How to deal with a small awkward shaped garden – Case study

Not all gardens are the perfect square or rectangle, sometimes they are an awkward and odd shape. Don’t let that put you off though. There’s some really simple steps you can take to transform any awkward shape garden into a beautiful one.


Step 1

The 1st thing you need to do with any awkward shape of garden is to find a way to disguise the awkward angles.

Circles are fabulous at making small spaces look larger, and they also make you focus on the shape of the circle, not the shape of the garden.

Basically, your job is to disguise that angle in any way you can. So, you can see from our case study garden below, your eyes are focusing on circular shapes and the intricate paving detail and the planting fills in the rest of the area and hides the awkward shape of the garden.


Step 2Pergola

Adding in a vertical element like a pergola or arch is also a good way to help take the eye off any awkward angles. The use of strategically placed focal points like an urn or statue, will also help take your eyes away from any awkward angles.

Step 3

The most vital part of using clearly defined shapes is that they must be lined up with the house and not the angle. Now obviously for circles, it doesn’t matter, but if you use any straight lines, then make sure they are at a 90° angle to the house, and whatever you do don’t follow the angle of the fence or wall as that will accentuate the problem.

The garden featured above was on a slope, and by creating different levels and terracing it, the raised retaining timber wall around the circles added interest with the height and also accentuated the circle more, by taking the eyes further away from the angled corners.


Need help with your small space garden?

If you’d like to learn more about the exact steps involved with making a small garden look larger and more interesting then take a look at the Small Garden Formula course at



About Rachel Mathews

Professional international garden designer for over 20 years. My mission is to de-mystify garden design and make it easy for people to successfully design their own garden - without needing to spend a fortune!


  1. hi Rachel, my garden is a long oblong shape which slopes, only gently but still it’s there! I just wondered if you could give me any ideas as to how I could do something to disgising the fact that it does slope? I really don’t want to have to dig it all over to try and level it, I did think about pulling the sides in half way down almost like two circles joined to draw the eye from looking straight down the garden …… I would really appreciate your comments.

    Kind Regards

    Karen (France)

    • Hi Karen,

      Great question – well, it will all depend on how much it slopes as to how easy it is to disguise. If it doesn’t slope that much then using circle and curved shapes for the lawn areas will help draw the eye, as you said. Or you can level out the lawn areas and have the sides where the plants are sloped. That way you don’t have level the entire garden and the plants will hide the slope.

      Does that help?

      Best wishes


  2. I enjoy reading your emails about garden design. I am a Washington native plant steward and find your ideas and designs very amenable to our native plants. Natives are the best choice if you want to attract birds and pollinates to a garden.

    • Hi Rita,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m so pleased that you are able to find the design tips useful for nature gardens. They can definitely be used for native plants, which as you say, are much better for getting birds and pollinators into the garden. I’m not often asked to do that style of garden by clients so don’t have many examples on the website, but definitely something that I love to see done.

Leave a Reply

Every business has got to have one these days, so here it is - Disclaimer: Please note, the information contained on this website is for educational purposes only. Every attempt has been made to provide accurate, up-to-date, reliable, and complete information. No warranties of any kind are expressed or implied. Readers acknowledge that the author is not engaging in rendering professional advice. By reading this website, the reader agrees that under no circumstances is the author responsible for any losses, direct or indirect, that are incurred as a result of use of the information contained within this website or related downloads, accompanying videos, or other supplementary materials. This includes but is not limited to errors, omissions, or inaccuracies. The material contained on this website is not meant to be a substitute for formal training nor a replacement for professional training or services. Please note some of the links on the site go to affiliate websites where a small commission is earned if you purchase. Please do your due diligence on all linked to products before buying.   Find Rachel on Google+
Google+ Google