If you love gardening, chances are you’ve found yourself idly scrolling through Instagram or Google images looking for inspiration for your own outdoor space. Sometimes, it can feel like all the gorgeous gardens on the internet are bigger than yours, boasting sweeping lawns, separate patios and endless borders. In reality, lots of us have nothing more than a tiny concrete courtyard to work with. This is often the case with the Victorian terraced houses which line the streets of towns and cities throughout the UK. But the good news is that there loads of exciting things you can do with a tiny outdoor space. With some imagination and clever practical tips, you can turn your miniscule yard into a verdant vegetable garden, a lush jungle, a calming urban retreat. So, come with us on a journey into some beautifully-designed tiny gardens, full of wonder – and clever ideas you can steal for yourself.
1. Cookery Corner
Outdoor kitchens aren’t just for large gardens. If you love barbecues and cooking al fresco, make that the focus of your yard, however small it is. Here, the space has been very carefully planned. Utensil racks and drainpipe planters make the most of the height on offer, fresh herbs are growing close at hand and there’s even a Corten steel splashback tucked into the cookery corner.
2. Please Sit
This small, neat garden by GreenBird Garden Designs is a natural extension of the dining room. Seating takes centre stage, with a chunky bench bookended by two olive trees for a Mediterranean mood. On the back wall, Corten steel panels alternate with slatted wooden fences to give mixed textures, interesting shadows and a sense of rustic warmth.
3. Raise it Up
Want to fill a small, paved space with foliage and flowers? It’s easy with raised beds. There’s little ground space left in this compact courtyard, but the borders, with their weathering steel edging, and the Corten planter in the middle, leave plenty of room for herbs, bedding plants and even a tree. The unmistakable patina of weathered Corten brings vibrant rust tones to the colour palette, and gives this little garden a contemporary edge.
4. Welcome to the Jungle
It’s hard to believe that this incredible tropical retreat began life as a dull rectangle of concrete bordered by a boring wooden fence. After playing with perspective in the garden, its owner realised that he could create a magnificent exotic rainforest look in his tiny London back yard. Darker, smaller-leaved plants crawl up the fence panels, creating the perfect backdrop for brighter plants with gigantic leaves in the foreground.
5. Tread Softly
Outdoor rugs are the perfect way to hide unsightly paving, soften hard surfaces and give your yard an ‘inside out’ aesthetic. Paired with an outdoor sofa (and a cute dog) here, the effect is of a living room under the sky. There’s even a giant scented candle for calming vibes. The small courtyard has been whitewashed, giving the illusion of openness and more space.
6. More is More
When you’re planning interiors, the advice is often to keep small rooms uncluttered and minimalist. When you’re designing gardens, however, feel free to throw this idea over the back fence. As the jungle entry above proves, sometimes more is more. Pack a narrow yard like this with mismatched pots, climbing plants and trees and shrubs for a look that’s as soothing as it is busy, and as green as can be.
7. Tonic Water
Water features can make a stunning focal point in a small garden or yard. Just look at this Corten water feature as an example. We love how the designer has worked with the height in the limited space, and plants that grow well in darker places, like ferns. There are plenty of ways of introducing beautiful and relaxing water features to your garden, from simple water bowls to dynamic fountains.
8. Mirror, mirror
Mirrors can instantly open up a small outdoor space, and this New York terrace is a perfect case in point. Not only can mirrors make gardens look bigger, they can also reflect light on to darker parts of the garden, encouraging more plant growth. The massive mirror on the wall of this city hideaway makes the area seem wider and longer than it is. You could use a sheet of stainless steel mirror sheet to create something similar, or buy a ready-made framed garden mirror.
9. A Step Up
Stepladders are a brilliant way to display multiple plants in one small space, and with a quick lick of paint, can easily fit in with your colour scheme. Check auction sites and secondhand pages to find old stepladders, or look for regular ladders that could be leaned against a wall. Trailing plants like the bright blue lobelia shown here will cascade down to the step below when they’re in full bloom. If you want to see more blue plants, check out our list of blue blooms for Corten steel garden designs.
10. The Secret Garden
Give a small garden a magical, storybook effect by filling it with whimsical treasures. Warm lights at all levels, cute stepping stones and that dog statue all add to the charm of this pretty green space. Trail plants such as honeysuckle, clematis or jasmine up an arch like the one shown here to give the illusion of a gateway to a different part of the garden. A shining example of how filling a small garden with greenery and objects can make it feel bigger and broader, and anything but sparse.