Updated: Jul 26
If you live in a ground floor flat in a city and have direct access to a small garden, or a home with tiny outdoors footprint, how can you make the most of the space you have so that it gives you back quality time, a space for kids to play and it is low maintenance so you don't need extra space to store tools and equipment to look after it? In this post I am looking at small garden design, taking inspiration from a neighbour's rental flat and their little courtyard, in London's Fulham.
When your garden is surrounded and heavily overlooked by nearby properties, then what you see in front of you is akin to a courtyard. A courtyard or court is a circumscribed area, often surrounded by a building or complex, that is open to the sky. Because space is severely limited, thought should go into the long term maintenance of the space, to avoid having to store the required tools. This is especially useful where the property is rented and the tenants have no experience or interest in looking after a garden, especially due to work commitments.
Courtyards are devoid of lawn areas. The space can be completely decked although care should be taken when choosing the decking material. Composite wood is longer lasting and virtually maintenance free, provided there is an outdoors tap to wash it down - you do not even need a long hose for that, instead a flexible expanding hose will work a treat.
It is important to add features in any small patio garden or courtyard to make it interesting. This can be an architectural element such as built in planters that can double up as seating space, large planters (in groups of three, similar to these), water features or fire pits.
The plants chosen should be resilient and evergreen to minimise maintenance. When planning your garden, care should be taken to add lights in the right places to light up the garden in the evening. This is not something that can be an afterthought.
When you give a brief to your garden designer, you can be specific with your needs. E.g. you can ask them to make it virtually maintenance free (1-2 hours per month), make it 'fun', 'family friendly', 'eco-friendly', 'formal', 'bohemian', 'good for pollinators', etc. This way your designer will add elements to answer this brief, from the material to be used to where lights will be added and what plants will be needed.
You need to of course consider privacy. While it can increase cost, updating existing fence to a taller and more contemporary style will afford you extra privacy. Alternatively, you may wish to consider trees that can be trained to create a privacy screen over time.
Karen Rogers @ KR Garden Design, West London offers a full service landscape, garden and planting design consultancy to clients seeking a garden that is both practical and stylish. Based in Chiswick, West London, KR Garden design works on landscaping design projects from small urban to large country and residential gardens.
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