Category Archives: Quick Design Tips

Maximising space in a small garden

Maximising space in a small garden is all about minimising ‘dead space’

Garden sizes have been shrinking for decades – which is a crying shame. As land for development becomes ever more expensive, more houses are squeezed into the same sized area with the casualty being the garden.


Although your garden is getting smaller, the stuff we need to use in the garden is not. Humans still take up the same amount of space as we have always done.

It is ironic though, as humans are getting bigger, the space we have to actually live in is getting smaller.

The garden therefore needs to work much more efficiently if you are to fit in what you need and still have space to breathe.

How do you maximise space in a small garden then?


Well, it’s all about minimising dead space.


In a small garden the area is 3 dimensional, everytime you put something in the garden, it uses space, but it also creates an area around it, that can’t easily be used.


This is dead space and it will quickly take over a small garden, unless you think about it!




Simply popping something ‘there’ or dotting a few pots about the garden can quickly reduce your ability to move and enjoy the space you have.


Tips for maximising space and minimising dead space.




Choose square over round, it can be tucked away into a corner more easily than a round table.

Bistro tables may look chic, but they can’t hold more than a couple of cups of coffee and a sideplate. If you want to be able to eat out, have a bistro by all means but fit a drop down table for extra space.

We found these at

It’s a neat but  cost effective way of creating a table – without losing valuable space.

Also think about putting a mirror or some outdoor artwork on the underside of the table. Once the table is closed, there will still have something interesting to look at.



image ericmiller83 pinterest

All gardens have ugly areas, normally where the bins go.

If you create an attractive screen you can hide bins, rotary washing lines & all sorts of unsightly objects behind it. If the screen is a feature itself, the benefit is doubled. Not only is it a place to hide stuff behind, but it is attractive to look as well.

Screens are much better space savers than a small shed or those grey plastic shed units many garden centres sell.


Light levels are often low at ground level, so raising the plants up off the ground will help them grow better.

can’t draw, but you get the drift!

Avoid using climbers, they will most likely not grow how you want them too, all the growth will be at head height and just get in the way!

Another good way to display plants is on corner shelving units. Pots can be placed on shelves, so you can create a vertical display.

Use soft, light, willowy vertical plants in the garden – so they grow upwards but not outwards. Avoid thorny or prickly plants, no matter how fashionable they may be!


Pots can use up a lot of space, so think carefully about the shape. The best space saving shape is tall and thin. This also has the advantage of raising plants off the floor so they get more light and grow better.

It you are having larger pots, put them on wheels, having moveable outdoor ‘furniture’ makes life a lot easier!

The Design:

Before you start changing or creating the garden outside, you need to think about the following.

  • Where is the best place for sitting outside.
  • Are you going to be eating meals outside, in which case is a larger eating area required.
  • Looking out onto the garden through the window – how is the ‘view’?

    Who said pictures can only go inside?

  • Where is the most convenient place for the bins – ease of access etc.
  • Are you intending to dry laundry outside. Rotary lines can be put away after use (however they still need storage space) or a wall mounted retractable line, which takes up less space but there are less options for siting it than a rotary line.
  • How much space is really needed for storing garden equipment – is a shed really necessary?
  • Lastly, grass – if you have grass, you need a lawn mower (or a robot mower at least). You need to have somewhere to dispose of the mown grass. A small grass lawn will take a lot of ‘foot traffic’ so will wear out easliy. Decide then, must you have a lawn?


The answers provide you with a blueprint for how you will set out your garden.

The process goes something like this.


Once you know where to sit, decide on the furniture that will fit that space the best. Then you know how much space it will taken up and how much space is left.

Then sort out the essentials, where will the bins and any storage requirements go so you can get to then as easily as possible.

If these are in view too much, then you need to look at screening the area off. Be inventive, make the screen a really attractive feature of the garden.

Washing lines, can these be easily fitted in or is it  better to  use a clothes horse that can be used inside and outside?

Storage, do you need a place for bikes, pushchairs or BBQ’s for example. Work out the best way to store these, when not in use. Make sure the storage unit itself is attractive, it will be a large visible feature in the garden.  Mirrors, paint and screens can all be used to disguise anything ugly.

The space that left is for ‘decorating’. This is the point at which you tap into your creative/artisitc side and choose colours and styles. Whatever style chosen remember the space is in 3 dimensions.

Create little views by adding mirrors to reflect light for example. Use wall art, it’s better than staring at a blank wall. Keep to a theme and most importantly a colour theme. It will be more eyecatching.

Think of the plants you use as the room decoration, they are your scatter cushions, table lamps and ornaments. Finally in a small garden the one sense that should not be overlooked is scent. Make sure as many of the plants used are scented – it will make a world of difference.

 Still stuck at this point though?  Try reading…


Small Space Gardening

Garden Design for Beginners

Soft & Wafty Plants


Hanging baskets & why you should avoid them

Hanging Baskets & why you are better off without them.


We Brits have always had an obsession for hanging baskets. We spend millions on these displays every year. Beautiful displays sing out the conquest of one’s horticultural ability over the elements. More often than not though, the compost heap quickly fills with thrown away shrivelled and dried out displays. 

Should we really keep on faithfully spending millions of pounds or is it time for a rethink?

Now you’ve probably guessed, we’re not great fans of hanging baskets and there are several good reasons why we’re not.


Our mantra is to make gardening easier and hanging baskets most definitely do not.


Why? Well how many of you can identify with these issues…

  • The compost dries out so quickly you can’t keep up with the watering requirement.
  • You don’t see most of the flowers as the basket is above your head.
  • The flowers quickly fade and you can never get the same intensity as in the garden centre.
  • It’s a right royal pain to water properly, unless you put in on the floor first. Mostly the water just runs straight through.
  • After a few days of summer sun – it all seems a bit shrivelled.
  • The plants seem to get eaten by bugs really easily.
  • After a few weeks, you’re unsure whether it’s a feature or an eysore, half the plants seem to have died, apart from the ivy, which has grown over everything else.
  • Birds have pecked out the lining for nesting material, so the basket looks a bit tatty

Need we go on?

Hanging baskets are not good value for money.


As a society, we are supposed to be trying to reduce, reuse and recycle more – it is better for us and the world at large. The problem though is that hanging baskets are largely disposable. Garden centres actually would prefer you to throw the plants (and the basket) away.


Gardening is expensive, so why spend money to just throw it away – it does not make sense.


What then, should we be doing?

Well our advice would be to not buy any in the first place and use the money saved to invest in plants that will look good for years, but if you love your baskets – here’s some advice.


Firstly – Don’t hang them


Most of the problems associated with hanging baskets are created by hanging them up.

Where is the gardening rule book does it state that hanging baskets must be above head height!


Why hang so that you look up to the bottom of the basket too?


Instead how about placing the baskets on top of pots or in pot stands.


Place them on a log or pot and site them in the border. Placing the basket lower down allows you to water and feed more easily. You can even place the basket on the floor, just take off the hanging loops.


Plant your own – don’t buy readymade baskets.


Plants grow fastest and best if they are not competing for nutrients. Nurseries pack plants in to look good at the point of sale.


So by only adding 2-3 plants in a basket yourself, your plants will grow bigger and look better for longer. Because you are not hanging them up, you can also use some soil in the compost which retains moisture more than multipurpose.


Try not to use Bedding plants


There are lots of plants that will grow in a basket really well, that won’t need throwing away at the end of the year. The flowers on most bedding you buy have been intensively bred to look showy which in itself is not very ‘green’.

The plant produces more flowers than it would normally be able sustain & or larger flowers than would naturally develop – all for our aesthetic delight of course. The result, the plants may look spectactular, but only if you follow a strict pampering and preening regime to keep these demanding plants performing.

They are all High Maintenance Plant Divas, which is fine if you adore pampering and preening your plants but it is a pain in the proverbials if you haven’t time to!

It is far better to choose less demanding plants that thrive on a bit of neglect, there are loads to choose from – native wildflowers being one very obvious example.

Perhaps it is time for the fashions to change and we start to grow natural hanging baskets instead. Some of our woldflowers can be very beautiful and all grow without human intervention normally – which makes it sound perfect for a hanging basket!

Try out seed-balls as an alternative to bedding in your hanging baskets instead, the butterflies and bees will love you for it!

Remember, hanging baskets benefit garden centres more than you.


The mark-up on planted hanging baskets is huge, nurseries and garden centres make a lot of money from selling planted baskets.


However, more importantly, it is not in their financial interest for the baskets to survive. If they looked great all summer, we the consumer, would not need to buy any more. The garden centres would lose out financially.


So here’s what they do:


  • Baskets are crammed plants, too many for the size of basket.
  • The plants all compete for water and available food, the most needy die first. Which are always the biggest and showiest flowers.
  • A multipurpose compost is used as it’s lighter, but it also doesn’t retain water very well, so the basket dries out really quickly and the showiest flowers are the first to suffer.
  • They do add a granular plant food to the compost for you – however it can only release enough food if the granules are wet and because the baskets drain really quickly, they won’t get time to dissolve.


Now you may think we are simply being overtly cynical and a tad unfair and maybe so. However, ask yourself this – how many times have you had a stunning hanging basket display all summer.


People can and do have the most beautiful displays – most of these use automated watering systems though – or they have an utterly dedicated owner!


So there you have it, hanging baskets are great – if you like that sort of thing. But if you would like a lower maintenance garden – avoid using hanging baskets.


For lot’s more tips and advice:

Read more from the Plotting Shed.

Garden Design For Beginners

Get some garden inspitation – & not a hanging basket in sight!

Advice on Good Garden Plants


Right Plant….Wrong Place!

Are you a Right Plant…Wrong Place expert!


looking good

We’ve all done it….we’ve planted a lovely plant in what we thought was the perfect spot, and then it all started going wrong!


Delicate climbers turn into voracious triffids, the few bulbs you popped in the corner have re-appeared – everywhere, or that beautiful gorgeous flowered plant that you popped over there is now a mass of sickly looking twigs…is this sounding familiar?

The key to getting the plants to behave properly, is to plant them in the right place at the beginning – and that means the right place in terms of light and moisture but it also is important to have the right soil for the plant to thrive too.

At PlantPlots we believe that our gardening advice should be really useful and practical – especially if you aren’t the most expert in the garden, so to help we’ve created some simple soil guides.

We want to help you promote you from the realms of Right Plant Wrong Place Expert and propel you towards becoming a true gardening guru! ….

Well be a better gardener anyway…but at least you will have a better understanding of what to plant or not!

PlantPlots ‘rule of thumb’ guides to getting it right….from the start!

Good Soil 2 Clay soil Poor soil Sandy soil Acidic soil


Simply click the images to view and then download the guide – it’s all free advice.


There are however, some simple rules you can apply to help reduce the number of goof-ups, that will apply regardless of soil type:


10 tips to avoid ‘Right Plant – Wrong Place’ problems:

These rules apply for the average sized UK garden by the way (those lucky people with huge gardens don’t have to worry so much about how big plants can get or how fast!)


Don’t impulse buy at the Garden Centre.


Any plant label that says ‘Vigorous’ should be planted with care.


Any plant that grows beyond 12ft should also be planted with even more care.


‘Good for Naturalising’ is not good in a small garden!


Plant ‘Self Seed Experts’ downwind of the patio.


Bedding Plants may look great in the Garden Centre – but do you really have enough time and enthusiasm to maintain the required pampering regime to keep them looking that good?


Don’t just fill a gap in the border with anything you can find – it probably won’t work!


Don’t fight your garden’s natural environment – if you want an easier lower maintenance garden, then work with what you have. Your plants will perform better and tend to misbehave less.  


Check the ‘size in 5’ BEFORE you plant it! If it says 20 feet tall in 5 years, then that is what it will be.


If the plant’s not thriving where it is, don’t be afraid to move it to somewhere better.


If however, you really can’t (or don’t have the time) to plan the right plants for your garden…. you could cheat and try one of our designs. Think of them a bit like recipes for the garden, simply have a browse and download the ‘recipe’ you like the best!



You may as well plant plastic flowers instead – many modern plants have no food for foraging insects.

Garden Ideas: Brightening up your dreary bits!

Garden Ideas: Dull, dark & dreary gardens.


Not all of us have wonderful sun-filled gardens and to be honest a bit of shade is always welcome, but what if your garden is just shaded. It can easily appear dull dark and rather dreary – so how do you go about brightening up your dreary bits. Luckily we have a few garden ideas and tips to help!


What do you see here, (which is a drawing of someone’s garden) that’s eye catching and interesting? Probably not a lot, the path steps up the slope and goes nowhere, the fence on the left is visually dominant and the patio retaining walls have been painted a rather interesting shade of chartreuse!

However, all is not lost, this can be made to look a whole to more interesting without remodelling the entire garden, how…well read on!


We’ve used plants from our upcoming MiniPlots designs that are suited to shady places, now admittedly you will need more than than the miniplot designs use, but these can be planted over time rather than all at once.

The key principle here is to create something visually more interesting, so your eye looks at that and thus notices the ugly bits less. In shade, there is only really one colour for flowers to choose and that’s white – especially if the plants flower in summer.  In the spring, this whole area can be planted with bulbs that will flower before the trees come into leaf. Keep to a colour palette, but yellow, blue and white are a tried and tested early spring colour combo’ that always looks good.

The hard edges of the retaining wall have been softened by using lush green leaves and powder blue coloured pots.  You still notice the fence on the left, but hopefully not as much as the white flowerheads on the right.

Another great way to improve the light levels in a garden is to ‘lift the crown’ of the trees, basically you cut off the lower branches to allow sunlight in.

So hopefully you can see that with a little thought (and a perhaps a PlantPlots design), your garden’s dreary bits can have a total revamp that won’t break the bank.

£1.49 we make easier

Garden Ideas: Gardening on a tight budget!

Garden Ideas: Making a Garden on a tight Budget.


OK, so you’ve just got your brand new house and with it comes a brand new garden….how exciting. But the view’s a bit naff and you’ve not a lot of money available to fix it.




What can you do to create a garden with hardly any money to spend?


Blank canvas’ can be a boon to some people but can also be quite intimidating especially if it’s your first garden and the budget is limited. Take this drawing (of someone’s actual garden), it’s all fence and boundaries.




If money is tight, your best option is to focus your efforts in one area. So, imagine you are sitting inside and this is the view down the garden, the perspective of the side fencing automatically draws your eye to the end fence – this is where you need to start, as it is the first area of the garden that captures your attention.

The next part is to create something eye catching to focus your attention away from the grass and fencing, but it has to be relatively cheap.

Plants that you can divide and plants that grow quite quickly are a good bet to get started, as are plants that grow readily from seed.




Here we have used plants from the ‘Towers of Feathers‘ design. If you buy a bigger plant from the garden centre, you can split them into 2 or 3 plants, and each of these will grow quite quickly. These plants will also thrive on thin soils so if the builders have turfed over a whole load of building debris, these plants should grow well and you haven’t had a back breaking dig!


The borders on each side mirror each other but most importantly they are taller than the fence. The gap in the centre can then be used for a focal point, here we have added an outdoor canvas. What’s the first thing you see now….the back fence?


Lastly, horizontal trellis had been added to the fencing, we used lengths of baton painted black.


The visual effect now is to lengthen the garden and draw your eye to the bit you want to show off.


And don’t forget your hedgehog hole..!


£3.99 3 for 2 offer

What is a Low Maintenance Garden – part 2

How to actually create one!

We all love the idea of having a low maintenance garden, it conjures an image of lazy summer days spent in your garden watching the bees buzzing and you just relaxing. The reality though, generally involves you spending far too much time on mowing the grass, trimming the edges, weeding paths and taming the triffids!

But with a little planning it is achievable – honestly! So how do you go about it?

more hours mowing

Well if you read last week’s post, part 1, you know some of the hard landscaping pitfalls to avoid and the idea that creating a low maintenance garden really involves creating a garden that minimises the stuff you don’t like doing.

This week we’ll take a closer look at what in your garden creates the maintenance, so you can avoid it!

Design tips for low maintenance gardens

The aim of a low maintenance garden, is to reduce the time you spend doing stuff you don’t like doing. So take a look at your garden, jot down how much time and effort you spend on certain tasks.

80% of your garden should require only annual attention or only a few minutes a week spent tidying up.

gdn maintenance 1

This house owner is a garden lover, there are lots of plants that require regular attention, which is fine if you love gardening.

Once you have seen which elements of the garden require regular bursts of activity, you also need to consider how long each activity takes. In the image below, there are large hedges and a box parterre. The hedging may only require clipping twice a year, but if it takes several hours each time, you can decide if really sharply clipped hedges are your thing!

Low maintenance garden 3

Size is not the key determinant of the amount of time you spend gardening, although it obviously is still relevant, the types of plants you have are also crucial. The main workload in the image below comes from keeping the grass cut and the border edges neat. The rest can be tackled pretty much with one day’s gardening a year and a few little trips in between to dead head the roses.

gdn maintenance 2

So you have identified those elements of the garden that are either regular chores or take up an inordinate amount of time that you would prefer doing something much more enjoyable!

What is next?

Changing what you have

Mowing the grass:  Reduce time and effort mowing by;

  • Keeping the shape simple, so there are no fiddly corners to mow round.lower-maintenance
  • Reduce the size of the lawn by adding in borders with low maintenance planting.
  • Do not have small lawns (especially in the front garden), where’s the benefit, you don’t need the grass to walk on so get rid of it entirely.
  • Let the grass grow, create mown paths through some parts of the grass, why do you have to mow it every week? You can add bulbs in spring and summer, so you only need to mow in the autumn.
  • Trim the edges of the lawn regularly but reduce the mowing frequency, since when did 1 inch become the height lawns MUST be kept to?

Plants and Planting: You will need to know a little bit about the plants in your garden!

  • Get rid of plants that you don’t like, for example ‘triffids’. We’ve all inadvertently got some; plants that never seem to stop growing. But they won’t ever stop growing, so if it’s too big for it’s boots get rid of it or give it away.
  • Make your borders at least 3 ft wide, it’s much easier to get a good display. The borders don’t have to run the whole length of the garden either! Creating deeper borders helps the plants grow and prevents the plants flopping over onto the grass all the time.

borders 1           borders 2

side drawing fence                       side drawing fence 2

Both images have the same ‘plants’, but the borders in the right image will grow and look much better

  • Avoid planting too many annuals, bedding plants, or plants that require staking, tying in, or lots of feeding and watering. Choose plants by how they make you feel and what you want them to be used for.
  • Don’t plant right up to the fence, all that happens is the plant grows away from your fence and will flop over the grass.
  • If you are going to plant climbers, then invest in really sturdy trellis – and allow for the growth of the climber! If it will grow to 14ft, you need to make sure there is at 14ft of trellis for it to grow on!
  • Never attach the trellis directly to the wall or fence, as the growing plants just fall off the front of the trellis. It’s much better instead to hang the trellis on sturdy brackets, that way, you can unhook the trellis if you need to get to the wall or fence.

Pots and Containers: These tend to be more labour intensive, so to keep unwanted chores to a minimum, follow these tips:

  • Avoid hanging baskets, unless you have automatic watering
  • Use a mixture of bulbs and perennials in pots, so they last for more than one season.
  • Avoid using only multipurpose compost, it dries out too easily. Use soil or a mixture of soil and multipurpose, plants will thrive better if the pot doesn’t keep drying out and soil is heavier so the pot is less prone to being blown over.
  • If using pots in sunny places, mix in water retaining granules with the soil.
  • If you are using pots with a thin skin, like aluminium, insert a thin insulating layer of polystyrene to protect the roots from heat and frost damage.
  • Keep all the pots together in collections, it looks better and takes less time to water!

Creating a low maintenance garden or at least one that minimises unwanted chores is achievable. You may need to be a little bold and decide to get rid of the elements of the garden that don’t work for you, even if it means your plot stands out from the neighbours gardens as being different – if it works for you, then it’s a good garden!

We have loads of free help and advice for your garden and we even have come up with lots of garden border designs that you can browse through as well to help get your garden the way you want it to be.

Next week: How to make your paths lower maintenance.

great garden

What is a Low Maintenance Garden? part 1

What is a Low Maintenance Garden and how can I have one?


We would all love to have a beautiful but low maintenance garden, but what do we really mean by the phrase ‘low maintenance garden’?


english-country-garden-1529106 - Copy


Reducing the amount of time spent on unwanted chores in the garden is always desirable, but really low maintenance gardens take a lot of planning to get right, so if you would love a low maintenance garden how do you go about achieving one?


First let’s debunk a misnomer, low maintenance does not mean no maintenance – the only option for you not having to maintain your garden is to hire someone else to do it for you.


So if you have a garden, you are going to have to get dirty and do some gardening, it’s just a question of how much and how often.


To start with, you need a piece of paper and a pen, list down all the jobs you loathe doing in the garden, all the bits of the garden you like and lastly what you enjoy doing most in the garden.


                     stuff i hate note        stuff I like note


This gives you a good starting point to work out how and what you need to change.


What you are really saying is not that you want a low maintenance garden, but you want to create a garden that minimises the stuff you don’t like to do but does have stuff you do like doing!


That’s the easy bit though, working out what you like and dislike, but how do you change what you have and actually get a garden that doesn’t require constant attention.


A good place to start is to know what bits of the garden take the most time and effort to maintain, of course, the level of neatness is up to you, but to achieve perfectly preened gardens all these are pretty labout intensive!


High maintenance stuff!

Lawns – especially those who love weed free, bowling green flat stripy ones

Vegetable Gardens – require constant attention all year

Pots – unless you have automatic watering systems, pots need a lot of feeding, watering and preening

Pergolas – look gorgeous but you will regularly be tying up those climbing plants

Topiary – only looks good if you regularly clip and neaten your ‘artwork’

Plant Divas – plants that require a lot of attention to look good!

Fruit Trees – all fruit trees create work, falling fruit and a constant battle with hungry birds

Large Trees – leaf fall, twig fall, seed drop, dry and deep shade all creates extra work

Ponds – It’s you vs the green algae and duck weed trying to take over

Shingle – a cheap and ‘covers a multitude of sins’ paving solution, but under deciduous trees or even worse, conifer or pines trees it’s a raking nightmare

Stone Mulches – these may seem an easy, cover all decorative fix to hiding bare soil and weeding, but beware, once down, weeding, clearing, cleaning and raking becomes a right royal pain in the proverbials. Especially white stone it goes green and if you don’t put them on a membrane, they gradually all sink into the ground.


Learn from others mistakes and garden bloopers!

Friends and neighbours can be valuable sources of useful advice, prevention is always better than cure. This is especially true if you are about to spend money on hard landscaping.


Picture 081


Patios and Paving


Paving is expensive to put down and even more expensive to put right.


Drainage – where will the rainwater run off to and can it handle it, does the paving drain water away quickly or are you left with puddles.

Shade – will the paving become slippery when wet or get covered in slippery green algae from being shaded.

Sunshine – will the slabs get too hot to walk on?

Trees & Birds – apologies for being crude, but droppings! Fruit droppings, bird droppings even fruit coloured bird droppings. Is paving the right surface for here?

Joins/Mortar – what to have; sand is cheaper but prone to weed seedlings popping up, concrete costs more but also costs more to repair if it cracks

Roots – there is nothing worse than roots that get under the patios, they are so difficult to get rid of. Have you really dug out any unwanted invaders before you lay any slabs?

Lastly, think about the planting around patios, especially if you use sand as a base, you don’t want lots of self seed experts upwind of the patio!

nightime-patio-1419782 - Copy


Shingle or Decorative Stones


Shingle covers a multitude of sins and is quick and easy to use, but there are pitfalls to shingle.


Trees – trees always drop lots of stuff, twigs, seeds, leaves. You can rake
shingle easily, but wet leaves and small seeds are more difficult to
rake and pines needles are impossible to remove from shingle!


Membranes – if you don’t want weeds growing up through the shingle, you can put down a weed membrane. This is great if you don’t want to plant anything else in that area, but is not a good idea if you want to plant bulbs for example!


If you add shingle on top of bare soil, then over time, the shingle will sink
into the soil, so regular top ups of shingle will be needed.


Paths – shingle paths are not nice to walk on in bare feet. If you have them near your doors, be prepared for shingle to appear in the house too.


Decorative Stones – look fantastic, but are a devil to keep looking fantastic especially in the shade or under deciduous shrubs and plants. White pebbles will also quickly go green.


Is this really low maintenance, pebbles are hard to weed between and keep looking pristine like this garden.




Some years ago, decking was everywhere, a wooden deck is admittedly, lovely to walk
on barefoot. If you are considering decking, then do consider the following before you start.

Shade – decking is great in full sun, but extremely slippery in shaded areas.


Vermin – rats can move in under the raised deck, they are attracted to leftover BBQ food, so ensure you can access under the deck if it becomes necessary.


Weeds – you must make sure the ground under the deck is properly weeded before you build the decking, it is so annoying for perennial weeds to keep growing through the gaps.


Creating the right garden for you starts with understanding what you want it to do for you. It may be you love lots of flowers but hate mowing, in which case large areas of lawn in the garden would not create the low maintenance garden you are after.


You have your lists of likes and dislikes, use these ideas to change your garden around so that you can minimise the impact of the negatives aspects and maximise the positive. You may need to be a bit radical, but if you really hate mowing lawns, why have one?


Gardens are spaces that should be enjoyed, not places for you to do even more chores.


Next week – learn how to reduce the time spent on unnecessary garden chores and create a garden that works for you.

What to do with the bins!

Tips for Small Garden Design: Bins.


Bins, we all have them, but in a small garden how can you spend time enjoying your garden without the wheelie bins on show!

Not the prettiest sight are they, but you can hide them. However rather than thinking of simply hiding the bins….think of something to look at that will ALSO hide the bins.


Now you see them…

hiding bins drawing

Now you don’t.















So if you haven’t got any space to tuck the darn things down the side of the house, you need to be a little inventive. It is better to create an area the bins can hide behind, that is lovely to look at , even if it means you lose a little space.

Also don’t be tempted by these erecting ‘bin shed’s that you tuck the bin into, you need to be able to lift the lids easily without having to drag the bin out from under anything.

Narrow Alleys and Courtyards

Small Garden Design: Don’t stuff your narrow bits with clutter!


Alleyways and narrow gardens are always a little tricky to garden. Two reasons, they are narrow, so too much stuff and it looks cluttered and usually they are in deep shade so don’t see much sun or rain for that matter. So what to do.


Take this drawing of a narrow courtyard, there is not much space and because of the high walls around, the sun only reaches halfway down the fence. Now excusing my poor art ability, there are some improvements you can easily make.


courtyard alley with mirrors


Firstly decide what you are looking at, so where is your main view; through the windows or is it looking down the length of the courtyard? If it is via the windows, then that is where you want the nice stuff to be.  I have also added 3 mirrors to the fence, they will increase the impression of width they also reflect light.  


Secondly, as much as possible declutter; use storage to hide stuff away, but whatever you do, make sure that your stuff is not cluttering up your main view.


Lastly, when planting raise the levels up. So plant in tall pots, you can see the plants from the window and you also lift them up to better light levels and out of the worst of the rain shadow thus helping them grow better.


Here are 3 alternatives, again excuse my graphic design abilities, but you should get the drift.

courtyard and phormiumscourtyard and bamboocourtyard and climber


In the first image, I have used tall cream planters and used the same cream and green plants along the whole of the fence. The intention is to create a simple and uncluttered look to the space which uses light colours to prevent it from looking too dark. If the fences are painted the same colour as the planters, then you will increase the impression of width. The plants shed very few leaves and thrive in those conditions, thus helping keep the visual impression clear and clean. It’s downside though is that although you have light coming in from the fence opposite, you are still looking mainly at a fence


The second image shows how not to do tall planting. You may want to have a little more privacy, but you will cut out valuable light, have planters prone to being blown over, and the whole effect is to close everything in.


The final image on the right, shows how with a few climbers you can really widen the space. The planters and mirrors have been painted the same colour, and because the climbers grow upwards, you retain the visual width. Light can still filter in, as the climber is not to vigorous or dense (some clematis not any montana variety though, would be lovely), the best bit though is as you look out of your main view, you see something lovely!


So there you have it, narrow spaces aren’t that difficult, they just need a little more planning and thought to get right. If however, you are still lacking a few ideas, contact us and we will try to help out.

Heads, shoulders, knees and toes

Small Garden Design: Don’t start at the bottom!

soldier 1

He’s a bit dapper and makes quite an impression, but what part are you looking at, all of him?


just this bit….soldier waist..or only this little bit?soldier knees

OK, just so you don’t think I have completely lost the plot, there is a point to this.


I’ll bet you are more impressed by the whole rather than just his shiny boots. So why then, when we garden, do so many gardens do this..


foot high gardens



The gardening equivalent of ‘look at my nice shoes’!  


There are some gardens that do venture ‘up to the knees’.. but you don’t stop at knees when you look at someone do you.


knee height borders 


Your eyeline looks straight ahead, it pays more attention to what is in front of  your face NOT your feet , so let’s do the same in your garden.  


As the title says ‘Heads, shoulders, knees and toes’ – and head is first on the list.  So when planning a garden border you need something to look good at head height. That will catch your eye the most, then you add interest further down


So turn your garden on it’s head and stop putting little things in at the bottom and adding a few taller bits because you will end up with a ‘torso-less’ border, instead start with a taller plant and work down, that way the whole design has better structure, is more interesting and you have a better looking ‘soldier’!



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