Gardeners’ World Joe Swift’s Small Garden Design Ideas

Besides being one of the faces of the BBC institution The world of gardeners and covering annual gardening highlights including the Chelsea Flower Show and the Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival for the BBC, Joe Swift has written numerous books on horticulture, including Joe’s Urban Garden Manual, and continues to work as a gardener.

Next spring, he will accompany a County alive visit the beautiful Keukenhof Gardens in Holland, where seven million tulips, daffodils and hyacinths bloom each year in a kaleidoscopic display.

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To inspire you with your own outdoor space, TV star and expert Joe gave us his top 10 tips for getting the most out of a small garden …

1. Be bold

You have to be very straightforward in your approach with a small garden – simple and bold. A few large plants in a small space are much more efficient than a lot of small ones.

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Whether you can find exotic plants, small trees, or tall architectural plants with stunning foliage there, they’ll have a lot more of an impact than just sprinkling a few small pieces.


2. Make it versatile

Think about the versatility of the space – try not to divide it into too many zones if it’s small. You want one or two versatile sections that can double as seating, or that can be a place you can do your yoga or invite people over.

Small garden design ideas

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Rather than limiting how you can use the space, first think about how you are going to use it and design accordingly.

3. Does not block the sun

Confidentiality should dictate where you put things. A lot of people turn their backyard into a mini fortress because they want to block everything. Strategically, if you go to your backyard and say, “OK, I want to sit here – I feel comfortable here, it’s a good space, I like to sunbathe” or “I like to be. in the shade ”- whatever the reason, think about how you are going to create privacy out of this place.

Small garden design ideas

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You might find that it’s just going to be one or two plants, or a bit of trellis, a small screen, or a gazebo – whatever you want, just to take out views. panoramic. Rather than putting trellises all around, which will create a lot of shade in the garden and make it more difficult to grow a variety of plants.

4. Be confident

Try to think confidently like you’re a garden designer, rather than “I’m a hobbyist, I’m just trying my hand at it”, and in fact, you become more confident.

Keukenhof 2019
The beautiful Keukenhof gardens

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I think people are sometimes a little too shy in their approach to their garden, which is understandable.

5. Plan it

Plan ahead so that if you’re going to be spending a few weekends there, you’re not just dealing with one corner one weekend and another corner another weekend, totally offline.

Small garden design ideas

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If you are going to make a path or create a large planting area, whatever it is, make sure there is some sort of general direction to what you are doing.

6. Use the space you have

If you have a space, use it. What frustrates me a bit is that a lot of people in cities don’t have access to any private outdoor space, so if you have a garden, a balcony – or even a roof terrace or a small garden out front – just try to get out there and use it.

small garden design ideas

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There are a lot of people who don’t have any at all and it’s really a privilege.

7. Have fun

There is creativity in gardening – going out and doing your own thing. It’s one of those things where you totally get what you put in it, and it’s great for de-stressing! People call it mindfulness – I call it unconsciousness – but it’s pretty much the same: it’s clearing your mind.

Small garden design ideas

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A lot of people have really stressful jobs and lives, and what this can do for your well-being is great. If you’re willing to get stuck, buy a few plants, and switch spaces, you’ll be rewarded, you really will.

8. Seek inspiration

Look at magazines, look at books and choose a theme, with very simple color combinations. You can always make them more complicated in the future!

9. Avoid trends

Be wary of trends in gardens. There are general trends, but a garden can take 10 or 20 years to mature, so if you get too trendy by the time it looks good it can be a bit outdated.

Small garden design ideas

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Think of it in the classic way as something you can live with.

ten. Stay positive

Everyone has failures – every gardener, even the best gardeners, will have things that won’t grow for some reason, or you will have to move or remove them. It just goes with it. Expect a few small failures along the way, but don’t let them slow you down.

Reserve your place during the eight days of Country Living horticultural cruise through the Netherlands alongside Carol Klein and Joe Swift.

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