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. All you need are budding small garden ideas to get you started.
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.
Small garden ideas
Whether you’re looking to create an impressive balcony garden, squeeze garden furniture into a courtyard or fill a plot with greenery, you’ll find lots of ideas below to inspire you. And if you’re working to a tight budget, we have plenty of budget garden ideas too – to ensure you get the garden you want without spending a fortune.
1. Add a gallery wall
In the same way you would hang pictures indoors, create a display of frames and wall hung planters on an outside wall, fence or shed. Utilise junk shop finds by hanging old wooden frames and up-cycle old loaf tins as planters. Just drill holes in the base for drainage and in the side for hooking onto the wall.
Hang above a pretty garden bench, as you would a sofa indoors and finish off with some cushions and a throw.
2. Create a mini outdoor kitchen
Extend your kitchen capacity into the garden. In this mini outdoor kitchen, potting tables provide a slim, compact surface along one side of a patio for outside food prep, choosing units with galvanised or zinc topped surfaces will make wipe-down easier and protects wooden surfaces from weather damage, too.
Hang a bamboo pole above your units from cup hooks screwed into the wall or fence and use S-hooks to hang kitchen utensils along its length.
3. Double your space
A garden mirror will make your outdoor space look bigger than it really is. Create your own using an old gate or some painted trellis mounted onto a piece of mirrored board.
This is not only an inexpensive alternative to an outdoor mirror it also prevents any danger through mirror breakage. Set a table close by so that you can enjoy a view of the garden wherever you are seated.
Using a grid style mirror means that birds are less likely to fly into it
4. Create a kids corner
Sacrifice a raised bed to create a section of deck with a giant blackboard and covered sandpit for some sunny-day play. Try using old railway sleepers to create a barrier for sand and soil. Finish by fixing a peg rail to the underside of the sandpit lid for hanging toys and tools.
5. Set up a private bar
Create your own little entertaining zone with a clever pull-down bar made from a couple of pallets and a length of chain. Cut the top section from the pallet to use as the flip down section and attach using two strong hinges and lengths of chain.
Adding an outdoor herb planter to the top section will keep them within easy reach for drinks and barbecues.
6. Hang furniture to free up floorspace
When working with small indoor spaces, designers will explain the importance of elevating furniture off the floor to create the illusion of more floor space. Wall-mouted bathroom units are a prime example of where this applies.
Use the same design idea in a small garden by choosing a hanging chair. A nook of a garden is all you need for a reading corner, the perfect place to get away from it all. This hanging bamboo chair keeps the floor and sightline clear giving a feeling of space in even the smallest of spaces.
Highlight the area with clusters of pots that contain foliage at varying heights and scales and mix up shop bought planters with vintage buckets or troughs. Mix materials too like zinc, rattan and terracotta, to give your garden an effortless layered up look.
7. Make a small space work harder
This garden has three sections, all with clear individual purposes – making the space feel bigger because of the multifunctional uses. The top level features a patio, which is bathed in morning sunshine. A central seating area made for socialising and the bottom deck houses a water feature. Then there’s the homeowner’s ‘she shed’.
See more of this garden here: Enjoy a multi-zoned, sophisticated garden makeover designed to suit the whole family
8. Enliven the space with colour
As with interior decorating, think of how using colour can help invigorate an outdoor space, especially a small garden. The use of a vibrant colour painted on walls and fences helps to add depth to the space.
A flash of bold colour allows the plants to really pop against the colourful backdrop – creating an illusion of a sense of space. Not to mention the mood-boosting power a splash of colour can have on the senses.
9. Create a sense of height through planting
A clever and simple idea for planting a small garden is to play with the heights to add a feeling of space and depth. Use clusters of different pots that contain foliage at varying heights and scales to make the most of the space. An ideal solution for small patios, courtyards and balcony gardens.
10. Add new levels
Add interest to a small garden by adding perspective with different levels. This can be a sunken terrace area and a raised lawn like in this garden above. The ledges and steps will help open up how you can use the space, adding in extra spots for plant pots to be arranged or areas to add furniture to accommodate guests.
11. Wall-mount a garden bar to save space
Even a tiny garden can enjoy a tipple in style, thanks to a space-saving wall-mounted bar. Create your own spot for al fresco entertaining with a smart pull-down bar made from upcycled wooden pallets and a length of chain. Read more: Make your own DIY bar using old wooden pallets – for as little as £35!
12. Think vertically for planting
Take inspiration from the elements of a living wall, by using vertical wall space for thoughtful planting. This allows even the smallest of garden spaces to flourish, making the most of the space. The simple yet savvy addition of horizontal fence panels can turn the side of the shed into a decorative living wall.
This could also work on a stretch of bare fence or wall, or the side of a balcony. Any of these small outdoor spaces can be transformed into a vertical garden, accommodating smaller plant pots and baskets.
13. Zone with different flooring
Make a small garden space fill more fulfilling by dedicating different areas distinct and clear purposes. A clever way to make this clear is by choosing different mediums for the flooring. As with indoors different floorings signifies a change of room, therefore outdoors it can help to subconsciously make the space feel bigger by identifying different areas.
14. Use colour and mirrors to transform walls
In a small garden it’s beneficial to camouflage the walls as much as possible. Painting any exposed walls in a green exterior paint helps to blend in and further the sense of the surrounding greenery. Add a decorative garden mirror on top to help enhance the illusion of the space appearing larger than it really is.
15. Get creative with shelves and hooks
Shelves and hooks aren’t just for indoors. 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.
Reclaimed scaffolding boards are an inexpensive solution, supported by wrought iron brackets that you can pick up for a few pounds from your nearest DIY store. The wall-mounted shelves will clear up your floor space from lanterns and plant pots. A recycled peg rail can also become the perfect place to hang outdoor lighting.
16. Extend the indoors
Make a small garden feel bigger by making it feel like a continuation of your indoor space. Making the most of the space makes it more valuable, no matter how small. Dress your small garden space with a furniture set and decorative lights to ensure it’s a space you want to spend more time. A plethora of potted plants adds foliage, but as post are moveable you get a sense of freedom to change things around from time to time.
17. Squeeze in a small dining table
Don’t let limited space stop you from enjoying alfresco dining. Invest in a compact dining solution, such as this half-sized table. The small dining set slots neatly against a wall, serving the purpose without encroaching on the limited space.
18. Zone your layout with an outdoor rug
Create the illusion of space by zoning a garden layout. Put down a decorative outdoor rug to define a seating and dining area. The floor covering will act as an anchor point, so you can arrange furniture sociably around it. Giving purpose to each area helps to create the sense of space, by outlining more than one use for the garden.
19. Paint up to a level on the fence
Draw the eye up with a cleverly painted backdrop, creating the illusion of extra height and space. A simple two-tone block colour treatment can jazz up any expanse of garden fencing. Using a dark colour helps to make more of a statement with the effect, it also compliments green foliage beautifully.
20. Put out extra seats
Grab extra seats for when needed. Invest in a few oversized floor cushions for when you have guests over. Floor cushions are less imposing than alternative garden seating solutions. Plus they are easy to pile one on top of the other when not in use, ideal for easy storage. Pattered or brightly coloured cushions will also help to inject personality into the space.
21. Make the most of space with a multifunctional shed
Make a shed work harder in your small space by making it multifunctional. Use the shed to house garden furniture in the winter, then open out into a bar for garden parties and alfresco sundowners in the summer months. Cheers to that idea!
22. Elevate plants to 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 efficiently.
23. Use every corner of a courtyard
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 surrounding it.
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.
24. 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 – simply position and fix against a wall in a sun-drenched spot outside.
25. 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.
26. Hang a relaxing 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. When not in use both ends can be hung from the same hook, to fold it away – to allow the space to used alternatively.
27. 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.
28. Create an authentic 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. When it comes to how to make a living plant wall, foliage is 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.
29. 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.
30. Plant a garden in pots to surround the seating
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.
31. 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?
32. 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.
33. 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.
34. 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.
35. Revive an underused side return
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.
36. 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.
37. Go tropical
When you have a small patio or internal courtyard, 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.
38. 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.
39. 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.
40. 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. It’s a fine Summer garden idea you’ll thank us for when the heatwave finally hits. 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.
41. Trick the eye with decorated walls
With space at a premium in city areas, create an illusion of space with a contemporary mirror panel and wood panelling. 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.
42. 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.
43. Perfect the 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.
44. 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.
45. 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.
46. Play with colour in a small garden
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.
How do you make a small garden look pretty?
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.
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.
Bright colours will also make a small garden really sing. Naturally, you can do this with planting, but there are other ways – such choosing a brightly coloured bistro set, or even by painting your fences or shed in a vivid pink or blue.
How do you lay out a small garden?
If your want to change your small garden layout, start by looking at the existing space. ‘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?’
Next, consider its upkeep. ‘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.
What are the best plants for small gardens?
‘Start by working 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 height, 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 in easy-to-arrange pots 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.’
Climbing plants are great for small gardens – clematis are easy to grow, while honeysuckle and jasmine will fill your garden with fragrance.
You could also 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. It’s possible to grow enough to eat five a day from just 10 sq m of raised beds.
How much does it cost to landscape a small garden?
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.
We hope our small garden ideas have given you inspiration for your plot. Have you got any other great small garden ideas?