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  • Sarah Gerhardt

Gardening hacks for small spaces

Updated: Apr 26


Gardening space is often limited when living in a city like Edinburgh. How can you make the most of a small Edinburgh tenement garden corner? Here are a few tips and tricks.


1. Grow up.

A terracotta pot with tulips in front of a wall
Planter with tulips (Photo: Sarah Gerhardt)

A great way to optimise the space of a small garden is to use its vertical potential. There is usually a way to grow plants upwards if there is limited ground space.


Climbers and small, thin plants and trees can cover up an unsightly fence and don’t take up much horizontal space. They also create height in narrow borders that can be difficult to plant. Use a climbing aid to help climbers go up rather than wide.


Hanging baskets and planters add interest to a wall. Filling them with trailing herbs or salads is an excellent opportunity for edible gardening in small spaces.


You can use staging to fit even more pots and planters in your garden. A planting stand with different levels or a small ladder allows for extra tiers to place your pots.


If you have dead roof space such as on top of a shed or bin store, use it to make a green roof. It is a great way to increase garden space and disguise unsightly functional structures.


2. Get a good balance between planting and landscaping.

Make beds and borders bigger and allow for more planting. Generous planting areas rather than lines of plants will make your garden feel larger.


A lawn can draw attention to the (small) size of your garden. You should consider not having one in your garden. Using gravel instead allows for more planting and makes the space seem larger.


Your small garden will look its best if there is roughly a 50/50 ratio between planting and paving or decking. This way your patio area will not look oversized or overcrowded in relation to the planting areas.


3. Use cool colours, limit and repeat.

Cool colours such as blue and purple make things seem further away whereas hot colours such as orange and red look like they are closer. Choosing cool colours is a neat little trick to create the impression that your garden is bigger than it is.


Another way to achieve this effect is to use light-coloured landscaping materials. Try light paving or gravel, or paint your boundaries in a light colour. They will brighten up shady spots, help bounce the light around and make the garden seem more spacious than when using dark materials.


Limit the amount of different plants in your garden and repeat them instead. It will give a more cohesive look than lots of individual plants. A row of identical containers or shrubs along a path draws the eye and creates rhythm.


4. Plant with year-long interest in mind.

A small garden does not have room for different plants for every season. Instead, focus on plants with a long flowering season such as repeat-flowering roses (i.e. ‘Generous Gardener’), catmint (Nepeta) or scabious (Scabiosa).


You could also grow plants with multi-season interest. This could even be a small tree such as the juneberry (Amelanchier lamarkii). The tree starts the season with white flowers among coppery young foliage followed by red berries and beautiful leaf colour in autumn.


5. Make clever use of your garden’s small space and shape.

Having only a small amount of space can be advantageous over having a larger garden when it comes to growing scented plants. The fragrance will be more noticeable because everything is closer, especially when combining several scented plants. There are plants with differing amounts of scentedness throughout the day. For example, the flowers of the honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) intensify their scent at dusk.


Another hack for making the most of your small space is to divide it up and make it look less linear. If your garden is rectangular create curved border edges or add rounded paving stones. Your garden will look bigger if you cannot see everything at once. Having different areas will also make your garden more interesting looking. Use hedges, beds or screens to create divisions.


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