Top tips to help you enjoy every corner of your outdoors space
Compact spaces, such as small gardens or courtyards, are perfect for home improvement projects as you can make a massive impact in very little time. While a small garden requires some planning, with a bit of focus you can easily maximise your space to create the outdoors experience you want. And with the right choice of design, as well as a few nifty tricks, you can both make your small space an intimate haven and create the illusion that it’s bigger than it is. Read on to find out how.
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Before you begin
What will you be using your garden or courtyard for?
It's important to consider how you're going to use your small garden or courtyard. Nothing need be completely unachievable however limited your space. For example, you can create an area of tranquillity in a small, urban area with an abundance of plants and a small pond to encourage wildlife. So be sure to know what you want to use your garden for and draw up a wishlist of priorities.
Additionally, don't forget to think about what kind of space will suit the style of your home. A cottage garden could contrast sharply with a modern house in the heart of a bustling city. This distinction might be just the look you're going for, but it's critical to understand what would complement and what might clash.
Likewise, there's the issue of maintenance. Some designs require more upkeep than others, so be realistic with how much time you can devote to this. And don't worry if it's not that much - we have stylish garden options to suit all schedules.
What are the conditions of your garden or courtyard?
Before you begin planning, pay attention to how much light your space gets throughout the day – smaller gardens can often be shady due to nearby walls or fencing. The amount of light and moisture are important elements when it comes to planting as well as erecting structures.
In inner cities, the outside space can occasionally be slightly removed from the property – separated by an alley or walkway. If this is the case, make the most of the entrance with an inviting archway or pergola. Encourage plants to grow up and over to create the feeling of stepping into an oasis. Or maybe add some paving or stepping stones to your lawn to create an attractive pathway.
Are you able to look down into your garden? If so, remember that how it looks from above is just as important as its ground level view. Choosing a symmetrical design is a great way to do this, as is creating a central focal point with a bird bath or some neatly configured paving.
With limited space, you’ll probably have to be ruthless about what you include and what you leave out: careful planning is even more important in a small garden than a big one.
Start by drawing out the shape and boundaries of the plot, and then try out different designs to see what options can be included, such as a patio, decking or small shed. Different areas could help make the space feel bigger, so look to split out what you want to do in your garden or courtyard and establish distinct sections for them. And remember to use all available height. Plants can be grown up along walls or trellis, as well as in raised beds – leaving more floor space for everything else.
Before you start working in your space, discuss the plans with your neighbours. This is especially important if you want to do anything that they will be able to see from their garden, or you want to grow plants up walls that may border their property.
Style and design
Small gardens can often be boxed in by walls and fences - and if you don't own these boundaries it can seem like your options are limited. For a quick fix, add extra appeal with some screening. Simply secure it in front of your existing fence or wall as an easy and effective way to disguise disintegrating or damaged panels and brickwork. And why not attach some trellis and encourage plants to grow up it? This will add height and create the illusion of depth, making it appear that your garden is bigger than it actually is.
When it comes to structures and storage, don’t feel as though a smaller space has to go without. It’s particularly important to prevent clutter in a small garden and we have a wide range of storage solutions to suit even the most limited of spaces. Choose from compact sheds, storage boxes, outdoor shelving units and even double up with a storage bench.Shop screening and trellis Shop sheds Shop garden storage
When thinking about the landscape of your garden, there are a number of top options - paving, decking and grass. For smaller gardens, there’s not always room to have all or more than one of them, so pick the best combination or single solution for you and your lifestyle.
For those that are short on time, paving is a low-maintenance choice, while decking is softer underfoot and can be easily refreshed with a new lick of exterior paint. Both can be laid in attractive patterns, but smaller spaces suit straight lines. These emphasise proportions in whatever direction they’re going in: being laid lengthwise will seem to elongate the area, whereas laid width wise they widen it. This makes either option an appealing choice for smaller gardens.
Like decking, grass provides a more cushioned surface, while also offering greenery all year round and an amazing smell when cut. It does require a degree of maintenance, as well as tools which will require storage. If you can’t bear the thought of no lawn, but aren’t sure that you have the time to maintain it, artificial grass could be the answer. It offers the look of real grass without any of the upkeep. Or check out our decking range with a layer of artificial grass, so you can create the appearance of a green oasis even if your whole space is covered with decking.
If you’re exploring the idea of a water feature, raised pools surrounded by paving are ideal for small spaces and patios, especially those bordered by high fences or walls as the reflected light will make the space feel larger. Why not line the bottom of a shallow pool with pebbles or a mosaic design for a striking look? Or if you want your pool to reflect the sky, clouds or any plants hanging over it, use a black pool liner or a mirror at the bottom to create a stunning effect.
Remember if considering any kind of water feature, to keep children supervised and safe at all times once installed.Shop decking Shop paving
Smaller gardens don’t always have the luxury of storage options for outdoor furniture when not in use, so if you’re thinking of getting a bistro set, pick a metal or rattan effect option that will be able to withstand the elements. If storage isn't a concern, wood is a great option and we offer hardwood, teak and painted wood ranges for a natural, classic look. With all outdoors furniture, we recommend protecting with furniture covers and cleaning with suitable products to get the best from it year after year.
If you fancy an alternative to outdoor dining sets, explore our other choices. Picnic benches and love seats combine a table with seating to create one, single piece of furniture for extra space efficiency. Park benches lend courtyards the feel of a Mediterranean plaza on sunny days and placing two opposite one other creates a balance and symmetry to your garden design. While a garden arbour offers a comfortable shady spot without the need for a separate parasol.Shop garden furniture Shop garden arbours
Don't let the fun fade with the setting sun with garden lighting. Wall lanterns are a simple way to illuminate your entire garden without taking up any floor space, and our selection features both traditional and contemporary styles to suit all looks.
Alternatively, if you'd prefer to only illuminate certain spaces, think about string and table lights. String lights (also known as party lights), are versatile, fun and can be wrapped around parasols, fences and more. Table lights are portable, available as either battery or solar powered and make a great centrepiece to outdoor dining tables.Shop outdoor lights
Charcoal barbecues are the most compact choice – making them ideal for smaller gardens and storing when not in use. They offer the authentic chargrilled taste and are a great budget option. Look for models with wheels so that it can be moved away from plants when in use, and easily manoeuvred into a corner when you’re finished.
Or enjoy the benefits of a portable BBQ with the cooking ability of a gas one thanks to the Weber Q1000 Barbecue. This innovative BBQ has one burner and so quickly cooks the food but takes up little space - a clever combination guaranteed to make light work of al fresco dining.Shop barbecues
Pots and planters
An easy way to add some greenery to a courtyard, our pots and planters are available in a wide range of materials, colours and sizes to complement every style of garden. We advise being as consistent as possible throughout your garden with your chosen look. This creates a seamless, polished feel, whereas mixing and matching too many colours or styles can make the small space look cluttered and overly busy.
Consider raised beds as another way to introduce a splash of floral colour. These make best use of all available space and the height adds drama and interest. Remember to consider the height of the plants you want to grow in them before you start, and sow them accordingly.Shop pots and planters
Coordinate everything from structures to decking with exterior paints, stains and varnishes. Suitable for use on wood, metal and masonry, our range allows you to both personalise your space and protect the surfaces from the damaging effects of the weather. We recommend choosing shades that complement one another for a unified look - great for creating balance in a small space.
And finish everything off with hanging garden ornaments. Specially designed to withstand life outdoors, our range includes such favourites as wind chimes that add an air of peace and tranquillity.Shop exterior paints, stains and varnishes Shop garden ornaments
Trees and shrubs
Trees are easily possible even in small gardens, with plenty of trees suitable for growing in pots. And certain types can be managed to a small size by regular hard-pruning. Check the tree's provided care label for further advice.
With trees, shrubs can help form the framework of your garden. They're easy to care for and can provide interest all year long. Look for shrubs that can do everything including flower, produce berries and grow attractive foliage. A versatile garden staple, they can also help shelter and feed all sorts of wildlife. Consider using shrubs at the edges of beds and borders. Or for a slightly more formal look, add shaped shrubs to make an interesting focal point in your garden or courtyard.
Who says plants and paving don’t go together? We love this quirky combination of the practical and the pretty and it's easy to do. Simply add flowers to spaces within the paving. Fill these gaps with compost and grit before planting something like creeping thyme, finished off with some decorative gravel. And you won’t have to avoid this area entirely either – you can occasionally place a table and chairs over this section for entertaining. Just be sure that nothing rests on the planted area and remember to remove the table when you’re done so the plants can get sunlight.
For more traditional flowering, make the most of pots and planters and any small beds and borders. And add a vertical element to your garden with climbers on fences and trellises - a great way to pack in as much flower power as possible.Shop all plants