Small-but-beautiful gardens

Photography: Peter Baistow

Kate Gould, award-winning garden designer, shares her tips for creating small-yet-beautiful gardens in the Capital.

Most small gardens in London need to be practical as well as visually appealing, as they often serve as an extra room as well as outdoor space. In fact, the garden in this post had to incorporate a dining area, plus fit in a barbeque, so the floor plan was designed with levels in mind. The lower level being reserved for dining and the top for relaxing afterwards.

A great way to turn your garden into a livable outdoor space is to bring elements of the interior design outside. For instance, in the garden below, the interior porcelain tile was brought outdoors to create an exterior finish around the bespoke barbeque unit, and on the lower level dining area. Beautifully scented tracheleospermum and roses provide interest and fragrance in the warmer summer months.

Photography: Peter Baistow

In big cities, it’s unusual to find a garden that isn’t overlooked meaning privacy can be a problem – not to mention all that shade limiting your planting palette!  Adjacent trees and overgrown shrubs can also have invasive roots making paving uneven, so defining the extent of your hard landscaping is very important.

You also need to think about the kind of plants and trees that surround you. Shrubs like laurel with extremely fleshy and juicy fruit can permanently stain natural stone, so choosing an area of loose aggregate or dense shrub planting under these would be worth considering.

Finally, choosing furniture and creating attractive storage outside will make your garden a truly unique space that can be used all-year round. The best small spaces are those that are bold and strong, so large furniture is a must. But it has to be worked into the scheme and not just plonked in the middle with a few pots around it. Trying to achieve too much in a tiny area can result in a dilution of the overall effect, so pare down the design, assess the absolute minimum that you need and work from there.

Terraces with outdoor sofas and generous dining tables look fabulous when they are dressed with cushions, lit with candles and filled with friends and family…

Kate Gould has more than a decade of hands-on experience transforming gardens of all sizes. A regular exhibitor at the Chelsea Flower Show she also writes a blog for The Guardian. Her work can be found at

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