6 Ways to make a small garden appear bigger

Renowned South African garden designer Jan Blok shows us six ways to make a small garden look and feel larger


Small garden courtyard

Use clean straight lines in a small garden. Informal, curving shapes can take up valuable space and tend to look cluttered and bulky. Geometrical shapes fit more easily into a smaller garden, dividing it up and creating appeal, yet still maximising the space available. Formal lines and layouts are also better as they create depth and give a more ordered look and feel.

Decorating a small garden with pots

Choose pots and ornamentation that are in proportion with your home and garden. While you can have one or two oversized statement focal points in a small space, use them with restraint. Scale in relation to a building is very important and applies to all elements of garden design, including pools, paving, water features and outdoor furniture.

Water features add depth to a small garden

Water adds depth to the layout and design of any garden. Choose black waterproofing rather than blue as dark water will make the water feature look bigger than it actually is. For a contemporary touch, attach spouts to the walls.

Greenery in a garden

Restrict your plant palette to layered contrasting greens, accenting with pops of localised statement colour using pots or focal points. Avoid overusing gaudy, hot colours as these can ‘choke up’ the view, making the small garden look even smaller. Levels of greenery planted against boundary walls will stretch out the space. Texture is also important; visual character (light and shade) creates depth. If space is a problem, paint your walls green so they’ll blend smoothly into the surroundings, or if it’s a new building, leave plastered walls unpainted.

Alternatives for lawn

Lawn is often not the best option for small gardens; it is better to do away with it completely if possible. Natural paving materials, such as decking, stone, clay or cement tiles can maximise usable space, create visual interest, reinforce the geometric lines of the garden’s design and integrate beautifully into the landscape. Steer clear of unnatural looking products in a variety of colours that are too loud. Attention to detail is important; try to incorporate interest into the paving with stone inlays or green lines of dwarf mondo grass (Ophiopogon ‘Kyoto Dwarf’).

Outdoor mirrors in a small garden

Small gardens are often surrounded by large boundary walls. This vertical plane is very important as it is in the direct line of sight. Using outdoor mirrors is a fantastic way to add depth and space; these are best installed as frameless sheets that either cover an entire wall or a large section. Another more classical way to dress your walls is to plant creepers against them. Try the green tickey creeper (Ficus pumila) or Virginia creeper. You can then add ornamentation with plaques.