What are the best plants to use in a small garden?

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Just because you have a small garden doesn’t mean you can’t create the outside space of your dreams. Small gardens can still have plenty of variety and colour without looking overly-busy if planned correctly.

Bigger is not always better

With any garden it is important to determine soil type, climate and areas of sunlight and shade but when it comes to a smaller space it is important that you avoid growing large plants and shrubs as these can overpower smaller plants when competing for water and nutrients, and over time, exclude light from your garden.

Less is sometimes more

The most impressive and effective small gardens are those that aren’t afraid to stay simple. Believe it or not, by choosing just a few high impact species that are of a reasonable size and offer seasonal interest, evergreen foliage and colour, you can create an outside area that looks beautiful throughout the year.

Inevitably, because you are dealing with a smaller space, less variety does mean more impact. Too much variety and too many colours can lead to a garden with no real point of interest. By spending time planning your garden and researching the plants you’d like to use, you can then pare down your design to ensure you make the most out of the space available. For example, by selecting the right plants, you can end up with fabulous shapes and colours, striking foliage, heady fragrances, seasonal interest and that all important evergreen coverage.

Plants that provide ‘the full package of attractions’ include:

  • Nandina domestica
  • Fascicularia pitcairnifolia
  • Hosta
  • Euonymus alatus
  • Euphorbia
  • Phormium
  • Tagetes
  • Erigeron karvinskianus

What needs to be camouflaged?

Every garden, large or small, has a couple of eyesores that need to be hidden. If you want to mark unsightly sheds, buildings, lamp posts or fences, evergreens are the way to go. There are plenty of options for sunny or shaded gardens and a wide variety of species of trees and shrubs.

What about seasonal interest?

When planted en masse, some of the smaller perennials look fantastic in a smaller garden. Again, consider whether your garden is sunny or shady as this will have a big impact on the plants you choose. For sunny gardens, Clematis x erisotemon and Verbena rigida are particularly good; in shadier spaces you could go for Epimediums, Geranium phaem or Hydrangea petiolaris.


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