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  • Introduction

    Small gardens are often the hardest to prepare and design for as people often get stuck trying to fit as much in as possible. Then the frustration when the small garden looks cluttered or disjointed. This article shows one of my designs for how to turn a small garden into a functional and beautiful space, making the most of the outdoor space. With any small space it's success relies on careful planning!

    Garden Ninja loves small garden design where every detail must be carefully considered. Planting choices need to fit the size of the space, eating and drinking areas need to be comfortably proportioned and the colours must tie together neatly. There’s zero room for error in a small garden which makes them some of the hardest to design.

    This small back garden with its typical rectangular borders and sad sorry turf was in need of a complete small garden makeover. The size was small at 9m x 6m. This typical rectangular shaped garden featured a shed and an unused mossy terrace. It had become slippy and lacklustre. The client wanted to be able to use the garden more and enjoy the summer weather. She really wanted a contemporary back garden layout with clean lines but also for the garden to be functional using wooden raised beds so she could grow either vegetables or plants herself. As you can see below there wasn’t much to tempt out the owner into this garden!


    Small garden makeover

    The client wanted to get into gardening but wanted something that could be low maintenance due to her busy work schedule. She wanted to keep the shed for storage and also wanted some increased privacy from the house next door. She was a bit nervous about entering the world of full-on gardening, so I had this at the top of my list of considerations. I knew that I’d need to create something that looked great whether it was maintained weekly or just every couple of months.

    They were on a strict budget, £3500 for all the renovation work which meant the Garden Ninja had to be very creative in the design to ensure the requirements could be met. Anyone who knows me knows that Garden Ninja loves a challenge!

    After the makeover

    After an initial consultation highlighting the requirements, I designed a mood board to provide some inspiration for the garden design. I also undertook a site survey to get the measurements of the garden, window sizes and access requirements. Both of these design tools are vital for successful garden design. The mood board helps clarify and condense the styles and planting ideas so that the client and designer are on the same page. The survey allows you to successfully proportion the garden whilst also allowing you to estimate building material and plant quantities.

    Garden Ninja hands-on with this garden makeover

    A large part of the work was clearing the site of existing shrubs and some really thuggish ivy that had damaged fence panels. It took a full day to remove this carefully, replace fence panels and repair other parts.

    The Design

    I wanted to create a garden that was more than a one-hit wonder. So I know I needed to break the line of view from the house, even in this small space and provide some intrigue! To do this I created an area near the back of the garden, where the sun predominantly lays to create a seating area. This would be partly restricted by the shed preventing some of the neighbours from overlooking you when seated. By using the shed I could achieve two purposes; one as a screen and the other as storage.

    There was wasted space behind the ugly unloved shed and when I investigated the aspect, this was to locate where most of the sun was throughout the day. The client said she loved purples and pinks but hated yellows. Interior designers will know that yellow is a perfect contrast colour for purple. So I took the client through some examples of purple contrasting with yellow, Lysmachia ‘Firecracker’ is one of my all-time favourite perennials for both height and drama, and asked her for a small leap of faith with some of the planting colour scheme.

    small garden makeover

    The proposed design was to move the shed and rotate it 180 degrees. Rather than try and hide it I decided that we should make a feature of it using a vintage cream and pastel green colour scheme. I handcrafted some window surrounds, door framing and fascia boards for the shed to make it look more like a summer house. This work took quite a while to achieve and in some cases, it’s better to buy a new shed than renovating an old one given the costs.

    Small Garden Makeover CAD 2 Garden Ninja

    I also extended the terrace to create a seating area for a suntrap. I then created a series of bespoke wooden handcrafted raised beds. These garden raised beds were planted up with low maintenance herbs, such as Lavandula pedunculata and Hebes. Using the purple and dusky pink colour palette this contrasted perfectly with the creme to create that contemporary but relaxed look. I took inspiration from the existing Acer and used a number of Sambucus nigra to provide a block purple and dark red. This also gave the garden some height due to their potential size.

    Raised bed

    Using Armeria maritima (Thift) I created a block of plant edging for the new terrace. This contrasts perfectly with the rest of the border and will really bring the focus to that end of the garden.

    Dusk in the new small garden makeover

    Price Guide of Small garden Design

    This garden took the Garden Ninja a week to install after the plans and designs were finalised. The cost for this type of garden is £3500. This estimated cost included the design, plans, contractors, landscaping, materials, topsoil, raised beds, plants and planting. If you were to use more mature planting then the cost would increase. Why not have a look at these three other small garden redesigns for more inspiration?

    Overlooked Garden Design

    Family Garden Transformation

    Formal Front Garden Makeover

    Do you have a garden that’s crying out for a makeover? Why not get in touch with the Garden Ninja!

    Ariel view of the new configuration using plants that will establish over time

    Have you got a small garden you need help with? If so why not TweetFacebook or Instagram me with your pictures! You can also follow me on Youtube where I’ve got plenty of garden guide vlogs.

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