscape. A rill hugged the sinuous path, emphasising the shape, while blue irises subtly led the eye along it.
However small your outside space, you can trick the eye into thinking you’re sitting amid acres of greenery by packing in leafy planting. This reading corner on a 2m x 5m balcony – The Blue Garden by Tom Wilkes-Rios – was surrounded by plants at numerous heights, including masses of succulents, for an immersive feel.
Such thick foliage creates privacy and can also be effective in muffling noise – useful in an urban environment.
When it came to designing the balcony attached to his 18th floor flat, Jason Williams wasn’t minded to give up on having all the elements of a garden he wanted and has created an oasis outside his home.
Keen to share his ideas, he transferred his design to The Cirrus Garden balcony at this year’s show to inspire others to create a haven with lots of interest in a tiny space. He wove together a colourful range of wildflowers, perennials and edibles, a seating area, and even a waterfall and barrel pond filled with Japanese rice fish. A row of grasses (on the right) added height, screening and movement.
A mix of balcony planters, stacked pots, large planters and arched pergolas ensured there was room for everything.
This compact space – The Still Garden designed by Jane Porter – was made more impressive by the inclusion of a slate backdrop, which nodded to the towering sea walls of the Outer Hebrides. While taking up relatively little room, it suggested the garden was simply a small part of a much bigger landscape.
The native planting added to the sense of wild seclusion – and the beauty of a container garden is you can pick your soil, so you can create a landscape of your choosing.
Feeling inspired? Find reviewed local garden designers on Houzz.
No room for a shed? Create a hanging tool store on a wall or fence. In The Potting Balcony Garden Sponsored by Viking (pictured), designed by William Murray, the storage had been given a central role rather than being hidden away. The bold yellow wire grid against the black wall made it deliberately part of the scheme.
As well as the grid providing plenty of space to hang tools, baskets clipped on above head height allowed for extra storage and for pot plants to be displayed without getting in the way.
Here’s another clever idea from The Potting Balcony Garden. A good way to bring in height without taking up too much room is with pleached trees.
Across the end of the balcony on the left (and on the right, not pictured), an apple tree was neatly spreading its branches along a slim screen, and would, in time, create a lovely leafy screen without encroaching on the tiny space.
You might also enjoy 7 Garden Trends from 2022’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
Keen to cultivate edibles in your mini patch? Why not make use of vertical space? This OmVed Gardens exhibition in The Great Pavilion had an heirloom curved squash, which can be used as summer squash or left to develop into winter squash, making its way up a rustic obelisk.
It’s easy to create a similar structure using willow, hazel or bamboo, or you can buy ready-made obelisks.