Design Tips

Tackling really small gardens

0 Written by Lisa on 25th Nov 2014 in Design Tips

I’ve just been working on the designs for a client in Richmond who has the tiniest of gardens, just 25m2 to be precise.  Spaces this small can often be more challenging to design because it’s every square inch counts.

This got me thinking that if gardens like these can be challenging for a professional, it must be even more difficult for a non-professional to tackle.  Here are some things to think about…


Straight lines vs curves

Bletchingley courtyard sketch Lisa Cox Garden Designs

Curves can be tricky beasts to work with at the best of times, but in small spaces there just really isn’t the room to make the most of the space by using circles.

Straight lines, squares and rectangles will enable you to create a more coherent and balanced space with enough room to accommodate some sort of seating arrangement.  If you don’t like the idea of straight lines then use the plants to soften the edges.


Think about storage

Contemporary garden design for a modern mews house Sutton 14

When space is at a premium it’s a good idea to incorporate some sort of built-in storage space. Being smart about how you create this will cut down on the amount of precious floor space you take up.

For example, raised beds provide a perfect opportunity for some sort of hidden storage space under an integral seat, or why not build in some smart looking storage which adds texture and interest without looking like a shed.



Courtyard garden in Walton on Thames

Often small town gardens have access issues and sometimes this means that the only route to the garden is through the house.

If you’re about to embark on some sort of building project then you can time the garden to fit in at a convenient time, with the least amount of disruption.  But the key is to research long and hard when you choose a contractor.

Landscapers based in cities, especially London, are often used to the challenges that small gardens present and they’ll be expert in protecting the inside of your house whilst the works take place.

The downside of access issues is that it can significantly impact the price as all materials and waste have to be carried through by hand – sometimes this can as much as double the cost of labour.  So beware of cheap quotes – remember you need to entrust the landscaper with the inside of your home too!



Very small spaces don’t really allow enough room for a lawn – to be quite frank, it’s just not worth the precious storage space for the lawnmower.  So, you really need to consider drainage, especially if you have raised planting beds and a paved terrace.

The golden rule is to ensure that the water runs away from the house but you’ll need to think about water catchment from the off, before the terrace is laid.  A good landscaper will be able to help you if you don’t know where to start.



Integral bench seat - London terrace

Building in some of the seating will really help to maximise space.  Ideally you want 1.5 metres clearance around your dining table if you want to eat out comfortably.

But if you allow this much space in really small gardens there probably won’t be much room left for plants so by incorporating some bench seating, perhaps within a raised bed, you’ll have a bit more space to breathe.



Planting around terrace Wandsworth garden design Lisa Cox

Although small town gardens by nature are often sheltered, they very rarely get a lot of sun and this will affect your choice of plants. The plus point of raised planting beds is that you can ensure the soil you bring in is top quality.

Think about foliage and using evergreen plants to give you interest all year round.  Shiny foliage will help to bounce light around but variegated plants can also give a similar effect.

The power of yellow…do you love to hate it?

0 Written by Lisa on 4th Nov 2014 in Design Tips, Plants

Yellow day lilies at Loseley Park hemerocallis

When I first start to talk to clients about plants, the majority of people say that they don’t want any yellow.  From experience what they actually mean is that there’s a particular plant with a particular tone of yellow that they don’t like or want in the garden. Read more

The best gardening gloves in town

1 Written by Lisa on 24th Oct 2014 in Design Tips


I’ve recently ordered a new box of Atlas gardening gloves and it wasn’t until I was placing the order that I realised the last batch lasted me 5 years!  I was first introduced to them when I worked with Garden Designer, Fiona Stephenson, and I’ve used them ever since. Read more

5 trees that work hard in all seasons

0 Written by Lisa on 21st Oct 2014 in Design Tips, Plants

Autumn colours in Wales Lisa Cox Garden Designs

I love the autumn when the leaves start to turn and the colours become warm and vibrant.  This year it seems to be taking a while to get going, in fact yesterday it was a barmy 20 degrees in Surrey, but there are some signs that the trees are turning. Read more

Big flowerbeds are better

1 Written by Lisa on 2nd Sep 2014 in Design Tips

The Flower Garden at Loseley Lisa Cox Designs

Often when I’m working with clients they are concerned about turning too much of the garden over to planting.  This is especially the case when they want a low maintenance garden.  Although they often become interested, many of my clients don’t start off as very keen gardeners and the reason they want to work with a professional is because they don’t have the first clue about plants and what to do with them. Read more

Plans for small gardens – circles can be tricky beasts

0 Written by Lisa on 19th Aug 2014 in Design Tips

Cobble paving by Maggie Howarth at Gresgarth Hall

Small gardens are often more challenging to design because generally people want to fit in the same list of things they’d want if their garden was half an acre. Read more

Some planting design tips to help you along

2 Written by Lisa on 15th Aug 2014 in Design Tips

Planting Oxshott Lisa Cox Garden Designs

Planning a planting scheme takes time.  There’s so much to think about and consider to get it right.  As well as the constraints of the site (soil/aspect/drainage), you need to think about the aesthetic qualities of the plant (shape, form, foliage, colour) as well as how well and how long it performs for and of course how long you have to wait for it to become fully grown. Read more

Good design is all about balance

0 Written by Lisa on 4th Jul 2014 in Design Tips

Side garden restructured Lisa Cox Designs

I’ve recently been working with a client in Woking who, after a big project to renovate the house, needed some help to lift the garden.  They’d already installed the paving and brought in lots of mature specimen plants, but the garden just hadn’t really come to life and they didn’t feel very inspired to spend time out there. Read more

Create your garden course – Week 2

0 Written by Lisa on 14th May 2014 in Design Tips, From the drawing board

Week 2 create your garden workshop Decor Cafe Lisa Cox

Yesterday was week 2 of my Create Your Garden course at The Decor Cafe in Putney, which I’m running with friend and fellow garden designer, Sarah Speller. Read more

Create your garden course – Week 1

0 Written by Lisa on 7th May 2014 in Design Tips, From the drawing board

Design your own garden course Lisa Cox The Decor Cafe

It was the first week of my new garden styling and design course at The Decor Cafe yesterday.  I’m running it with friend and fellow designer, Sarah Speller, and it will run over three consecutive Tuesday mornings. Read more

Lisa Cox Welcome

I specialise in helping families to turn their gardens into an extension of their home and into a space that can be used and enjoyed all year round.

read more >

Sign up to the Newsletter
Thank you for signing up.
Let me create the Right Garden For you click here >
Find me elsewhere

Websites by Flourish, Guildford, Surrey