How to Make a Garden Feel Bigger..

Geranium johnsons blue flower in sun close up

How to make a garden feel bigger than it actually is! 4 simple design methods to make the best use of your garden.

Time needed: 8 minutes.

Make a garden feel bigger

  1. Avoid creating ‘dead space’

    Dead space is unusable space around any object that can’t be used for anything else. Dead space reduces your garden space.

  2. Disguise the boundaries

    If you can see all the boundaries of garden; you’ll know exactly how big (or small) it really is.

  3. Create one area of the garden that captures your attention…

    by having a big ‘look at me instead’ feature your attention will focus on that rather than the small size of the garden

  4. Be bold

    Small spaces don’t need ‘small things’. Finding a way to fit large objects in small spaces helps disguise the ‘smallness’ of the space!

Now, we could now start by showing you images of gardens that look like this…

but at PlantPlots, we don’t really think these help especially if your garden looks something more like this…

What you really want and need to know is how… How and what decisions do you need to take to turn this rather small and uninspiring garden into something you love sitting out in!

So, what is wrong with this garden and what needs sorting?

Well a picture speaks a thousand words so;

Avoid creating dead space.

Dead space is space you can’t use; the area under a table is dead space. Dead space is also very visible and will emphasise the lack of space. So to make a garden feel bigger, the first step is to work out where any dead space is and minimise it!

In the above garden, the area around the little brick BBQ has to be kept clear of the flames, this can’t be used for anything else; it is dead space. This volume of unusable space can easily begin to use up a significant portion any small garden, unless you plan for it.

The box represents the area that can’t be used for anything else

The best way to minimise dead space, is to think about the area and the features you need in the garden in 3 dimensions. It’s a bit like 3D Tetris, you need to box together those features in such a way as to minimise any gaps – the gaps constitute dead space. If it all fits together neatly, you will pack more into the garden and it will be the most efficient use of space. Making the garden feel bigger.

Then we need to hide the boundaries and create something worthwhile to look at.

These fences dominate the garden, but they are all different so;
painting them a darker colour helps a bit..
however creating a new ‘view’ of the fences with some horizontal slatting now draws your attention to the new mirror
This mirror will create a false end to the garden
drawing of small courtyard garden maximising space
then adding bigger plants in a muted palette makes the garden feel bigger

So why has the garden been created like this?

Starting with the fences. It is impossible to hide all the fences. What needs to happen is you control the view of the fencing. In this case by adding a mirror as a feature draws your attention where you want people to look. Then the fence line needs breaking up with plants that grow taller than the fence.

The planted area is sited to provide privacy from the overlooking windows.

Keeping to a darker single colour palette for the hard landscaping (dark grey paving and a similar colour for the fencing) ensures these won’t become the main features. That job should be taken by the planting in the garden.

Use a limited colour palette for the plants; you want to be able to lose yourself in a ‘sea of greenery’ (even if it is only a little sea!) Your attention will focus on the different greens, leaf shapes and the plants moving; which means the fencing, neighbours and the small size become less noticeable.

Lastly, which can’t be captured in a picture – used scented plants. If you sit in any garden with your eyes closed surrounded by wonderful perfume – who cares how small it is!

So there you have it, designing gardens made a bit simpler (I hope).

Are you stuck for ideas on what plants to use for small spaces – try our ‘MiniPlots’. Planting ideas for really small spaces.

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