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How to Make the Most of a Small Garden

Calling all those with small gardens. This post is for you. (And even if you have acres of space, there are some really fabulous photos to drool over.)

What’s your garden like? Mine is tiny (and currently in need of a good prune). But in the summer it’s fragrant and green and a space we all love: we throw open the French doors and treat it like another room. Which is what – we’re told – gardens should be. Particularly small gardens like this one right here.

When garden designer Joanna Archer first set eyes on this project in London, it looked, well, rather sad. Like this, in fact…

It certainly wasn’t luxurious, inviting – or uplifting. Which happen to be (how convenient) the three words Joanna uses to sum it up now. And rightly so. It’s so gorgeous I want to step right in and have a glass of wine in the sunshine.

See more of Joanna’s work here and follow her on Instagram @joannaarchergardendesign

Joanna, before you got your hands on it the garden looked pretty woebegone – but what were its strong points?

Its strong points were the pretty arched windows that looked out on to the garden. The back fence is south facing so the view from the house could be filled with brightly coloured perennial planting. The garden was dark, overgrown and derelict which actually gave me a completely blank canvas – another strong point!

Who was the client?

The client is a television producer with a keen eye for design. Her home is filled with art and antiques and she loves bold colours. She wanted an entertaining space (we’ve included subtle lighting that illuminates the Magnolia trees and festoon lighting for parties) but also somewhere to relax and read (scripts!).

What was the original brief? Did the owner have a very clear idea about what they wanted beforehand, or something vague which you developed into a fully-formed concept?

The client asked me to include Moroccan tiles and a mirror but apart from these pointers, her brief was very open.

What was your Pinterest board? 

I went straight to Moroccan tiles! Bert & May have so many encaustic tiles in beautiful colours. In the end we chose green and white tiles and let the pink/orange flowers take centre stage. But I looked at lots of Mediterranean courtyards for inspiration.

How big is the garden? What tricks did you use to make it look bigger?

The garden is 4.3 metres wide by 5.8 metres. And I used many tricks! Very tall trees (makes garden appear much larger). Pale paving (to reflect the light). Horizontal slatted trellis (makes garden appear longer). A gigantic mirror..

And the planting? What plants did you choose and why?

The planting on the south side is just a few species repeated over and over again for maximum impact. Long flowering perennials with a mix of flower shapes; flat topped Achillea ‘Terracotta’, the spires of Salvia ‘Rose Queen’ and round flowers of the Geranium ‘Wargrave Pink’ create a dynamic planting palette. There is lots of evergreen structure for year round interest. Trachelospermum jasminoides is a designer’s favourite climber as it’s a scented, evergreen jasmine (as you know from your garden arch…!). The Magnolia grandiflora pleached trees are also evergreen.

You’ve used a mirror to create the impression of more space – what are your top tips for using mirrors in small gardens? If a vast one is out of budget – what smaller ones would you recommend?

I’ve recently used a pretty loft style mirror from Nordic House in a small family garden. It’s important to consider what the mirror is reflecting. If it’s a pile of garden tools, a rusty BBQ and a washing line you probably don’t want to see ‘double’ that..

Top 5 tips for small gardens please!

1. Maximise the illusion of space by planting UP. Tall trees, billowing climbers, large leaved architectural shrubs all make the space feel bigger.

2. Keep it simple. Use a maximum of 3 different hard landscaping materials.

3.Repeat repeat repeat. You don’t need to select one of every plant in the garden centre. Write a plant list of your favourites, then halve it! Possibly halve it again…

4. Make sure at least a third of the planting is evergreen.

5. If budget allows, consider upgrading your garden furniture.

The Design

The Pinterest Board

 

 

 

The Result

Images courtesy of Joanna Archer; photography by Annaick Guitteny Photography (Instagram: @aguittenyphoto). 
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1 Comment

  • Reply
    Eleanor O'Neill
    March 28, 2018 at 12:03 pm

    Oh what a lovely post to see – love the before and after pics too. The wild looking flowers are gorgeous – and all in my fave colours! We turned out yard into a small shed because we needed it for storage and it’s north facing anyway but we put a shallow layer of soil on the flat roof and planted lots of succulents and sedums and it looks really nice now. Whenever we see something pretty growing out of a wall (or drainpipe…) we take a bit ad plant it on the roof 🙂

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