Designing small gardens in London – 10 Tips for Success

IMG_17371. Less is more

Lots of our small garden designs in London are only around 5m x 6m so maximising the sense of space is crucial. What shapes do you like? What is the interior of the property like? If you have a good view or direct access onto the garden at ground level then a continuation of the internal design elements such as floor tiles and shapes will make the interior and exterior feel bigger. Simple lines will work best in a small garden design particularly when trying to accommodate a range of features.

2. Go    upstairs

Whether you are having a professional garden designer model your garden or are having a go yourself, it is important to take a step back and review what you have on paper. Go upstairs and have a look out of the window to get a good overview of the garden and compare this with the plan. Will this layout work? Check that the planting is in the right place and the ultimate height of the planting. You might want to consider plants that will provide a screen from neighbours windows and roof terraces or hide an ugly view from different view points.

3. Good  housekeeping

Usually small garden designs will not need a huge amount of maintenance but do think about how much time you will need to spend keeping the garden in good shape. A good garden designer will provide a maintenance schedule with the planting, we keep ours very straight forward and will also say how many visits the design would need if you wanted to hire our follow up garden maintenance service. Don’t just think about the plants. Timber seating, decks and fences will need to be treated periodically to  maintain their colour and if timber is painted it will still need the occasional wipe down to remove dirt and pollution that builds up quickly in a London garden. Paving will need to be pressure washed to keep it clean particularly if it is a light coloured sawn stone. Trees will lose their leaves usually from October through to December and leaf litter will need to be collected to prevent staining stone and rotting the base of herbaceous plants.

IMG_003014. Gardens  are  not  just  for  Summer

The unique micro climate that many London gardens have and the ever changing weather patterns mean that often we can sit in the garden with a coffee at the most unlikely of times. Ensure that you will have lots of interest when the summer flowers have done their thing. Garden Club are obsessive about getting as much detail in the planting design as possible to ensure year round interest. Stem colour for winter, bulbs for spring, the continuation is always thought through in detail.

5. Let their be light

As part of our garden design package we will provide you with a lighting plan if you have garden lighting in your budget. It is important not to go overboard with lights or you will end up killing the ambience and losing the detail that good garden lighting will create. Lighting up specimen plants and trees are always a top priority. Shadow lighting on architectural details and statuary creates drama that will add a new dimension to the garden design at night.

6. Make it work

Think about how you use the garden each day, also if you have a family then ask the children what they use the garden for. You might not notice how they store their scooter or the reason they use a particular space for games. An experienced garden designer will take care of the little details such as ensuring that you can get your wheely bin down the path and dry your washing.

7. Everything has its place

If you have a small London garden then the chances are that your house won’t be a sprawling mansion and you need to get bikes, toys and junk out of the house. Bike storage is a big priority for many of our London clients and lots of very secure units are now available for front gardens. Unfortunately some of the most secure bike stores are ugly beasts and will need clever screening with trellis, cladding and planting. Garden cushions, candles, paddling pools and toys can be incorporated into bespoke garden furniture such as this garden bench with lift up lid seat.

8. Dine out

Even if you are stuck in an office for most of the day during the summer, nothing beats getting back home to a beautiful garden and cooking or eating outside. In a small garden the space can quickly become cluttered with various pieces of garden furniture. Built in furniture particularly seating will allow you to be flexible with seating arrangements depending on how many guests you have and scattering some colourful cushions will add to the outdoor room effect. Another good consideration is a multi-use preparation bench. When designed well, these units can store a barbecue  inside during winter months as well as allowing lots of preparation space for salads and meat when you are entertaining without the need to be stuck in the kitchen. The units are also great for potting on plants, fixing bikes and other DIY tasks that are best not attempted indoors.

IMG_17869. Neighbourly Love

Love them or hate them, going overboard with the boundary height will not do you or your garden any favours. In most cases the local planning policy will be that solid boundary height is limited to 2 metres without planning permission. Yes, block out what you need to with a solid wall or fence for privacy (usually immediately outside the house) but beyond this try to retain as much light as possible. Using trellis and small trees to create a secure boundary will add to the feel of space whilst allowing adequate privacy from prying eyes. This will make the garden feel more like a garden and less like a prison yard. If your fence is in bad condition but you are not sure who is responsible then check the deeds of your house. Don’t avoid the subject, if your fence  is on its last legs then prioritise the replacement before splashing out on other landscaping works. A good fence will last at least 8 years and most will be guaranteed by the the manufacturer or installer.

10. Think ahead

Does the garden design give you a good return on your investment for the next 5 years? the next 10 years? Don’t go overboard on play equipment and a mass of artificial turf if you will soon have an empty nest. Don’t go ultra sleek contemporary with hard landscaping if you have just moved in and plan to start a family. Our garden designers will help to prioritise what the the garden design needs are and how you can get the very best value from your small garden design.