Softening the edges in small gardens

4 Written by Lisa on 6th Jul 2015 in Design Tips

Grass mounds Hauser Wirth Somerset Lisa Cox Garden Designs

Using curves in small spaces can be a challenge as often there just isn’t the space to allow the curve to be what it is.

In larger gardens, where space isn’t an issue, it’s much easier to incorporate sweeping lines and softer edges.

Meandering gravel pathway Lisa Cox Garden Designs

So what do you do if you don’t really want crisp straight edges in your small courtyard garden?  Here are a couple of tricks…

Letting the planting spill over the edge of pathways can really help to soften the straight edges.

Ideally you want to start off with a wide path so that you still have enough space to walk when the plants fill out.  At least 1.2m if you can.

Brick path Hotel Villa Augustus Lisa Cox Designs

In really small gardens you have to be careful not to choose plants that will fill out too much, especially if you don’t have the luxury of being able to incorporate wide pathways so try to think about using plants that are naturally neat and tidy.

Alternatively you could stagger the paving so that you don’t have a straight edge.  This can be effective in creating a false curve through a small space, tricking the eye into thinking that your garden structure is curved when actually it’s a series of rectangles.

Bench in Homebase Garden RHS Chelsea 2014 Lisa Cox Designs

If you’re incorporating walls of any kind, choosing which materials you use can make a difference to how the garden feels overall.

So, for example, using stone for a raised bed or wall will give a much softer and organic feel than a rendered wall with crisp edges, even if the layout of the garden is the same.

Stone wall cleve west chelsea 2011

If you only have space for a small square terrace, use pots of different shapes and sizes to soften the look.

Hakonechloa macra Aureola in pot Lisa Cox Garden Designs

This is where you can bring curves into a space really effectively and if a plant is confined to a pot, even species that would usually outgrow their space, can easily be kept in check.  Grasses and sedges look particularly great in tall pots as the foliage can spill over and give a sense of informality.


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4 Responses to “Softening the edges in small gardens”

  1. Charlotte says:

    Wonderful article, I read it with a big big pleasure. I love garden planning and garden design in general and what you say satisfies my taste. There is no real straight line in nature so…welcome curves !

  2. Lisa says:

    Thanks so much Charlotte – yes I too love gardens to be in tune with their surroundings. Of course sometimes this means straight lines and crisp corners, but for my personal space I much prefer the lines to be much softer.

  3. The garden paths look really nice, I am also a big fan of using pots for plant is the space is limited. Thanks for the inspiration!

  4. Lisa says:

    Yes, me too – pots in small spaces really help to give structure and can also make things less formal if you choose the right style.

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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.

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