Small Garden landscape design
There are many challenges to designing small garden, I try to view the garden as an overall composition the principles I find still remain the same, you need to work out the functionality first. It is important to get the relationship right between the house and garden. I find a lot of gardens lose there identity and the feeling of space. The garden usually is taken in to consideration as a complete composition.
There is an emphasis on creating spaces that are low maintenance and yet have the structure and plants to enhance the style of the garden.
I have noticed a trend towards creating low maintenance gardens for family’s with children and pets. They are prepared to put in artificial grass and low maintenance products the children can play all year round, this seems to be a trend based on being able to spend more time with children and family. We all have busy enough lives that any spare time is precious to us. So good garden design is important to get the right space for you.

There are different styles and elements that can work well in a garden of garden for a small space.
  • Stone finished garden
  • Pebble and path finished space
  • Artificial grass design
  • Raised beds plastered finish
  • Timber clad fences buildings [hardwood /softwood finish]
  • Scree garden
  • Zen garden
  • Architectural planting style
  • Courtyard style with pots
  • Modern and contemporary minimalist
  • Decking styled with stone blend
  • Classic style garden
  • Raised levels using sleepers or paving
  • Herb section/ veg gardening
  • Built in seating /low seating walls
  • Semi dry stone walling
  • Lighting the garden to create different moods
  • Living walls
  • Focal point tree/sculpture/patio area
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Small Garden challenges
I find that I am drawn to look at the boundaries first, most established boundaries are so standardised that they lack any finish. I try to address this issue first there are many examples in styles section to see different finished, but as a rule the cleaner the look the better.
The nest issue is where sheds and other elements that are a necessary part of any garden need to be addressed, this can be a conversation about size and purpose.
The next issue is unsightly views coming in from the surroundings, is it something that needs screening, or is it a tree that needs pruning.
Once you have overviewed the garden the garden plan begins, this involves sketching out the plan in 2d and 3d to see what style works best for the space.
There usually is two options of design from something linear to a curved template. the house design and character of the house will determine the style and the brief if there is one. i like to keep the shapes to be in good proportion and will flow in garden.
Planting important for small garden landscape design
The Plants
I try to keep my plants with some architectural interest and colour interest throughout the year. There are certain plants that I have found to be very reliable to work with over the years. This is knowledge that is built up over many years.
I try to minimise the colour palette with the plants I place in. a lot will depend on the light entering in to the garden. Most small gardens can handle some mature plants fro structure and finish. I will also pick out plants and ideas to screen sheds etc.

Plants are grouped to make sure the composition looks full and balanced
In the plan you will make decisions on the following, you will see what works best for the space
  • The patio area [size raised up or not ] material choice
  • Low walls in the garden
  • Fence style
  • Lighting
  • Lawn turf or seed
  • Artificial grass
  • Mature plants and trees
  • Features sculptural water features
  • Plant mulch finish, pebble, slate bark or fine mulch
  • Steps
  • Plant selection [examples of best plants]
Some plants I love
  • Verbena bonariensis
  • Geranium sp
  • Convolulus cneroum
  • Rudbeckia goldstrum
  • Phylostachys arundanaria
  • Lavenender angustiofolia/French lavender
  • Catmint six hills giant
  • Stipa arundinacea
  • Anemone honerie jobert
  • Hydrangea lacecap
  • Pyramid bay
  • Choisya sundance
  • Scented jasmine
  • Clematis montana
  • Roses
  • Box planting /box balls
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Sean Keighran
NBG RHS Garden Designer / Consultant