12 Small Garden Design Ideas to Take Away From Chelsea 2018
Since the Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show attracts some of the best garden designers in the business, it is always full of inspiration. Here we take a look at some small garden design design ideas that could be used effectively in any outdoor space and explain how you can adapt them at home.
1. Divide a Flat Garden To Make it Feel Larger
Using sculptural panels by David Harber, designer Nic Howard has partially-divided the space into sections so that it cannot all be viewed at once. When the eye cannot see the whole garden, there is a sense of intrigue that gives the illusion of there being more beyond. This makes us want to explore what is beyond each boundary and slows our journey through it.
Dividing even a small garden is a technique often used by designers. Although it can seem like a bold move, it really works.
At home you could use off the shelf metal panels, have some made by a local metal fabricator, or you could use hedges or shrubs to the same effect.
2. Offset Stepping Stones Make a Stylish and Inviting Path
Laying contemporary long & narrow pavers with gaps to resemble stepping stones gives a twist that makes any journey along a path or over water more interesting. Going one step further by laying them in an offset pattern adds further excitement- don't you just want to leave the building and explore that garden?- We do!
Designer Hay Joung Hwang runs the offset pavers along the central axis of the garden, creating a sense of drama in an otherwise tranquil space. You could create the same effect at home within a lawn or by surrounding the paving by gravel in a contrasting or complimentary colour. For the effect to work, the paving needs to be laid precisely and so practice first or find a good landscaper.
See more Stepping Stones Ideas on our Pinterest Board.
3. Add Built-In Seating To Save Space
Built-in furniture is a really worthwhile addition to a small garden. It is not only space-saving, but it adds a touch of structure and presence year round.
The LG Eco-City Garden cleverly builds-in a table as well as seating space and the table can double-up as another seat if needed. The wooden table area also acts as a strong focal point between the seats. Since the seating area has been sunk a little below the rest of the garden, the space feels very intimate and secluded and the steps conveniently provide another place to pop a glass of wine or G&T.
At home, built-in benches can be made from deck boards or from block walls rendered with a coloured coating.
4. Use Large Pots To Divide a Space
Large planters can make clever space dividers where there are no areas of soil in a smaller garden.
Italian Terrace from Suffolk hand-make their gorgeous terracotta pots from Tuscan clay, each one taking days or weeks. We loved the way that they showcased them as space-dividers using see-through trained fruit trees. The coloured bedding at the base lets you ring the changes in a small garden as the seasons progress.
You could use large pots in a finish that fits the style of your home and garden- they are widely available from DIY stores, garden centres and home stores. Plant them with hydrangeas, Japanese maples or even tall grasses to get the look you want.
Make sure you have drainage holes, use a good soil based compost and remember to water and feed regularly- plants need food too!
5. Be Bold and Add a Sculpture To Transform Your Space
Adding something sculptural to the right place in your garden can completely transform it.
The stunning sculptures in the David Harber Garden stopped visitors in their tracks at the show.
Perfect for those who want a stunning outdoor space that is low maintenance, being brave and adding an oversized sculpture to a small garden is a bold and exciting thing to do.
If bespoke pieces like David Harber's Aeon shown here are not in your budget, hunt around online, at student art shows, in larger garden centres or talk to local artists, stonemasons and metal fabricators. Take heed from garden designer Nic Howard and use plain, complimentary boundaries and limited architectural planting to showcase the sculpture without competing with it.
We also have some stunning Sculpture Ideas for you to peruse on Pinterest-have a look.
6. Build In Your BBQ For An Outdoor Room Feel
In smaller gardens where almost everything is in view, even from inside the house, it all has to look good year round.
We loved the way that Hampshire woodworkers, Gaze Burvill, showcased their signature quartersawn oak craftsmanship in an outdoor kitchen.
At home you could build a surround for your barbecue and add a worktop to get the look. We guarantee this will make you and the family want to spend more time outdoors.
Get inspiration for materials that will work in your garden from our Pinterest Board Outdoor Kitchens and make your small space tidier and more cohesive.
7. Tile A Wall For A Modern Look
Garden and house walls in traditional brick can jar with contemporary garden designs. Poorly-rendered walls can also crack and stain.
Best-In Show Designer, Chris Beardshaw, demonstrated how outdoor wall tiles can be used effectively, for example on the wall of a new extension.
Durable and available in many natural stone effects and colours, thin porcelain tiles designed specifically for outdoor walls are a great way to blur the outside-in transition.
Use large format tiles for a modern look, or use overlapping stone cladding systems for a more rustic or industrial feel. Make sure that you adhere them properly according to the manufacturers instructions- you know the old saying about a stitch in time saves nine...
8. Set The Tone With Attractive Boundaries
One of the keys to success in any garden design is to not forget the importance of the boundaries. You wouldn't ignore the walls if you were decorating an indoor room...
When Jo McCreadie designed the trade garden to show off Marshalls beautiful sawn sandstone paving, she didn't stick up a larch lap fence and stain it in-your-face orange. Instead she used contemporary cedar slatted fencing as the perfect backdrop for the stone, garden building and her stunning planting.
If you do have larch lap boundaries, make them work better for you by painting them a fitting colour (see idea No. 11 below). Hedges and evergreen climbers will work well too.
Check out our Pinterest Board Beautiful Boundaries for hundreds of ideas.
9. Relax in a Small, Lean-To Pergola
If your garden is too small for a stand-alone pergola, join it to the house.
Mark Gregory illustrated how well even a tiny covered space can provide privacy and shelter in his gold medal winning 'Welcome To Yorkshire' garden.
To make it link well with the small countryside home, he used sympathetic green oak for the supports and continued the house roof tiles onto the pergola. We so wanted to sit and enjoy the garden under the scent of that beautiful Wisteria.
At home you could save space and gain privacy by adding a pergola over a wide garden path or patio adjoining the house.
See all of the Pergola ideas we have curated for you in our fabulous Pinterest Board.
10. Lay Paving On The Diagonal or More Impact
The use of diagonals to lay out a garden at 45 degrees to the plot is a common technique used by designers to make a small garden appear larger.
By laying his lovely stone pavers this way, Matt Keightley demonstrates how the eye associates the path as being longer than it is.
It is also a dynamic pattern, inviting you to walk along the path.
You can use this technique with any size of paving slabs, or with decking. Try it just on your pathways or create your whole garden plan on a diagonal to the house. It works!
See more Paving Inspiration over on Pinterest.
11. Paint Fences Grey/Black For a Wow Factor Look
Although we seem to be seeing images of black fences everywhere these days, it is a feature that designers use for a different reason rather than just being on trend.
When there are a mixture of colours in a scene, our eye is first drawn to the lightest and brightest amongst them.
Black or dark grey, on the other hand, recede into the background. Instead of becoming a feature in their own right, they act as a backdrop to showcase the elements you really want to focus on, such as the plants or some funky furniture.
This design technique was beautifully illustrated at Chelsea where James Parker's sensuous slate sculptures and the gorgeous orange flowers were displayed exquisitely by Susan and David Moffitt.
Apart from the backdrop tip, the restraint and simplicity used in his space are good rules to follow when using colours and materials in your own garden.
Less is firmly more!
12. Double Up- Combine Water and Pathways
While Team Verve have mixed success with multi-tasking, maximising use of space in small gardens is something we are fully subscribed to.
We loved the way that Stuart Charles Towner included a large expanse of water, but made the space also usable as a walkway. By incorporating a stylish metal grille rather than a solid bridge, the effect of the water is still fully appreciated when in the seating areas.
Stepping stones through a water feature are another way to achieve this effect.
Other ways to double up in small garden spaces include incorporating storage into built-in benches and edging raised beds with borders broad enough to act as occasional seats.
Turning pergolas into play areas by hanging swings from them works well in busy family spaces too.