Many people fall into the trap of thinking that straight lines down the garden increase the perception of length. In fact, curves can often be utilised to achieve this. A curved border, lawn or patio can instil an impression of expanded space. The undulating curves can create an effect of flow, making the garden appear to unfold. As well as the extension of the garden, curved hard or soft landscaping also makes for an interesting feature.
Just because the garden is small, it does not mean that you have to omit objects or features. One approach of creating focal points is to examine all the view angles into the garden: from a window, from the exit from the house, from the gate into the garden. Where these principal views intersect can be an ideal location for your main feature. Alternatively, add several areas of interest throughout the garden, but keep them fairly similar in size and type to keep the movement and balance of the garden. Different groups of rocks throughout the garden can work well as they are a conglomeration of objects rather than single pieces. This can be more interesting for the eye and helps create depth.
Another illusory tactic is to divide the area into smaller segments or rooms. This makes the garden look full, deep and spacious. There are two main ways in which you can achieve this: with levels or with dividers.
Levels: This can involve anything from creating a raised bed to installing platform decking. This complete and noticeable separation gives the impression that the space is large in order to fit in such a change in landscape. Moreover, an upper level can be given its own theme to further segregate it from the rest of the garden. Not only does this give rise to a spatial illusion, but it means you can try out more of your design ideas that do not fit into the main part of the garden.
Division: Implementing trellises, bridges, and shrubbery act as dividers between separate areas of the garden. Giving the viewer a sense that there is something beyond the initial boundary makes the garden seem much larger, as they can assume that it goes on indefinitely.
Leaving large blank spaces in your small garden will not necessarily make it seem bigger. In a small garden there is more licence to use every space available to create your perfect floral adventure. Hanging baskets and climbing plants can be used on walls to create a lush haven of plant life.
Lastly, don't be afraid to play with other sensory experiences in your garden to create a sense of it as a deeper space. Try to capture all light, movement and sound available. Allow your taller trees and plants to let in shoots of light across the garden, and put them somewhere where they can catch the breeze through their branches to pull your attention higher up. A noisy water feature in a corner or in a separate area can sound further away than it is in reality.
A small garden can still involve big landscaping plans. In fact, a smaller garden can require more detailed planning to carefully work out how to maximise your space, whilst designing an attractive and practical garden. The smaller the space, the important it is to consider where to position your plants and what size they should be. A small garden does not mean that you have to be conventional and limited in your ideas, only that you should be extra careful to not let them get out of hand. It is very easy to make a small garden look busy and confused, but it is also easy to create a unique space that looks and feels larger than it actually is.
Small gardens are often boxed in spaces with straight, rectangular edges, and gardeners often feel that their design must follow suit. The result is straight beds, walks, borders, and symmetrical planting. This has the unfortunate result of making the garden seem very small and unadventurous.
As with any new garden design, you should first decide what the garden space will be used for. Will you require some space for outdoor seating? Will there be children in the garden? The form of the garden should follow the function in order to get the best results from your design. Once you know what you want from the space, you can begin to install the colours, textures, shapes and sizes that will emphasise, not minimise, your garden plot.
Using too many colours in a small garden will only make it appear cramped; you should aim to use only two or three. Movement between shades will create the illusion of space, for example moving down the garden from canary yellow to paler tones. Stronger colour flowers, plants and foliage should be used at the front of the garden as the eye is drawn to those first. Paler and cooler colours receding down the garden appear more distant and so make the garden look longer. Reds, yellows, and oranges should be the front colours; while pinks, violets and blues colour the back.
If you are trying to achieve a lush look, using too many plants and colours in a small space can simply be messy. It is the not the number of plants used that causes chaos, but the variety. Using repetition will give an order to the garden whilst still allowing you to fill up the space. As an example, if you intend to plant three trees, buy three of the same species and not three different types.
It is not just plant colours that can help create space and depth in a small garden; try painting your walls or fences too. A white background gives an illusion of extending space, while a corner wall painted black looks like a shadow and so makes it appear as though the garden continues.
Possessing a small garden does not mean that it can only contain small plants. What does matter is proportion. Try to keep the plants in proportion with your home and walls, and ensure that you choose plants and features that complement each other in size. This does not meant that all your plants should be the same size, but for example, that they should not go up and down in height oddly as you cast your eye over the garden.
Inevitably, over-sized trees and shrubbery will only swamp a small garden and so should be avoided. They will also cast a large shadow over the rest of the garden and make it difficult for anything to grow. That said, planting small trees at the further end of the garden makes the distance across the garden seem greater. Just make sure that they do not overshadow other vital planting schemes.
Using pots and other containers works well in small gardens because it instantly creates height variation. Creating depth and managing your proportions is easier to do, because as the plant continues to grow it is not planted into static ground.