10 garden rethinks for small spaces

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  • Did you know a well-designed garden is a sound investment, adding 5 per cent or more to your house price? Now's the time to take another look at your green patch

    1. Make sure you’re utilising your space efficiently
    Consider what you use your garden for – is it for relaxing or outdoor entertaining? Do you plan to grow veg? Is your current set-up suitable? ‘Look at what plants are thriving and think about where the sun falls,’ advises Katrina Wells of Earth Designs. If you like having the gang round for dinner, for example, you’ll probably want to position your dining table and chairs where it’s sunny. If it’s a lunchtime gathering, you’ll need some shade too. Also is there any dead space? Or a shed keeping your garden in the shade for half the day? What could be done to make the most of your patch?

    2. Consider upkeep
    Before you go plant buying – and we all have our favourites, ‘Think really carefully about how much time you are willing to dedicate to maintaining the space,’ says London-based garden designer Charlotte Rowe. ‘If you’re time poor, more hard landscaping and sturdier plants will require much less attention than a lawn and beds with complex planting.’ Paving and gravel courtyards are still popular, while concrete is right on trend. Plants-wise, opt for hardy evergreens and ‘avoid plants that need staking, which is more work’, says Sally Tierney of Yorkshire Garden Designer.

    3. Do your sums
    You can plan your own garden, but a trained designer will help you not only with your plant selection, but also know how best to maximise your space. Some will also do the landscaping (or work in tandem with a landscaper) to complete the job. Fees depend on the size of your garden, the complexity of the
    design and how much experience the designer has. An
    initial consultation might cost £450; a typical urban garden can cost
    anything from £6,000, including the design and build.

    Two essentials to bear in mind before you start: firstly, the
    space will in effect become another room (compare how much you would spend on an interior refurb); and, secondly, the return – ‘a well-designed garden can actually add 5 per cent or more to your house price,’ says garden designer Lizzie Taylor of Designinggardens.co.uk. ‘And the great thing is, unlike some other projects, it will actually grow to look better year after year.’

    4. Get your combinations right
    ‘Work out the type of soil, the soil pH and the conditions in the garden, then buy the best plants for those surroundings,’ says Sally Tierney of Yorkshire Garden Designer. Include evergreens for year-round interest, use shrubs and trees for structure and soft grasses and herbaceous perennials to add pops of colour and soften the architectural elements. Plant a mix of bulbs that will flower in winter, spring and autumn to add drama – they’re also low-maintenance and look great in the high-traffic areas such as around the patio or a favourite bench.

    5. Include fruit and vegetables
    Plant fruit trees and fill raised beds with veg. Is there anything more rewarding than harvesting your own fresh crop of lettuce or strawberries? Potatoes, beans and onions are also fairly simple to grow successfully – and you don’t need acres of space to cultivate them. Head to 5adaygarden.co.uk to find out how to grow enough to eat five a day from just 10 sq m of raised beds.

    6. Think vertically
    Living green walls are ultra-fashionable and can be used to hide unsightly boundaries and add lush foliage even in a garden where space is limited. VertiGarden does a fab range of green walls – 2 x 2m wall (including irrigation kit) would cost approx £700. Scientists often talk about the calming effects of the colour green on our brain – now you can test those findings out for yourself…

    7. Build an outdoor fireplace
    A funky fireplace makes for a quirky focal point in the garden and allows you to enjoy summer evenings even longer (or even gives you a place to store your wood!). Ask your garden designer to incorporate a built-in fireplace into their plan, or head to Amazon for a good selection of freestanding fire pits, from £30.

    8. Install an outdoor kitchen
    Having fully fitted cooking facilities (like in this Charlotte Rowe-designed garden) takes alfresco dining to another level. Ask your designer to build in a BBQ and consider a worktop, sink and tap too, or head to Fire Magic for a complete outdoor kitchen solution.

    9. Add a splash of colour
    Take the garden as an outdoor room metaphor literally. And have fun. Kit out the space with outdoor furniture like this Blo armchair designed by Jeroen van de Kant for Blofield. Easy and inexpensive, a drop of bright paint, such as this shocking fuchsia, will make a bold statement for outdoor walls – especially contrasted with this witty box topiary. B&Q‘s exterior paint Rust-Oleum matt pink, £32 per litre, is similar to this.

    10. Get arty
    A well-placed sculpture or urn – the bigger the better – creates an impressive focal point. It‘s also a good opportunity to support an up-and-coming designer or recycle materials. Distinctive Garden does a great line in ceramic urns and Architectural Heritage stocks lots of vintage-looking planters and ornate and witty designs. Also consider using mirrors or the metal of the moment, Cor-ten steel. Clever lighting will add to the drama. When lit from below, a sphere such as this will look like a hovering planet (see Cleve West Design). How’s that for atmosphere!

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