The award-winning garden designer reveals some clever ideas for packing your small garden space full of personality and style.

At this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show, award-winning garden designer Kate Gould’s ‘Out of the Shadows’ garden is a lesson in how brilliant garden design can seamlessly incorporate the most demanding of wish lists. With our post-pandemic gardens being asked to work harder than ever, here Kate shares some clever ideas to make even our most ambitious garden ideas make sense in a small garden.

Images: Kate Gould’s RHS Chelsea garden ‘Out of the Shadows’; Helen Fickling Photography

Kate Gould says; ‘As we (hopefully) come out of the pandemic, people have certainly become more mindful about creating safe spaces they can hunker down in. They are thinking outside the box in terms of what they want their gardens to deliver when it comes to outdoor living, and they are often not sure how to achieve this within a traditional garden model. With ‘Out of the Shadows’ I want to show people that if they want a swim spa for example, or a space to do yoga, they don’t need to choose between having that and a beautiful garden. It doesn’t need to be an either/ or choice. Have a swim spa but make it chic. It is as much about coming out of the shadow of the pandemic – and all the ways that has elevated the importance of our gardens – as it is about coming out of quite narrow, traditional views of what a garden needs to be. It can work on so many different levels and clever design choices can marry up lifestyle needs.’

Deciding On A Water Feature

A water feature will generally be dictated by the style of your garden as well as your use of the space. If your style is sleek and minimal then a bubbling puddle isn’t going to work; something more along the lines of a reflection pool or vertical water wall would suit better. More natural gardens will benefit from a pond, both in terms of aesthetic appeal as well as from a wildlife-enhancing perspective.

In the same way that a hot roof terrace looks best with plants that thrive in really sunny conditions, water features tend to look most natural (even very stylised contemporary ones) with lush, leafy planting around them. Big bold leaves and water make for a very pleasing picture.

Incorporating Barbecues And Firepits

Some people are drawn like a magnet to cooking outdoors, while others are fair-weather chefs. Working out which type of person you are will dictate whether you wish to run to the expense of an outdoor kitchen or would be just as happy with a stand-alone barbecue that you can wheel out in good weather.

Add a barbecue or fire-pit for entertaining. Sitting around a fire at the end of the day (be it natural gas, wood, or bioethanol) can be very calming, as well as warming on a chilly but dry evening. All exterior fires have their pros and cons so do your research before purchasing. If you cannot channel natural gas to the space, bioethanol may be the best solution for you.

Add Impactful Personal Details

The personal elements you choose for your garden are what make it uniquely yours. It is the little things in life that make the big things sing. A sofa without cushions doesn’t look very inviting and a table without candles or pots can look half finished. The personal elements you choose for your garden are what make it uniquely yours. These finishing touches are entirely up to you, and, over time, they will most likely change with fashions and trends. In a small space, every element needs to work hard, often serving a dual purpose.

Where do you start and stop when it comes to accessorising your small garden? Ideally, less is always more, but objects that you have brought home from your travels, as well as candles and lanterns, always lend a really personal touch. Whether they are statement pieces or simply a small reminder of a happy event, much-loved items can be accommodated easily in a small garden and updating those accessories is also an easy way to ring the changes.

Other Ideas To Consider

Consider an automated awning – not for shade but for privacy – that can be deployed without diminishing light levels inside the property. Many awnings contain both lighting and heating, which is a bit of a double whammy bonus in a small space.

Although slightly controversial, exterior speakers, if used discreetly, can add a whole new dimension to an exterior space, making it far more interactive and inviting.

By Kate Gould
May 2022

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