Update a compact garden with our small garden ideas, featuring design tips, planting advice and savvy buys for modern gardens, pretty patios, tiny terraces and bijou balconies
Does your small garden have you at the end of your tether? You’ve come to the right place. Small gardens, tiny terraces and petite patios may require a little more thought than larger spaces, but even the tiniest plot can be transformed into an elegant outdoor retreat.
Looking for more inspiration? Check out all of our garden ideas
Small gardens have lots of advantages – the main one being they’re wonderfully low-maintenance. They’re also great spaces to be creative, as even the smallest additions, from colourful cushions to stylish garden lighting, will have a dramatic effect.
Whether you’re looking to create an impressive balcony garden, want to squeeze in some garden furniture or love to be surrounded by greenery, you’ll find lots of pictures below to inspire you. And if you’re working to a tight budget, we have plenty of budget garden ideas you can try – without spending a fortune.
1. Elevate plants to whole new levels
Make the most of your small space by taking things to different levels, with vertical shelving. This nifty ladder hack creates a planting solution that creates extra space to showcase potted plants and garden accessories. The height allows you to use more space, more effectively.
2. Use every corner of courtyard space
If your small garden space is a courtyard think about how you can use every inch of space to full potential. Often a courtyard area has the potential to feel very enclosed, simply by the nature of looming brick walls. Using clever corner seating will not only use the space most effectively, the high-back sofa design can help to hide a large portion of said imposing walls. This in turn will distract from the walls and create the illusion of space.
3. Squeeze in a mini greenhouse
Even the most modest outdoor space can include a greenhouse for growing plants. This tall cabinet-style design comes from Ikea – position and fix against a wall in a sun-drenched spot outside.
Buy now: Hindo greenhouse, £80, Ikea
4. Fix planters under the kitchen window
Use sleepers to built a simple trough that can be fitted directly under your kitchen window. It’s a great place to grow herbs. Just open the glass and reach out to grab what you need.
5. Relax in a hammock
The ultimate in alfresco relaxation, a hammock can be squeezed into the smallest patch. Plus, it will instantly transform your garden or patio into a chilled-out scene to rival any beach bar in Ibiza. Hang under shade for a protected snoozing spot.
6. Introduce low walls that double as seating
You might only have room for a chair or two, so what happens when friends come over? By adding raised beds surrounded by walls, not only will your plants be easier to look after, you’ll also create extra places for people to perch. Add some cushions for comfort, in colours to match your plants.
7. Put up some shelves
Create extra precious surface area for pots and pretty accessories by putting up some shelves. Ideally they should be mounted into brick, as your garden fence might not be able to take the weight.
Old railway sleepers are an inexpensive solution, supported by wrought iron brackets that you can pick up for a few pounds from your nearest DIY store.
8. Create a living wall
Living, or green, walls, once the domain of designer installations and pioneering commercial sites, are increasingly making their way into residential gardens, and more importantly, small gardens. These gloriously textured plantings make great use of limited space. To create these vertical gardens, plants are rooted into a structure that is attached to a wall.
A range of herbaceous perennials, grasses, small shrubs, herbs and even fruit and vegetables can be used. Try including scented plants, seasonal flowers and bulbs, but talk to your local garden nursery about plants that will suit the aspect and microclimate of the wall on which they will be grown.
Love this small garden idea? READ: How to make a living plant wall
9. Paint walls white
Think of your exterior like you would an interior. White paint is often used to make the most of a small space because of its brightening and lightening properties, and gardens can benefit from this trick, too. With white painted brickwork and white garden furniture, this is a beautifully summery scheme that has serious style.
Get the look
Buy now: Masonry Pure Brilliant White Paint, £17, Wilko
10. Plant a garden in pots
You don’t need a lawn to create a lush garden – and flower beds aren’t necessary either. A low-maintenance ‘flooring’ option such as gravel is great for small gardens. Add lots of pots, filled with everything from the tiniest flowering plants to tall and bushy trees. Finish off with some garden furniture and you’ll have the perfect spot to enjoy a summer’s day.
Get the look
Buy now: similar benches, The Garden Furniture Centre
11. Trail plants up a fence
Make use of a fence to add colour and greenery. Climbing plants and trellises are a great solution for small gardens, as they lift flowers and foliage up off the ground. A pretty fence will do a lot to detract attention from a teeny plot – after all, if you or your visitors are focusing on beautiful roses or a hot-pink trellis, who’s going to notice a garden’s dimensions?
Get the look
Buy now: Galvanised Metal 10ltr bucket, £6.05, Amazon
12. Brighten with colourful furniture
Even the tiniest terrace can be transformed into something exceptional. If your garden is short on square footage, a planted terrace can be a good solution, combining elegance with low maintenance. Simple paving such as travertine or traditional stone creates a sleek or rustic look, while clever planting will soften and provide privacy.
Just add comfortable seating to create an ideal outside room. Here, it’s the garden furniture paint that makes the space special. Take note, your seating colours don’t have to match – bright hues like the orange and pink here go really well together and an aqua bench would work brilliantly, too, as you can see from the accessories.
13. Plan a multitasking garden
If space is tight, make sure that what you have is working hard for you. This well-planned garden has a raised flower bed, garden wall and garden seat all rolled into one. Greenery provides shade, privacy and interest up high, while the wall offers a handy ledge for lanterns, plus practical built-in seating. Cushions bring the comfort of indoor living outside and add a lovely hit of colour.
Need outdoor furniture? READ: Garden furniture: our pick of the best
14. Mix your media
Make a small space attractive and ensure a crisp contemporary look with strong landscaped lines. Create interesting interlocking zones with distinctive materials, such as woodstained decking, pale patio slabs and decorative stones or chippings. Then plant up to let lush foliage burst through, filling the space with structural greenery for a controlled finish that’s easy to maintain.
15. Revive an underused space
Even the smallest of areas can be turned into a decorative outdoor space. Enhance yours with a run of stepped concrete slabs and use a narrow rustic-style table or bench to create a central focal point.
Keep the look chic and low-maintenance with shingle, clipped topiary and flowering plants in orange and yellow. Add elegance with aluminium and stone planters and carefully chosen pieces, such as the oversized lantern and unusual bird sculptures.
16. Focus on furniture
Place objects of interest at the end of your garden and create the illusion that your space is bigger than it is. Choose white garden furniture and position it towards the back of a paved area.
Play hide and seek by strategically planting large shrubs to partially obstruct the view; your mind will think there is more beyond to see. Add interest with plants at all heights and in all areas – with climbers and ramblers, evergreen shrubs, sculptural grasses and ground cover, all enlivened by colour-heavy cottage-garden favourites such as foxglove and delphinium.
17. Go tropical
When you have a small internal courtyard or outside space, leave the wow factor to the plants. Look for tropical varieties hardy enough to withstand the vagaries of the British weather and plant up your own jungle oasis.
Add instant drama with towering palms, strappy phormium and cordyline and feather-leaved tree ferns like dicksonia. Be aware that some may need a bit of protection over the winter and add slate chippings to help retain moisture in the summer and make maintenance easier.
Want more patio inspiration? READ: 12 easy patio ideas that will make your summer brighter
18. Aim high
Turn a small courtyard into a lush habitat with a tactile and towering living wall. Plant up a natural focal point for a super contemporary way to add interest while keeping much-needed floor space clear for patio slabs and super-sociable seating. Balance the domineering wall with a trio of large pots with small fruit trees and bedding plants.
19. Try chalet chic
Create a smart decked area with the look of a chalet balcony. Choose pale wood to boost the sense of space and furnish for a chic outdoor living room feel. Position a teak modular sofa centrally and make the space social with complementary Adirondack-style chairs. Connect with nature and frame the balcony with sculptured evergreens in organic box planters.
Get the look
Buy now: Relax Garden chair, £107.99, Wayfair
20. Make room for little ones
Come up with an ingenious small space that will appeal to both the design conscious and the fun conscious. Build a playhouse that blends seamlessly with the garden perimeter – here, contemporary linear fencing.
Finish off the camouflage effect with a sedum roof so the little house blends perfectly into its environment. Store brightly coloured furniture inside so it’s easy to take out for play time and return again when not in use.
21. Build a cool cabana
Create a spot of shade in your small garden with a homemade sun lounger – a few square feet, budget materials and your imagination are all you need. Take two branches, two pallets, and a fabric offcut and assemble them to create a bohemian lounger for two.
Make it comfortable and inviting with a bolster in funky geometric fabric. If your garden is dominated by the overhang of a tree, angle the fabric so that it can also act as a canopy, protecting the area below.
Looking for more easy garden tips? READ: Summer garden ideas to help you get the best from your space
22. Trick the eye
With space at a premium in city areas, create an illusion of space with a contemporary mirror panel. Use it to visually double the amount of space you have and increase light levels in darker corners.
Choose a long sheet mirror to keep the look urban and complement it with contemporary linear fencing. Enhance the sense of privacy with ornamental grasses, potted evergreens and climbing plants.
23. Rethink seating
Choosing outdoor furniture that folds or stacks when not in use is a great way to save on precious space in a small garden. Mix and match your colours for a bright looking garden scheme.
Want more great small garden ideas? READ: Before and after: making good use of a garden’s dead space
24. Perfect your look
Create an outdoor living area for the summer months. Even if you have a small plot with not much natural greenery, you can create the look of a colourful garden with flower-filled pots and planters. Just like indoors, opting for neutral walls and flooring can make a small garden feel lighter and brighter – perfect for a small garden.
25. Stay in the shade
We love this decked garden with an alfresco dining area, which comes complete with shaded seating space and barbecue. Add a bistro dining set for the perfect finishing touch. Trailing flowers and potted plants give it a cosy feel, while the steps leading up to the second level add to the illusion of space.
26. Pretty up with soft furnishings
Urban gardens require careful planning if you’re going to make to most of a cosy corner. A garden bench is a practical and stylish way to make an impact – if you don’t mind relinquishing some precious floor space – and will be perfect for lounging should the sun make an appearance this summer! Choose a streamlined modern design and give it a colourful makeover with exotic cushions.
Love these small garden ideas? READ: Garden trends 2018 – we predict the key looks for your garden
27. Play with colour
Us Brits love to get out in the garden rain or shine, but even if your outdoor space is super-small, there’s no reason why you can’t transform it into a vibrant alfresco dining area. Choose a small round table and chairs and a large parasol. Dress the table with colourful pressed glass tableware to brighten up a sheltered spot.
Love your garden? Easy garden ideas – simple updates to transform your outdoor space
We hope our small garden ideas have given you inspiration for your plot. Have you got any other great small garden ideas?