Gardens: Perfect Patch

With landscaping tricks and shrewd furniture buys, small gardens can have a big impact.

We’ve asked a lot of our gardens over the last few years. During the various lockdowns they became a veritable sanctuary, and for us city-dwellers in particular, a much-needed extension of our living rooms. Post-pandemic, the trend for blurred indoor/outdoor spaces continues to spark the imagination. We want creative solutions to our limited patio space or cosy walled terrace that maximise on every square foot. Kate Gould is an award-winning garden designer whose Out of the Shadows entry at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show addressed exactly this. “As we (hopefully) come out of the pandemic, people have certainly become more mindful about creating safe spaces they can hunker down in,” she says. “They are thinking outside the box in terms of what they want their gardens to deliver, and they’re often not sure how to achieve this within a traditional garden model.”

Briefed with transforming a shaded basement garden in Kensington, Kate Gould created a green space that is lush with foliage. A literal oasis in the city

Kate offers reassuring advice on incorporating some seemingly over-ambitious garden ideas into a smaller outside space. “I want to show people that if they want a swim spa for example, or a space to do yoga, they don’t need to choose between having that and a beautiful garden. It doesn’t need to be an either/or choice. It’s about coming out of quite narrow, traditional views of what a garden needs to be,” she argues. “It can work on so many different levels and clever design choices can marry up lifestyle needs.” For the garden designer, a well-chosen water feature can bring life to a smaller patch, while incorporating a barbecue or firepit adds an important entertaining element. “The personal elements you choose for your garden are what make it uniquely yours,” she says. “These finishing touches are entirely up to you, and, over time, they will most likely change with fashions and trends. In a small space, every element needs to work hard, often serving a dual purpose.”  

The firepit table creates the perfect centrepiece to the seating area in this garden designed by Kate Gould

“When we design an urban or smaller garden, we look to create a holistic relationship between the indoors and out,” says Mark Latchford, director of landscape design at HollandGreen. “With gardens that have limited area, we aim to maximise and extend the living spaces, bringing the outdoors closer to the house and complementing the interior style and layout of the home. We often create separate zones with their own unique ambiance and usage, bringing a sense of separation and discovery that can actually make a garden feel bigger. For example, spaces for entertaining, relaxation, storage and play areas for children are carefully considered to ensure each space flows cohesively into the next, all brought together with new planting and lighting designs.” He adds that: “Views out onto the garden are just as important and should feel welcoming to encourage you outside.”

The owners of the urban garden shown above wanted to create an oasis of calm. This was achieved through lush green planting and layers of textures set against the tranquil sound of a water feature. With the clever use of lighting, the garden transforms into a magical evening set-up, encouraging the homeowners and their guests to enjoy the space for longer. “We designed a timber and galvanised steel bench beside a garden sculpture as a great spot for contemplation,” says Mark. “A contemporary steppingstone path links each of the elements through the garden, and a featured pod seat is another lovely place to sit on summer evenings. Glazing across the new extension provides ample views out into the garden, making the interior space feel connected to the outdoors.” (Photo credit: Ellie Walpole) 

Responding to a client brief, HollandGreen designed this lush green oasis with cleverly thought out lighting and seating areas designed for quiet contemplation

Whether you’re doing up a small balcony, roof terrace or a larger patio, shrewd outdoor furniture choices are a must. And there’s a wealth of design-led pieces on offer that will give their indoor counterparts a run for their money, further blurring the lines of inside and out. From cosy L-shaped seating to weather-resistant dining tables, bijou metal bistro sets and standalone hanging egg chairs, you can inject style and personality into your urban garden whilst maximising on space. “As we look forward to the warmer months, you will want to create a space that can be enjoyed during the day, but also one that will feel inviting and cosy at night,” says Claire Hornby, head of creative at Barker & Stonehouse. “I like to layer up garden furniture with cushions and throws that not only look great but make life al fresco a little more comfortable, too. Outdoor bulb lights are great and can help elevate a smaller space, but if you really want to embrace your intimate entertaining area, invest in a firepit. They are a real showstopper and allow you to take advantage of your garden or balcony, season after season.” 

Geradis Campos dining table, £349 and Duke dining armchair, £239 both Barker & Stonehouse