Plans for Small Gardens

Ten designs for ten different gardens

Author: Ann-Marie Powell

What we think

It’s a sunny Saturday morning and down at the garden centre the “minimalists” are facing off against the “rustic family” folk across a pallet of perennials. It’s a fantasy, of course, but labels like these – semi-aesthetic, semi-sociological – bring out the latent gang member in even the most civilised gardener. Chelsea medalist Ann-Marie Powell’s inspiring and practical book on small gardens features 10 designs for ten different types of garden from “edible” via “urban”, “romantic”, “English country” and “suntrap”, to “low-maintenance”, “night” and “terraced”.

The shopping lists of plants and hard landscaping for each garden plan give an idea of the financial commitment. Meanwhile maintenance calendars forewarn less committed readers which garden gang to steer clear of, no matter how tempting the photographs (edible and rustic family gardens warrant two dense pages of jobs, as opposed to the minimalist’s half page).

Read this book before you even think of going to the garden centre. In a small space there’s nowhere to hide the mistakes.

How to draw up a plan

  • Scribble down everything you want from your garden. How are you going to use it? What look do you want? How will you accommodate compost and rubbish bins, a shed, and so on? Trawl books, magazines and the blockbuster flower shows for ideas like the new Fresh garden category at Chelsea
  • You will need a scaled plan. The deeds to your house may have an outline of the garden or you can take the dimensions, checking and rechecking your measurements. Mark it out on graph paper; the typical scale is a quarter of an inch per foot. Try this online garden planner as an alternative
  • On the plan you should also include good and bad views, sunny spots and permanent shade, plants to keep and slopes or changes in level. Don’t add anything that won’t be in the new garden.
  • Photocopy the plan several times or lay tracing paper over it so that you can plot out all the garden elements without worrying about changing your mind or making a mistake.
  • Paths should be at least two feet (60cm) wide but three feet (90cm) is better, and five feet (150cm) where two people are likely to walk side by side, as up to the front door.
  • To determine how big a terrace should be measure your table, then add the depth of the chairs from the front of the seat (or arm if that sticks out further) to the furthest point backwards, plus six to 10 inches (15cm to 25cm) so that you can pull them out. Then allow a comfortable margin.
  • Choose plants that will like the conditions and fit the space once they reach their mature dimensions.