The Chelsea Flower Show approved tip to make a small garden feel bigger

What you're not doing to make the most of your small outdoor space...

Garden chair surrounded by potted plants showing Chelsea Flower Show tip
(Image credit: Future PLC)

These days, it's more common than not to have a small outdoor space. Be it a petite patio, bijou balcony or cosy courtyard. According to a Chelsea Flower Show expert, there's one thing you're probably not doing which will make your small garden ideas seem bigger than they actually are.

We spoke to garden designer William Murray (opens in new tab) who explained the counter-intuitive method to planting in a small outdoor space. The designer won a Silver Gilt Medal at the Chelsea Flower Show 2022 for 'The Potting Garden Balcony', where he put his small garden tip into action.

The Potting Garden Balcony designed by William Murray

(Image credit: RHS/Neil Hepworth)

Chelsea Flower Show tip

At the prestigious event, William shared with us how to make a small garden look bigger by planting trees in pots. 

'In a small space, I would say don’t be afraid to have a big plant,' he said. 'You can even have a tree in a container and it works really well to make your space feel a bit bigger.'

Having a tree in a pot may seem unusual, but they can grow really well in containers. The height will draw the eye upwards, making the space seem larger. Also simply having a large plant like this tricks the mind into believing that there's more available space than there actually is.

Tree in planter with hanging festoon lights

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

Plus, having a tree in a container makes life a lot more flexible. 'If you live in rented accommodation you can't usually commit to planting a tree,' William adds. 'So if you have it in a pot at least it can come with you!'

As for what kind of tree? William advises that you get creative - without veering from budget small garden ideas. 'It’s worth experimenting, you can’t really go too wrong,' he says. 'For example, apple trees can do well in a planter. You can pick those up for about £30 so it’s just worth having a go at it!'

'Just be sure to make sure the containers have good drainage, and that you research your plant check what kind of soil they're going to like.'

Terraced area underneath sail with tree in terracotta pot

(Image credit: Future PLC/Frenchie Cristogatin)

Planting a tree in a container isn't the only way to use planters cleverly in a small space.

'Things like tiered planting over vertical height helps to maximise space,' says the Chelsea Flower Show medal winner. 'Containers are really versatile ways of gardening.  And if you choose planters on wheels then you can move things around even more easily.'

Thea Babington-Stitt is a Content Editor on Ideal Home. Thea has been working across some of the UK’s leading interiors titles for nearly 10 years. 

She started working on these magazines and websites after graduating from City University London with a Masters in Magazine Journalism. Before moving to Ideal Home, Thea was News and Features Editor at Homes & Gardens, LivingEtc and Country Homes & Interiors.