How to make the most of your outdoor space

  1. Boost your boundary

“By growing climbers you can trick the eye into not quite knowing where the boundary starts and finishes. If you’ve got a nice boundary like a nice brick wall or fancy fence, leave some of it exposed, breaking it up with planting.

“But if you’ve got a cheap fence or an unattractive boundary, then green it all up with climbers, which will create a lovely backdrop for everything in front of it.”

  1. Contain your balcony

“On balconies, everything has to be grown in containers, so think about practicalities. Can you carry them up in a lift? What about compost? Are you going to sit out there? Where’s the best place to sit surrounded by your plants? Or are you just viewing it from the inside?

“On a lot of balconies, you’ll need tough plants that can cope with wind, such as lavenders, olive trees and gleditsia or small pines, but not things like banana plants or bamboos which will dry out in pots. Ornamental grasses will grow upright and will give you a bit of screening.”

  1. Go big with pots and plants

“Most people who have small gardens think they have to put small things in them – small pots, small plants. That makes it fussy and you are much better off replacing them with one or two really big pots or a large exotic plant or small tree, depending on the size of the garden. Don’t miniaturise everything.”

  1. Light up your plot

“Silhouetting, where you put a light behind, say, a pot or an architectural plant to show off the shape of it, can be effective. The key in a small garden is not to overdo it. Have light grazing across the paving and hide the source of the light because you don’t want it shining in your face.

“Think about lighting a boundary, plant, surface or tree and balance it out when you are inside. In the winter, when it’s dark, you can flick a switch to subtly light different elements of the garden and suddenly you get that depth of field, which brings the garden back to life.”

  1. Consider the size of your furniture

“I always go shopping with a tape measure. There are sometimes ways of combining places to sit in the garden itself. If you are building raised beds or retaining walls, try to build them around 45cm high, and generous so you can put a cushion on them.

“Then, if you have friends round, that can double up as seating. Then you might only need to buy a table and a couple of chairs. Fold-up chairs and tables can be stacked away in winter, or stacked on a fence or wall. And don’t automatically assume your seating has to be right next to the house.”

  1. Add mirrors

“Just be careful with birds, which may fly into them because they think they are a window through to next door’s garden. But I’ve put mirrors in gardens and put plants in front of them and they work really well.

“The only thing is, if you come out into your back garden and the first thing you see is a reflection of yourself, the illusion is broken! You need to angle them a little bit so that if you are looking at a mirror from the back door, you see greenery or a reflection of a pond or whatever.”

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