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Dee Atkinson & Harrison

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Design Ideas for outdoor living in a small garden


May 20, 2017

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t prefer to eat and relax outdoors, but with the unpredictable English weather and only a small garden, you have to rely on a good design to maximise you chances of achieving this on more than just a handful of occasions each year.

In this article we try to give you a few ideas to help create an area that will not only help you achieve your goal but will also add value and saleability to your home.

Let dining take centre stage

Think about how you use – or, most probably, how you dream of using – your outside space. If sitting around a table is a big part of the dream, but you feel stuck by the available space, consider sacrificing other potential uses for your plot. Do you really need an area of lawn, a conventional patio or a shed? Would they get anywhere near as much use as a lovely big dining area?

Writing a wish list for your garden is a great place to start. You might discover priorities or possibilities you didn’t even realise you had.



Add a fireplace

An outdoor fireplace is arguably even more special in a tight spot, as you’ll enjoy it from every part of the garden. It’s also a good way to get more use out of your plot, as it’ll remain inviting even in cooler months. (But don’t forget to factor lighting into your plan, so you really will make more of those short days.)

There are so many choices for design. You could plan for something built and designed into the rest of your space, like the one illustrated below, or even just invest in an outdoor freestanding wood-burner, fire pit or chiminea.



Invest in excellent lighting

With a tiny garden, patio, roof terrace or balcony, you still have options for creating a really special space.

If you can’t add different levels, have no chance of a lawn and barely have one flowerbed, consider spending wisely on really good lighting design. With the right planting, whether in pots or growing up walls, as here, you can give your outdoor space drama and probably even induce garden envy from those with roomier patches.



It’s worth getting professional design advice about how best to create an impact with your lighting, though if you’re on a tight budget, even investing in a few uplighters and spiking them into your beds or pots will go a long way.

Grow a living wall – the old-fashioned way

Living walls look brilliant, and have become popular in recent years for good reason. But before clever vertical irrigation and planting systems were invented, there was the good old trellis and a few good climbing plants. These can look – and smell – just as wonderful.

Choose a pretty trellis if you’re unlikely to cover all of it, and seek out evergreen plants to give you a nice view all year round. Climbers such as jasmine and honeysuckle, depending on the variety you pick, will provide summer and winter coverage and are heavily scented, too. Passionflower produces exotic flowers and orange fruits and is pretty easy to grow.

Do some research into what will grow in your space, and save photos of climbers you like the look of. You might find a friendly garden designer on Houzz will help you to identify it if you post a question.

Think big

You may have a pocket-sized outdoor area, but that doesn’t mean you need to treat it as such, with only the smallest of spaces to work with you can get everything you want into a very limited space.Get some grandeur going on!

This relatively small garden makes great use of the different levels and has everything, outdoor kitchen, dining area and a comfy seating area with firepit for those chilly evenings.

Equally, don’t automatically think you need to create a tiny seating area – cut back on planting space instead (there’s always trellis).



Include a covered area

If you can achieve this then you will gain ,many extra hours of enjoyment in your garden. Expensive options are a retractable awning but you can achieve a similar goal by using a pergola frame, sail canvas or even both, to protect you from the summer showers.



Now all you need is some nice weather. Enjoy!

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