Thin garden design ideas that make the most of a narrow space

Turn a long, thin plot into a perfect garden that meets all your needs. We show you how with three brilliant designs

A long, narrow plot offers you lots of garden design options, from relaxed to formal. You’ll be able to fit in everything on your wish list, with plenty of space for fabulous plants.

There are a number of clever garden design tricks you can use to stop your plot looking too long and thin.

Divide the space up into smaller areas, giving each section a different purpose. This can be a useful technique if your garden is on a slope, too.

Use simple but distinctive shapes – circles, curves and squares all work well – and mix hard and soft landscaping to help break up the ‘corridor’ effect and make the garden seem wider. Another good idea is to vary the planting and colour schemes.

Masking the far end of the garden with plants will fool the eye into thinking it’s shorter (and wider) than it really is.

We asked garden designer Katrina Wells of Earth Designs to come up with three great designs – what you pick will depend largely on how you use your garden. But if you choose a style that reflects your home’s interior, and materials that complement your garden’s natural surroundings, too, the results will be much better. As for budget, we’ve suggested where you can make savings.

Now all you have to do is pick the garden design that’s best for you…

1 Low-maintenance garden on a thin plot

This simple design breaks up a long garden with short pathways, each one leading to a shapely plant, such as a standard box or New Zealand flax, or a curvaceous pot. The pergolas – two wide ones and a smaller one – give the impression of width, help provide the garden with privacy and shade, and screen the secluded seating area at the end of the plot.

Will it take much looking after?
This design is ideal for anyone too busy to garden regularly. The all-paved approach means there’s no grass to cut, and the borders, planted with a variety of low-maintenance shrubs, such as Hebe and Euonymus, will need only an occasional trim.

How can I cut costs?
It’s important to choose good-quality, attractive paving, so if that’s too expensive, replace with gravel or decking. Buy younger – and cheaper – shrubs as they’ll fill out in a couple of years. Pruned box works well as a focal point at the end of a path.

2 Secluded garden on a thin plot

Circles are brilliant for creating the illusion of width. In a long, thin garden, it’s best to link them with a curving pathway so you can create distinct zones, each with its own function and style.

We’ve dedicated one circle to dining and relaxing, left one as a lawn, and put a bench and water feature in the last, sheltered circle. Plant small trees to the side of each circle for privacy.

Will it take much looking after?
By filling the flowerbeds mainly with easy-care shrubs, and only planting annual flowers in the main patio, you can keep gardening time down.
A fan-shaped mini Chusan palm adds interest and is maintenance-free.

How can I cut costs?
Simply replace the paving of the pathways and the circle at the back of the garden with bark chippings (which can extend into the beds) to save money and give the garden a woodland glade feel.

3 Family garden on a thin plot

Dividing up a family garden with informal, sweeping curves gives you flexibility to fit in all those extras, like a bigger shed and a play area. Use trees and shrubs to blur the boundaries between each area and hide anything you don’t want to see; climbers such as clematis will quickly screen the shed. Sunflowers are a great favourite with kids, and can form a fun summer screen. And don’t forget to pick accessories in natural materials for the play area.

Will it take much looking after?
You’ll have to trim loose branches from trees to protect children, and the lawn needs mowing up to once a week in summer. You can cut down on other tasks by choosing low-maintenance plants.

How can I cut costs?
Increasing the size of the lawn to replace or reduce some of the borders will work out cheaper. Using bark chippings in place of paving will cut costs, too.

Want more garden design inspiration? Take a look at our garden trellis ideas.

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