6 Tips for Turning Small Gardens into Spacious Havens

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With the warmer season upon us, it’s time to reappraise our gardens and start spending more time outside. After all, our gardens have taken on a special significance across the turbulence and outright strangeness of 2020. They’ve become places of refuge, relaxation, and socially-distanced meetings. They’ve replaced our favorite parks and pubs, and they’ve allowed us to continue our relationship with the natural world when heading outside simply hasn’t been possible or advisable. They have, in the purest sense, become a whole lot more precious and essential, and that shouldn’t change once we leave the issues of 2020 behind us.

Covered patio area with outside chairs in the backyard garden. House exterior. Northwest, USA

If you’re fortunate enough to already benefit from a large and spacious garden, then I’m sorry, but this article isn’t for you. However, for the vast majority of us who have outdoor spaces that tend to be on the smaller, more compact, and intimate side of the scale, it’s always worth considering how our gardens can be maximized and given the attention they deserve.

Not only can a well-spaced and managed garden boost the value of your property, but it can also help you enjoy and take better advantage of a fundamental aspect of your home. With that in mind, let’s take a look at six simple tips for transforming your petite garden into an area that feels and looks both spacious and pleasant to spend time in, and which offers more opportunities for relaxation and enjoyment.

A small urban environmental Eco garden with a vertical living plant wall

Thinking Outside the Box

Before we dive into our six tips for increasing your small garden space and establishing your own private backyard haven, let’s consider just how important it is to think outside the box when it comes to reimagining aspects of our homes. All too often, we find ourselves settling into something of a rut when it comes to both our interior and outdoor spaces. Perhaps we’ve become highly accustomed to a particular layout and struggle to imagine it any other way, or have convinced ourselves that fundamentally transforming a part of our home would be too expensive, too time-consuming, or too difficult.

The truth is, as countless professional and amateur home improvements enthusiasts alike will testify, that more often than not, the process isn’t anywhere near as difficult as it might seem in our imaginations. Indeed, it’s often simply a matter of starting to move some items around, looking at the space from a new perspective, or removing everything and starting afresh… and before you know it, you’ve entirely recreated a part of your home, and have made it ready to fall in love with all over again!

When it comes to gardens, you probably aren’t going to be able to conjure several square meters of space out of thin air. However, what you can do is create the illusion of space, do away with clutter, or change the layout of your garden to make better use of the space available.

So, think outside the box, use your imagination, and go forth to create your outdoor haven!

Playground in the form of a chessboard with a small pool

Claim What’s Yours

If creating considerably more space in your garden is right at the very top of your list of priorities, it might be worthwhile taking a closer look at your property deeds (or, if you’re renting and looking to improve your outdoor areas, having a chat with your landlord about the property deeds).

So many properties actually have more outdoor space to claim as their own, without the owners necessarily realizing what’s rightfully theirs. For example, if there’s a shared space or a back lane at the end of your garden, it’s possible – even likely – that you can take down your garden wall or fence, and extend your garden into the section of lane onto which it leads. Furthermore, previous owners of your house may have established a fence or wall further into your garden than is stated in your boundaries, meaning you’re perfectly entitled to reclaim the lost space.

Even a small boundary movement of fifty centimeters can dramatically alter the appearance and spaciousness of a small garden, allowing you a greater area in which to construct your private haven.

Shanghai, China – April 15, 2019: Very old Bonsai tree in Shangai Botanical gardens in Shangai, China, Asia

Moments of Reflection

Mirrors have been used to create the illusion of space, and to increase the amount of light in a space, for centuries. There’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t bring mirrors into areas of your garden to benefit from their space-creating abilities – be it a small set of mirrors nestled into a flower bed or rockery, a full-length mirror attached to a garden wall, or even a wall or mirrors extending along the fence.

Coupled with elegant garden lighting, carefully selected and placed mirrors can truly introduce an element of magic into your outdoor space, reflecting key features and extending their visual depth.

Lush green garden with stone landscaping, hedge, path, and bench

Trim, Prune, and Remove the Bulk

This may sound like an obvious point, but it’s one worthy of emphasis. All too many gardens feature over-heavy or overgrown bushes which, while they might look attractive and lustrous, are more than likely taking up far more space than they should. As such, it’s important to remove their bulkiness and weight and keep them trimmed down as much as you can.

Bushes and shrubs are typically used to establish garden borders or to cover up blank areas of the wall, which might not be especially attractive when left bare. However, that’s no reason to let them take over your precious and limited garden space; train some climbing plants instead, commission a mural for your garden wall (or get creative with the paints yourself), or use lighting to beautify the area instead.

Garden design in autumn colors with a natural walkway made of rope

Upward Ambitions

If you’re on the lookout for ways to create more ground or lawn space in your garden, you could consider taking a leaf of inspiration from the contemporary gardens of Asian urban spaces like Singapore, Hong Kong, and Kyoto. In such areas, vertical gardens have become hugely popular; they remove the need for borders around the edges of the garden, allowing them to be filled in with more grassy areas to enjoy.

Living walls – vertical structures covered with lustrous greenery and climbers – never fail to make an impressive impact in a garden, and provide highly Insta-friendly backdrops for your garden parties. Equally, impactful are hanging baskets, strung at different heights, which lend a sense of depth and perspective, which enlarges the garden space.

Lush green garden with stone landscaping, flowers, and arbor

Create Dedicated Zones

The best gardens, no matter their size, are a reflection of their owner’s personality. Your personality – just like everyone else’s – is multi-faceted, and made up of different aspects of who you are and what makes you unique. As such, your garden can and should be able to demonstrate this truth via separate and distinct zones which amplify bliss and well-being.

On the one hand, you could do this in a purely practical manner, for example, by having a dedicated zone in your garden for growing herbs, another for flower beds, and another for sunbathing or reading. On the other, you could let your imagination run free: you could establish a meditation corner, resplendent with wind chimes and crystals, a light-feature zone, a hammock nook; the possibilities are endless! Having distinctive zones, even tiny ones, in your outdoor space immediately makes the garden feel larger and freer and heightens your enjoyment while broadening its potential for use.

Consider your Furniture

Lastly, yet crucially, take a moment to reconsider what your garden furniture does for your smaller outdoor space. All too often, we see small gardens cluttered with unnecessary furniture items (in which case, consider getting rid of them or donating them), or overwhelmed by pieces of furniture that are simply too large to justify being there.

Think carefully about the dedicated zones in your garden, and meditate upon what they are used for and what they need. In smaller areas, less really is more, and a brutally honest clear-out is occasionally the best way forward for both a more blissful garden design and a garden that feels and looks more spacious.

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