Small Garden? Be Inspired by This Year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show
Try some of these design ideas to create a leafy sanctuary in even the smallest of outside spaces
A survey by the RHS in 2020 found that 57% of respondents valued their garden more following lockdown, and numerous designs at the show prove anyone who has even a tiny space can fashion their own haven, be part of greening up our environment and create pockets where wildlife can thrive. Take a look at these ideas for making the most of your small patch.
If you don’t have room for both paving and a patch of greenery, why not consider blending the two? That way, you can cross the area on a wet day and place chair legs on a firm footing, but also benefit from a carpet of greenery and wafts of gorgeous scent.
The flooring in this Green Sky Pocket Garden by James Smith features square paving, but you could equally use irregular stone flags for a more rustic look.
There are plenty of plants to choose from that will offer greenery all year round, such as campanula, Ajuga reptans, or beautifully scented creeping thyme, which bees love when it flowers in summer. Or why not combine different plants, as James has here by adding sculptural succulents to the mix?
Trees can be a little dominating in a really small plot, but here’s a way to create a leafy canopy on a smaller scale. In his Sky Sanctuary Garden, designer Michael Coley has planted a Burkwood osmanthus shrub in a tall planter to create height without overwhelming the space.
The slow-growing shrub is evergreen and produces small, fragrant white flowers in late spring. Under its spreading branches, Michael has planted shade-loving ferns and Brunnera macrophylla for a surprisingly lush woodland feel in the tiny space.
No space for a dedicated veg patch? Don’t despair. Instead, consider weaving edibles amid pretty perennial planting.
In his Parsley Box Garden, designer Alan Williams has created a peaceful sanctuary packed with interest for people of all ages, with containers at different heights making it accessible to all.
The herbs in the garden include chives, mint and marjoram, while fruits such as blackberry, blueberry and strawberry are dotted throughout, and there are plenty of vegetables, from leek to lettuce, courgette to kale. And don’t be afraid to add impact with some bigger species, like the fig and espaliered pears (out of shot) here.
To really benefit from the healing power of sitting amid greenery on a regular basis, you need to make it easy to get out there. Having to rummage for a chair every time you consider popping outside for a morning cuppa or evening drink is likely to deter you when time is tight.
For this reason, however small your garden, consider including a permanent, comfy perch. In this Arcadia balcony garden by Martha Krempel, the roomy swing seat takes up a decent chunk of the 2m x 5m space, but Martha has used a small pomegranate tree and a slim pergola draped in Virginia creeper to take the greenery up high and give the garden a roomy feel.
Making the most of every inch is key in a small garden. If you have large planters, consider drilling in some holes and filling them with leafy plants for a living wall effect.
The tumbling foliage on the side of this planter, which is in Michael Coley’s Sky Sanctuary Garden, includes ivy and hart’s tongue fern and adds another layer of greenery beside a small dining area.
You might also enjoy A Beginner’s Guide to Creating a Lush Living Wall in Your Garden.
The sound of babbling water can both induce relaxation and mask less welcome sounds, especially in urban gardens. Water features also add sparkling light, the opportunity to enjoy water-loving plants and a wonderful environment for wildlife.
And ponds don’t have to be grand. A small trough, similar to the one seen in this Blue Diamond Forge artisan garden by the Blue Diamond Group Team, or a simple shallow pebble pond, can bring the look and sounds of a bigger body of water to a small space.
If you have a small courtyard, patio or balcony with a hard surface, you don’t need to miss out on lush planting. Simply bring in large containers of different heights and fill them with a variety of plants to create a leafy garden feel.
The corrugated steel containers in this Hot Tin Roof Garden by Ellie Edkins, while urban in nature, are circular to introduce soft lines and are planted with lush, shade-loving plants, including ferns, lesser periwinkle, sedges and Geranium ‘Rozanne’, plus the grass Hakonechloa macra ‘Nicolas’ to further soften the look.
Ellie has given another layer to the containers by filling one with water (left foreground) to bring in some aquatic plants, including Pontederia lanceolata, which produces lovely spikes of blue flowers in summer.
She’s also added height to the courtyard with Fatsia japonica in pots and ferns trailing from shelves to complete the sense of seclusion.
Whether you have one small seat or can squeeze in a dining table, surrounding a small area with greenery can help to disguise its size, transporting anyone sitting amid the planting to another world.
In the Finnish Soul Garden by Taina Suonio, seen here, a mix of cool-coloured flowers, tall, delicate grasses and small trees are highlighted against black fencing to create an enchanting dining space.
Do you have a small outside space? How have you created a sense of seclusion? Would you use any of these ideas? Share your thoughts and photos in the Comments.