Small Garden Design – Learn 5 Simple Tricks Professional Designers Use

Small gardens can easily be transformed into amazing spaces if you know a few of the tricks professional garden designers use.

People often assume that having a really small garden is a negative thing, but I will show you how to turn it into positive. Small gardens take on more of a room type of appearance which allows you to get more creative with how you landscape the space.

Trick 1: Shape – The Most Important Part to get Right

The first thing you need to do with any small garden is to make it look larger and more interesting. The more you can do this, the better your garden will look.

The key to any successful garden design is in the shapes you create within the garden. It doesn’t matter what shape you begin with, it’s how you shape the open spaces – i.e. the lawn and patio areas – that makes all the difference. With a small garden, you need to take a little bit of extra care to make sure the shapes you create make the most of the available space in your garden.

If you have a square shaped garden, one of the quickest ways to make it look larger is to use circular shapes. A circular lawn with a semicircle of patio cutting through it adds interest and leads the eye around the garden which will make it look larger than it really is.

Trick 2: Get The Right Proportions

In bigger gardens, a general rule is to have approximately three-quarters open space (lawn and patio) to one-quarter mass (planting and any upright features). In smaller gardens, however, the open areas need to be a little bit larger. Plants, by their very nature, like to spread out and grow. This will mean that any area of space, like a lawn or patio, will decrease in size as the plants grow, which is why it is vital to give them less space at the outset to achieve the right balance.

Trick 3: The Perspective Cheat

If you have room for more than one shape, like a circle, another very effective trick is to accentuate the perspective of the garden. Basically speaking, if you have two circles together as your lawn shape, make the circle closest to the house the largest and the circle furthest away smaller. This will emphasize the perspective and make the garden look longer than it really is.

Trick 4: Hide And Seek

Not allowing the whole garden to be seen in one go is a very effective way to make a garden look larger than it really is. Your mind will imagine there to be more garden beyond what can be seen. Now that may seem impossible if your garden is really tiny but just having a border jut out in the right place creates a visual block that steers where and how you view the garden.

Trick 5: Choosing The Right Materials Is Critical In A Small Garden

Pay particular attention to the materials that you choose for your garden. Make sure paving, tiles and decking are smaller sizes. Seeing a lot of one element tricks the eye into thinking the quantity means it’s a larger space. If you use really large paving slabs it will have the opposite effect and it will make your garden feel really tiny.

Also take into account the direction that you lay the paving or decking in. If your garden is very narrow, it’s a good idea to have the lines of the paving or decking running from side to side, thus making the space look wider. If you need to make your garden look longer, then make sure the paving and decking lines run from top to bottom. Our eyes naturally follow lines, so this is a very useful trick.

Transform Your Garden Now!

So go and grab a sheet of paper, measure your garden and plot it on paper. Unless you measure your garden first, you won’t be able to create an accurate plan – critical for a good design.

Once you have a rough outline sketch of your garden, begin to draw shapes like interlocking circles and squares in the center of your garden. It is important to start with basic shapes and get those right before you start to embellish with features and plants. Design is all about shape and not plants, as most people believe!

Want more information on how to create the garden of your dreams? Learn about the Small Garden Formula, where you’ll be taken through the entire process of how to design a stunning small space garden.


  1. I have bought a new build house with a square plot for back garden which is westerley facing. All fenced and turfed. Any design ideas…..i would like two seating areas and a gazebo in a corner. Also a small water feature.

  2. Angie Epps says:

    Hi Sue.. I am your neighbour at number 27 and we have a pile of earth out back too.. We are in dire need of ideas for a small garden too..

  3. Hi Sue & Angie, sorry for the delay in replying – for some reason I'm not getting notifications when there are FB messages. Anyway, I do have several blog posts that give lots of suggestions for small gardens

    Of if you prefer step-by-step instructions then check out the Small Garden Formula

    Hope that helps – let me know if you have any specific questions that aren't answered in the blog posts.

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