Tag Archives: small gardens

Mini-Makeovers :- Garden Ideas for Tiny Back Yards

Garden Ideas: Tiny Back Yards or Courtyards


When space is tight, it can be tricky to make a garden or even to try to have anything that resembles a garden, sadly all too often, the courtyard consists of a couple of bins, the odd bicycle and maybe a threadbare patch of less than immaculate lawn!


But it doesn’t have to be this way….so how do you do it!


Firstly, have a plan….now this may sound blindingly obvious, but the temptation to wander into the nearest garden centre to find some plants you like and then try and fit them into the space you have usually leads to disappointment.


In the image, we have gone big & bold with pots. This garden is dominated by a rather unattractive concrete path, so to tone down the concrete colour scheme, we have dug up the tiny lawn and replaced it with grey shingle. Then the fence panels have been painted a soft mossy green colour (which is unassuming and easy on the eye). All this creates a muted background for you to go a bit wild with the planting.

The key point with the planting is to make it really bold and colourful so that you don’t notice the grey path as much and the plants are quite tall which create more impact. The purples, oranges and greens (see our MiniPlots ranges) now hold your visual attention.

We have also hidden the bins behind a small trellis and have of course added a hedgehog hole to help our furry friends forage from garden to garden.


The second image paints a totally different picture. If pots are not your thing, as plants in pots do require more looking after, we thought we’d do a plan using one of our Fab Fronts designs (as they can be used in the back too!).

The most obvious new feature is a lawn, however, grass in small spaces gets an awful lot of traffic and can quickly resemble a mud patch, so we have artificial grass. The garden purists amongst you may feel this is not gardening, but the aim here is to create an usable and attractive outside space for as much of the year as possible.


The fence panels have also been painted black which is a great colour to use as a backdrop in the garden. Foliage colours stand out brilliantly against the dark background.


Space for planting is obviously limited, in this case the only real area is alongside the path. The temptation can be to plant low growing plants so they don’t take up too much room, but this is a mistake. If you plant low down, all you will see looking out of the window is a fence, there will be nothing that grabs your eyeballs and says ‘look at me’!


In addition a couple of pots have been added opposite the back door with drought tolerant plants (in case you forget to water as often as you should) and because the fence is now the same colour as the bin you don’t notice your bins now either.

£1.49 we make easier


Gardens are for life – not for show

Why Gardens should be for Life, not just for Show


Show Garden at Hampton Court Flower Show

Show Gardens are fantastic aren’t they! They represent all that is innovative, stunning (expensive!) and exciting, we wander through garden shows being wowed on every side by picture perfect paradises packed full of colour, scent and cool stuff! And it’s great, but then we all go home and I would imagine that, bar a select few, we all wander out onto our own little patches and let out a slightly deflated sigh.


But should we feel disappointed that our efforts aren’t quite as good or even fall a long way short of the standards set in a show garden?


Major garden shows are just that – Shows.


Hampton Court Flower Show Garden


The aim of a show is to impress and in order to do that you need to work at superhuman levels to elevate the garden and create a showstopping performance. In just the same way as a fashion show, all the elements have been meticulously selected, preened, pressed, powdered, pampered and exhibited; all for a small moment in time – and for that moment it has to be fantastic.


To try to maintain that level of perfection for the whole year is simply not possible. One could also argue that it is not environmentally sensible either.


For example, to ensure all the flowers bloom at the right time, heat, light, fertiliser and  refrigerators are used to achieve perfection. Plants are rehoused in poly tunnels, sprayed with insecticide and other pest control methods to appear absolutely perfect.


In a Show Garden that is absolutely fine, but we should not then try to emulate this at home nor indeed regard any inability to recreate it as a failure on our part.


We believe that gardens are all about creating a lovely space for us humans to enjoy – but whose dual purpose is to provide a small space where Nature can also thrive.


Gorgeous - high maintenance border!


Gardens aren’t separate from the outside environment, they are the outside environment, they just happen to have a little aesthetic modification from us Humans!


One of life’s simplest pleasures is to sit in a garden on a warm sunny day and watch the garden hum with activity. Gardens that are created solely with the purpose of pleasing us are missing the whole point of gardening.


At PlantPlots, the garden border designs we create use plants that insects find useful and attractive, the blooms may not be quite as spectacular as a Show Garden, but we are fine with that. For us, a plant border that has some plants in flower for many months is more attractive and more useful than one that bursts forth and disappears after a few short weeks.


So our philosophy is very much that if we can create a garden that provides you with a nice place to sit but that encourages and nurtures Nature – your own garden puts on the best free show of all.


Very very pretty

A pretty show garden that’s also good for insects


To create a beautiful ‘show garden’ without having to resort to all that frenetic activity of a real show garden, read on..


Beautiful gardens can be perfect environments for all sorts of wildlife.


You don’t have to have a weed filled unkempt garden to attract nature in, nature preserves can be beautiful gardens too!


If 80% of your plants and flowers are good for pollinators, you can treat yourself to a few show-stopping plant divas (that don’t provide any nectar) because there is plenty of food for insects in the rest of the garden.


Ensure you have some plants that flower in the depths of winter, you only need a few – very often these are highly scented so both you and the bees will enjoy them. Sarcococca Confusa is a really good one by the way!


sarcococca flowers (2) horizontaal crop


In every plant border, have 80% of the plants that flower from Spring to early Autumn, but have 20% that flower from Autumn to Spring.


Spray less – don’t fill the garden with plants that require lots of attention and spraying to look good. Chemicals aren’t clever, they just kill everything, but if you choose less demanding plants, you won’t need to spray. Ditch the plant divas and plant something less high maintenance instead.  This Rose is undoubtedly lovely, but will your’s really look as good as this…?




Heads, Shoulders, Knees & Toes – before you think we are totally bonkers. When planting start with plants that are at your eye level, they are after all what you will see first. Then you start to choose plants that will grow well underneath, the ‘shoulders, knees and toes!’ By planting this way round, you group plants that fit well together, this not only looks better, it also provides a more natural habitat for wildlife, you have nesting places for the birds, and hiding places for hedgehogs!


verbena and butterfly


But I have a small garden!


You can still make a difference by adding a few easy features. You’d be surprised at what you can do with even the smallest of spaces. Even if you’ve just got a border or a small patch of patio, there are still things you can do.


  • Be a little less tidy, just a little unkempt area will attract lots of life
  • Don’t spray or if you must make it the last resort
  • Have an insect hotel, bird box, bat box or hedgehog house
  • Only buy plants that are good for bees and insects
  • Have one plant that flowers in Winter
  • Have a Hedgehog hole in the fence
  • If you only have space for a few pots, use large pots, plant bulbs in layers so you get lots of different stuff appearing from one pot.


If you can create a garden that hums with life you also help yourself, Nature balances out the volume of pests with the volume of predators, which means you don’t get overrun with bugs that chomp your favourite flowers. You also help the environment by being just a little more nature aware in the garden, so it really is a win win. It’s good for you and good for all our furry little friends!

Next week: As it’s coming up to ‘get in the garden again’ season, we start looking at how you can get your garden really low maintenance.


Hedgehogs and why you need one

Why help hedgehogs?


Despite the fact they adorably cute and have been on this planet for about 20 million years, we’ve lost a third of our hedgehogs over the last 10 years.

It seems likely from long-running surveys that there are fewer than a million hedgehogs left in the UK.

sadness 2000


If that isn’t reason enough, hedgehogs actually play a vital part in the UK ecosystem, occupying an important part of the food chain. They mostly eat invertebrates, such as slugs, caterpillars, millipedes, and a range of other creepy crawlies. The more they decline, the more the ecosystem and food chains are disrupted, which is bad for all involved.


And as far as us gardeners are concerned, having hedgehogs in your garden is like having your very own pest controllers. Hedgehogs are far more efficient bug hunters than we ever could be!


So how do I encourage hedgehogs?


There are a few simple and easy things you can put in your garden that will help encourage hedgehogs. These suggestions are from Hedgehog Street and the Hedgehog Preservation Society, charities that are both working hard to conserve our hedgehogs.


Link your garden.


hedgehog climbing the fence

According to research, Hedgehogs can travel a mile every night on their search for food or mates. With the increasing urbanisation of the countryside, hedgehogs are finding it hard to move from one garden to the next thanks to secure fences and walls.


Give your hedgehogs treat & revamp your garden this year…they’d love it!

This is why it’s important to create hedgehog holes were possible, by either:

removing a brick from the bottom of a wall
cutting a small hole in your fence the size of a CD
or digging a channel underneath your fence or gate
swapping fences for hedges, which can also help birds and bees.

Some fencing companies are now supplying ready made fencing with hedgehog holes...so helping open up the gardens couldn’t be easier.

Log piles.

ebay pics 011

These are one of the best features you can create when encouraging wildlife in your garden. Not only do they attract and produce insects as the wood rots down, making a hedgehog buffet, they can also provide a safe place for breeding and hibernating. You can either collect any wood you cut from your garden, or ask a local park, landscaper, or tree surgeon. Place the logs in an undisturbed corner of your garden and replenish with newer logs every now and again.


Open compost heaps.



Again, these are great sources for insects and invertebrates, but just be careful when you come to turn the pile with a garden fork, in case you’ve attracted any hedgehogs. Oh and they don’t have to be perfectly tidy either, just accessible.



Revamp your garden, dig up those borders – the hedgehogs will love slug hunting in them

Leaf piles.


These not only provide good sites for nesting and hibernating, but also good bedding material for other nesting sites and hedgehog boxes in the local area. It’s helpful to think of your garden as part of a local network, rather than a home for one population of hedgehogs. Again, be careful when clearing away, in case you find a sleeping hedgehog.


Wildflower patches and overgrowth.

Now this is a good one, not only do you get a hedgehog friendly area – you don’t have to do so much gardening!


Leaving one corner of your garden untrimmed and overgrown can help both insects to thrive all year-round, as well as providing nesting and hibernation sites for hedgehogs. Wildflower patches can also attract more wildlife such as caterpillars and other insects hedgehogs can eat.


Pop in a Pond.


While you may think ponds are dangerous to hedgehogs, hogs are actually very good swimmers. A pond provides them with a year-round water supply, and also a place where insects, frogs, and even lizards can thrive, which means more food for the hedgehog. Just ensure the ponds have gently sloping edges so any hedgehogs can escape.


Have a Hedgehog house.


You may as well go the whole hog (pardon the pun) and build a specially made hedgehog house. There is a range of designs and styles of houses you can build, and a house will really help a hedgehog breed, nest, and hibernate. Hedgehog Street has a fantastic guide to building hog houses.


Gardens are lifelines for our wildlife, so by us being a little more wildlife aware and maybe a little less worried about everything looking perfect, to coin a well known phrase. ‘every little helps’, just think how much ‘help’ we could all create together!


Let’s change the law too!

We’ve set up a petition also, simple easy solutions are usually the best. We want to change planning law so all new house builds need to incorporate a run of hedgehog holes in the garden boundaries. Just think all those thousands of housing developments have acres and acres of gardens that our hedgehogs could safely forage in.


It’s a cheap simple win:win situation,  you get a fantastic bug hunter for free and you will help conserve our hedgehogs.


P.S – sadly we didnt get enough signatures to change the law, but you know what Have a hedgehog hole anyway…

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