My Journal

Design tips for small gardens

Design tips for small gardens, informative blog by Katie Rushworth

During my time as a professional gardener, I’ve had the privilege of visiting a huge range of gardens to offer design insight. Whether it’s a sprawling country garden or a modest yard space, my favourite gardens to work on are the ones that truly reflect their owners.

Having a smaller garden or even a yard doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy beautiful, personal garden design. I’m often asked to share my design tips for smaller gardens and even balconies, so I thought I’d pull together some thoughts in this article!Small garden design tips from Katie Rushworth

In need of some ideas for your garden space? Perhaps a virtual Zoom garden consultation with me would help get that inspiration flowing! Book your Zoom garden consultation here.

Make it functional

Even the tiniest yard or balcony is an important piece of outdoor space for your home. Having a space that’s yours for you to get some fresh air and natural light has lots of benefits. So, starting with the basics – make your outdoor space functional. It doesn’t have to be a full-on makeover! At the very least, plonking a couple of garden chairs outside gives you a space to enjoy the air and read a book. If there’s a space that gets sunshine, could you pop some pots there for growing herbs or plants? Is there space for a small bistro table to enjoy an alfresco meal?

Link the indoors and outdoors

Your garden should feel like an extension of your home. With a couple of design tips and tricks you can create a really welcoming and attractive space – no matter the size.

Colour scheme

You make decisions about how to decorate the inside of your home, so why not the outside too? By choosing elements of your home design in your garden or balcony design you can create a really nice flow between indoors and out. This could be by choosing accessories like candle holders, textiles and ornaments that tie in with your colour scheme, or of course by painting or staining furniture and surfaces. If you choose to paint your fence or external masonry, lighter shades and pastels will help to keep it feeling spacious. A grey or dark wood stain will make any greenery in front of it really pop!

Create privacyCreating privacy using screens for small gardens by Katie Rushworth

Just like inside your home, we benefit from a bit of privacy in our outdoor space. If you have a balcony with glass fencing or a garden with a low fence, adding ornamental or bamboo panelling looks wonderful and also gives you a bit of extra privacy. If you’re feeling fancy, you could even create a living panel of climbing plants! Screening can also be used to this effect to section off areas of your garden, for example creating a hidden seating space in a peaceful corner.


Just as you may like to get the mood inside your home just right with lamps and candles, you can bring cosiness, life and warmth to your small outdoor space with lighting. It doesn’t need to be a fussy electrical project – there are lots of solar-powered, LED lights available. These can be easily attached to fences and walls or staked into the soil of beds or pots. Invest in a couple of coloured glass candle holders or metal lanterns, or repurpose some kitchen jars as candle holders for cosy evenings outdoors.

Use height – reach for the sky!

If you’re short on floor space, don’t be disheartened! There’s no need to skimp on your planting scheme. By bringing your planting upwards you can make the most of your space and add colour and interest. Climbing plants like clematis and roses look beautiful winding up a wall-mounted trellis and will draw the eye upwards, towards the sky.

You can also find excellent garden shelving units like plant theatres and living walls, pre-made and ready for you to plant out your chosen greenery or simply place potted plants on. These can be freestanding or wall-mounted, and they’re a great way to bring life and dimension to your space. If you’re handy, you could even create your own garden shelving. There are some excellent tutorials out there on creating your own living wall planter out of those design stalwarts – pallets!

Planting in containers

Having a gorgeous garden with plenty of plant life, colours and texture isn’t the privilege of those with a big, sweeping plot! In fact, you don’t even need flowerbeds.Container planting for small gardens by Katie Rushworth

A tiled balcony or paved yard can be transformed by bold container planting. Choose a mix of colourful flowering and structured leafy plants of different heights to add interest. You can even experiment with plant stands for height, and unique planters like repurposed household containers. Don’t be shy!

You can even grow produce, regardless of how much space you have. Lots of fruit, vegetables and herbs will grow happily in containers – read my beginner’s guide to growing veg here.

Remember, sometimes the best things really do come in small packages! Katie x


Katie's expertise is transforming clients' gardens with their video calls and garden visits...