The simple truth is that the majority of us live in a city where space is at a premium, outdoor space even more so, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to have a beautiful outdoor garden to enjoy. Here are some design ideas to start or incorporate into your small urban garden space that will maximize your slice of nature and give you endless hours of pleasure.

Eliminate the Grass

Yes, in a perfect garden world we may dream of acres of rolling manicured grass; for many of us a greener than green lawn is top of our list of essential ingredients for a beautiful garden. Well, you may find this hard to swallow but small urban gardens just do not suit this idealised vision. The grass has got to go! Not only is it very hard to grow in small spaces but it is not a practical solution; untold headaches will result, both with maintenance and with weeds. Swap it for paving or gravel. Or you might want to consider investing in some form of contemporary decking such as Millboard which is versatile, attractive and gives a dramatic base from which to work.

Containers, Containers and More Containers

Containers or planters come in all shapes, colours, textures and sizes. Ceramic or clay, brightly hand- painted or earthy terracotta. They can be hung from fences or walls, grouped together to form a feature or placed on tables, to illustrate but just a few of the possibilities. Get those creative juices flowing. It doesn’t have to be a traditional plant pot! Pull out your wardrobe – what’s in there that you could possible use? What about an old Wellington boot or those stiletto heels you bought on a whim and never wore? When you’ve exhausted your wardrobe, what about silicone planters? They combine lightweight art and design shapes in a variety of colours. Or what about a biodegradable nesting planter? Healthy for plants and humans too! Of course you could also consider a Vazon Magnum translucent planter. What is that I hear you say? Well, it’s a planter or container that gives off a translucent light that enhances not only your plants but also your outdoor space when dusk is at hand. And just as a final option, what about a shabby-chic look to your small urban garden? Use a piece of furniture or maybe a small wheelbarrow as a container and then give it a couple of coats of chalk paint – maybe even sand it down for a distressed look. Certainly a talking point when you have friends around.

Scale It Down

Scale becomes a very important issue when thinking of a small space. Heavy plastic furniture in a small space can really overwhelm it. Try to find less distracting materials. As mentioned above, an old piece of furniture can really be brought back to life in a very chic and contemporary way by using chalk paint. It can be applied even over varnished surfaces and covers very easily. Sand down the final coat if you require a distressed look and then apply clear or dark wax to provide outdoor durability. Even the tiniest urban balcony garden can benefit and be transformed with this method by using folding furniture. It’s fun to rummage around second hand shops looking for discarded chairs or tables that can be transformed in this way. Remember, it’s not the size of your outdoor space but how you use it that makes it beautiful.

Choosing Colours

When choosing colours in a small urban garden it is easy to over-stimulate your senses. Most designers will tell you that you should encourage a calming effect by choosing only two or three colours for your blooms. The same principle applies when choosing a paint colour for your outdoor furniture, no matter how small it is. White or cream can easily be coordinated with brightly coloured cushions to match your chosen colour theme. It is also worth bearing in mind that white blooms always look fabulous with multi-shades of green foliage, and that white stands out well in twilight, when you’re out in your garden relaxing after a long day at work.

Check Your Labels

There is a huge variety of plants available to buy but don’t let this become a daunting task. You know, it’s really like shopping for a new outfit; you have to check the label to make sure it’s the right fit for you. The same applies to plants. Read the label carefully to check the plant you want to buy is suited to your conditions. Is your garden in the sun most of the day or is it in the shade? And what about watering? It is worth mentioning that small containers dry out quickly, so avoid any plant requiring a moist location as it will need daily watering to thrive. Finally, a label that tells us ‘Good For Containers’ is exactly that and fortunately the choice in this category is huge. So go and have an adventure picking and choosing your future oasis. Plant wisely and you will be richly rewarded!

Climbing Up

Is there a fence, garage wall, or gable end of a house bordering your city garden? Let’s get something to climb up it! Climbing roses and flowering clematis give charm, colour and warmth. You could also use a Living Wall concept to act as a division between areas. Another great design feature is to incorporate a raised and tiered flower bed. This creates multi-levels that give the appearance of more space.

Start to think differently about your small urban space. You can have a chic outdoor space that enhances your life. For more inspiration take a look at our Pinterest board Small Garden Spaces or contact us at North Leeds Garden Design  today to discuss your ideas.


“Transition garden designed for Harrogate Spring Flower show by North Leeds Garden Design* “