Small garden ideas

Small space gardens need not be uninspiring and mundane, writes landscape designer GOPIKA S.

Reading Time: 3 minutes


With land size shrinking, big houses with small garden spaces are becoming commonplace. This means the scope of landscape design cannot be elaborate – it must be succinct. If you have bought a house in a new development area and are clueless about working within a small space, then this article could help you create functional and aesthetic space.

Remember, small space gardens do have a major advantage: they require less maintenance if planned and executed well, saving time and energy.


Decide early on what theme or style you want for your small space garden, what will suit your family needs, as well as what will match the surroundings. Adding too many features in small space may seem like clutter, so stick to either a colour theme, or layer the plants according to size or a particular style to create interest.

Regardless of style, every garden should connect the indoors to the outdoors seamlessly and be sustainable, benefitting both you and your surrounds.


Understand your needs and wants and zone your small space according to your family needs. For example, if kids’ space and a cozy sit-out place is required, prioritise these and lay out the garden around it. Keep your plant selection minimal and mass plant to get the greenery. By adding different flooring like pavers, deck, concrete with outdoor rug, you can zone the small space garden with a palette of materials.

Decorative flooring. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Decorative flooring. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Levels and Layers

Adding distinct levels to the small space will provide a perception of spaciousness. Do this by including a deck, or a vertical garden with climbers, a raised garden bed, above ground plunge pool, sunken terrace or hanging baskets.

Varied levels can also be achieved by layering plants in the garden bed, or with a clever choice of hardscape structures like built-in seats etc.

Colour and year-round interest

Add colours and texture in your plant selection, furniture, and hardscape to give the small place a distinct vibe. Year-round interest with plant selection will do the trick for small space as well. If time is of the essence, a general thumb rule to achieve low maintenance garden design is to select at least two to three plants each of medium size, small size, ground cover plants and mass plant them.

Give your small space a distinctive vibe. Source: Canva
Give your small space a distinctive vibe. Source: Canva

Consider the sun exposure, wind, and the directions of the yard for placement of plants to thrive. For example, south facing yard planting should consider shade and wind tolerance plants in their plant selection. Select plants with varied leaf colour or texture or shape to add interest.

Focal point

Have one focal point strategically placed in your small garden, like a feature tree, statement pots, small water feature, coloured wall or fence and mirror. The idea of focal point in garden is to create an interest, an illusion and cleverly camouflage the boundaries.

Furniture and lighting

Built-in seats with storage space, collapsible furniture and built-in barbeque and seat can be weaved into the small space garden with clever placement.

Some up lighting near feature trees, and downlights near pathways and seating area will enhance the garden appeal even in chilly weather.


If you are time poor, then choosing low maintenance and hardy plants for your small space garden is a wise idea. To keep your garden style to low maintenance, plant selection is vital. If you’re going with a colour theme, some of the low maintenance plants are

Medium shrubs: Raphiolepis indica (Indian Hawthorn), Gardenia, Loropetalum chinense (Chinese fringe flower)

Loropetalum chinense (Chinese fringe flower). Source: Canva
Loropetalum chinense (Chinese fringe flower). Source: Canva

Low level shrubs: Agapanthus, Lomandra, Dietes species (Wild iris)

Ground cover: Carpobrotus (Pig face), Sedum, Gazania

Designing a small space garden is a challenge but it is possible. With a bit of creativity and some smart choices, a small garden can be transformed into a stunning place that suits you and your family.

READ ALSO: How to create your own sustainable garden at home

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