Small Garden Case Study – Hilary’s garden

In the beginning…Hilary-gdn-BEFORE

Our garden is part of a brand new property on a brand new estate of houses. As part of the purchase the garden was turfed and had an L shape of paving/patio.

It was essentially a blank canvas for us to bring our personality to it, which you think would make the design process easy but it is also means that you don’t have a great deal to work with.

The house and garden aren’t overlooked but we are surrounded with other new build gardens and there are no established trees with no greenery. In fact, it has taken until now for the garden to begin to attract birds – an unexpected and welcome plus of the new garden.

I have no garden design experience and have never really been attracted to gardening being always busy with other things. 

I was attracted to the Small Garden Formula course because it gave me the opportunity to gain more knowledge of the principles of garden design, even if we might ultimately decide on getting a designer to help – which we didn’t need to.

It gave me much control of the process, allowed me to do it in our timescale and ponder over a few weeks different designs.

The importance of sleep and the design process..!

SMALL-GARDEN-CONCEPT-PLANSSleeping on a design and laying it out in the garden and then sleeping on it again is really helpful.

Overall it was fun to do and now knowing that I can say it was my design is something I am very proud of. Especially when you share with professional landscape gardeners when we gathered quotes for the work and getting feedback on their view that it was a great design.

Would they have told me it was rubbish? Maybe not directly but they might have made suggestions like ‘perhaps you might think of doing this… instead’ and that didn’t happen.

The BIGGEST lessons

I learned that it is possible to fit lots in a small garden and create your own personalised space which reflects who we are and what we want to use the garden for.

I learned about how you create space through giving the eye different views and direction around the garden, creating different spaces within the garden.

We have 3 different spaces which have an underpinning design of overlapping squares – and how to create connectivity through reflecting/mirroring materials in different parts of the garden.


At this point, I can’t remember what I picked up from where because the course did encourage me to scour the internet for other peoples ideas and steals the parts that we liked and wanted to incorporate.


I have also learned to be more confident about heading into a garden centre and choosing plants but have sought help from friends around that but now know that we have the design in place and can play with the plants to add to it.

We’re looking forward to the whole maturing, and us watching it do so!

Many thanks to Hilary and her husband Andy for sharing their garden design process and results with us.

I hope you keep us posted as the garden matures – it’s lovely to see them again once the plants have grown…

If you’ve been inspired to tackle your small garden, check out the Small Garden Formula course at

Do leave your comments or questions about Hilary and Andy’s garden in the comment boxes below…



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. Wow great job!!! Congratulations!!

  2. It looks great! Congratulations!

  3. Thank you Ingrid 🙂 I am glad you liked the design.

  4. Thank you so much, Carla 🙂

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