Ideas to Make the Most of Your Small Garden 

The average size of a garden in the UK is 188 square metres and in London 140 square metres. If you’re fortunate to have a small garden, we’d like to share with you how to make it mighty…

Matt Leigh @mattleighgardens

Matt Leigh, expert Gardener, Designer and Project Manager of ITV’s Love Your Garden kindly spared some time to chat with us and share some of the tricks of the trade for transforming gardens with limited space.

Stay up-to-date with @mattleighgardens on Instagram.

How to maximise small spaces from a garden designer’s perspective…

It is key to consider the most important elements you want for the garden and not over complicate with too much else – every component, be it a pot or a plant, needs to earn its place; if it doesn’t, it shouldn’t be in the garden! Always look at using your upwards space, this could be plants on shelves or even a living wall – this maximises the usability of the ground space and reduces clutter.

Also consider creating built in corner seating with storage in very small areas, rather than trying to fit in an off the shelf seat that doesn’t quite fit your space!

Consider using large size paving, this will give the feeling of a larger area.

Keep the amounts of materials and components limited, as it could feel too busy to the eye. This also applies to planting, don’t use too many colours!

Noticeable trends this year (2024) in small gardens

Indoor / outdoor living

The appeal of creating seamless links between your indoor style and outdoor style is still a very big trend. The idea of treating your small outdoor space almost as another “room”, including many items and comforts you have indoors such as cosy sofa furniture, using the same tiling to create a seamless link from inside to outside, even hanging outdoor chandeliers from pergolas and using outdoor rugs.

Edible / mixed use garden borders

When you have small areas you have to be savvy with space and a very popular planting style now is to mix edibles, such as your herbs, salads and vegetables, in with your general planted borders. Edibles can be just as pretty as cultivated plants and can offer softness and structure – think fennel, rosemary and creeping thymes in your gravel. Your edibles and general planting can work in perfect harmony together!

Building workspaces in gardens

As popular as ever and certainly since Covid, building an outdoor space for an office is right up there!  Many jobs can now be done from home and as such we are seeing an increase in people looking to keep their work life separate from their home life. For a quick walk to work, these structures offer the perfect solution and can be styled to blend with surroundings using natural hardwoods.

Matt’s 3 aspects to consider when installing a garden building in a small garden

  1. Consider the proportion to the space. You want to ensure you are still allowing enough usable space and the structure does not overpower the area it sits in.
  2. If you want to use the garden building all year round, consider choosing an insulated option and allow provisions for electric and lighting.
  3. Although it might sound appealing to face your structure south, bear in mind that if glass-fronted, this could potentially get unbearably hot and unusable in the summer months.

Top plants, foliage, trees and bushes for small gardens

Use plants that have impact all year round such as evergreens or plants with long flowering periods. I like to use plants and shrubs that have different yet complimentary shapes and textures and limit the colour palette.


There are many smaller growing tree varieties to consider such as Amelanchier trees (also known as snowy Mespilus), Japanese cherries and dogwoods. Also consider how you prune these trees too – trees can be pruned to fit your space by lifting canopies and thinning out centres to allow dappled light to peep through.

Evergreens and foliage plants 

I would recommend these evergreens and foilage plants for small gardens: Pittosporum tobira, Muhlenbeckia, Euphorbia and Choisya Aztec Pearl.

Stay up to date with Matt on Instagram

Malvern Garden Buildings’ tips for making your small garden mighty!

Create the illusion of space

Keep things simple – a terrace with table and chairs for dining al fresco, a garden office or summerhouse to extend the garden’s use beyond the warmest months and some key large plants help to soften the boundaries and keep the eye within the space.

Keep elements to a minimum

Ask yourself, is a small scrap of lawn necessary? If you can do without, you won’t need a lawnmower – or somewhere to keep it. Storage space saved and one fewer chore.

Think BIG

Avoid doing everything on too small a scale. A few large slabs rather than small brick pavers can make a small garden seem bigger. If you do use brick pavers, lay them in a linear fashion to create a feeling of breadth or length, depending on the direction in which they are laid.

Think outside your plot

Your small garden could be ‘an extrovert’ where you borrow from the surrounding landscape. If there are trees beyond the garden, plant a tree or two within the space to blur the boundaries and bring the world beyond into your own space.

Celebrate your space – whatever its size

Rather than yearning for what you don’t have, create an introverted garden. A small garden can seem cosy and private, with all the focus on your own space and a sense that the garden is enfolding you in its embrace.

Our small garden building ideas

One of the easiest and most rewarding ways you can increase the value of your home, and your enjoyment of it, is by landscaping your garden. A garden building can be a worthwhile investment too when it extends the living space.

Corner garden studios

Corner designs are perfect for smaller gardens. A corner garden studio makes a compact home office in the garden with an impressive 180-degree aspect. Look at this set up in the Hanley Corner Studio: effortlessly turn your office desk into a bed with Studybed in just 3 seconds. This makes the most of your space when you need to make overnight guests feel welcome or for power naps between meetings. Discover how to learn to love where you work.

Space and storage

In urban gardens, a useful although often overlooked feature for a small garden studio is a side shed. This Studio Pent we designed for Justin Coakley of @design_at_nineteen has an integrated, windowless shed with locking door for safe storage of bikes, garden tools or other equipment. This example shows how you don’t have to compromise on the aesthetic for practicality. With a footprint of 14ft by 10ft it isn’t the smallest garden structure, but positioned at the end of the garden looking back at the house parallel to the boundary fence beckons you out of doors to explore.

Lower pitch roof

A traditional summerhouse is a classic choice for a small garden. This bespoke Hopton has a lower pitch roof so it can sit closer to the boundary and save on valuable garden space. It creates the perfect spot to take in your garden and soak up the sun through the Georgian windows.

Malvern Garden Buildings Summerhouse Hopton

Breeze House

A little Oasis Breeze House has a tiny circular footprint of 194cm in diameter. That’s roughly the same size as an open garden parasol. The advantages of devoting some space in your plot to an open sided garden structure is that you can immerse yourself in nature without giving up home comforts. For added cosiness you can install retractable canvas panels and a heater to make full use of this extra living and dining space even in the depths of winter.

Circular Oasis

Tiny Kew Potting Shed

Even the smallest of gardens needs some storage to house all your outdoor kit. This compact but perfectly formed tool shed, the Kew Potting Shed, not only looks cute but provides lots of useful hanging space and hideaway space for gardening essentials without taking up too much floor area. The side shelves are ideal for stacked plant pots, watering cans and garden accessories, or perhaps an attractive vertical display of plants.

Space-saving greenhouse

When space is at a premium but you still want to feed your passion for growing, a space saving greenhouse is a happy compromise. The Malvern Victorian isgreat value for money, the smallest size available being 5’3″ x 6’4″!

Malvern Garden Building Victorian Greenhouse 013

Malvern Garden Buildings offer the ultimate customer experience with displays to inspire. Every garden building is themed, styled and fully accessorised to give visitors ideas for their own gardens. Find your nearest showsite and discover the team’s wealth of expertise to help you to create your perfect garden getaway.

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