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  • Andrew Christopher Dunne

Who says size matters?

Who says size matters?

Over the past 16 years I have been lucky enough to have designed gardens of all shapes and sizes, from tiny balconies in Dublin’s City centre to ten acre gardens hidden away in the country. Each garden presents its own challenges. However it is a common misconception that you need endless space to have a really great garden. Personally I love working in smaller gardens because your budget goes a lot further and any money you do spend in the space is immediately visible. Unlike larger gardens that can swallow up thousands of Euro before you see any of the finished results.

It has often been said to me, ‘nothing can be done with my garden, it is way to small’. But this simply couldn't be further from the truth. Yes they create some challenging design issues, but with some creative solutions and a little imagination any space no matter how compact and bijou can be transformed into a truly beautiful garden.

There are so many things to be considered when designing a garden when space is tight, infact what you need to consider is everything. Furniture, planting, washing lines, bins and storage will all be competing for space, so it is important to truly plan out every single square foot of the space to maximise it’s potential.

Firstly consider the floor space of the area. Be wary of making the garden look even smaller by trying to cram too many features into the one space. If there is only space for a tiny lawn then maybe you would be better off having no lawn and paving or decking the entire area. Having some sort of change of level, no matter how small will make the garden seem more three dimensional and subsequently bigger. Remember you may not have much floor space but you own all the way up to the clouds so make use of your vertical planes. Don’t just see your walls as the boundaries holding you in, instead include them in your design by planting up them or placing mirrors or outdoor photographs on them. Simply painting the walls a lighter colour will reflect light back into the garden and make the space seem bigger.

One of the biggest mistakes I see people make in small gardens is with the planting. When space is limited it is only a natural reaction to put everything into pots and have lots of small plants dotted all over the place. This has the effect of making the garden seem cluttered and busy. Instead of lots of small plants dotted everywhere try planting just a small number of large plants, Bamboos and Palms. This will have a far more dramatic effect and will be much easier to maintain.

The design and position of your furniture is also crucial to the success of the scheme. Benches are great as you can often plant under them. They can even be built into flower beds and walls to create more open space. In fact a simple cushion placed on the wall of a raised bed acts a an instant low cost seating area surrounded by plants... Perfect! Square tables and chairs will also take up less space than round ones and always consider if the chairs can push neatly underneath them when not in use. As for storage, it is never a good idea to try to hide a shed in a small garden, instead include it as part of the design and paint it up or customise it with a bit of planting to include it as a feature in your scheme.

There are simply thousands of ways to tackle small gardens. Just remember to open your mind and let your imagination go wild.

Top tips for the spaciously challenged:

Use large mirrors on the walls to double the size of your garden.

Plant everywhere, under benches, on top of walls on the roof of your shed.

Create height, use raised beds and tall planting to add depth to the scheme.

Add light, Candles, spot lights and lanterns will make the garden stunning at night.

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