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Simple garden ideas to enhance your outdoor space

Simple garden ideas to enhance your outdoor space

Wondering how to decorate your garden? These simple tricks will help you to create the perfect outdoor space

If you have a small garden that you want to enhance, these simple tricks can help create a sense of space and depth. 

Use light and shade

Dappled light in garden

Use dappled light to create depth

Skilful handling of light and shade can greatly increase the sense of variety and interest in a small garden, helping it to tell a story and creating a feeling of depth and mystery.

Create contrasts between light and shade

A sunny area that can be seen from a shady one lends depth and offers the enticement of warmth and light, in the same way as a glade or clearing in woodland does. You can emphasise the contrast between light and shade by using a pale plant as a focal point in the sunny place: silver or variegated foliage will reflect maximum light. 

Use dappled shade to bring the country into town

Overhead foliage, for example, on a pergola or a deciduous tree suggests woodland, with its seasonal variety. The type of shade it gives is ideal for small gardens.

"There will be an especially pleasant kind of flickering green shade on hot summer days"

There will be plenty of light and sunshine in winter and spring before the leaves appear, followed by an especially pleasant kind of flickering green shade on hot summer days. 

Add sparkle with a water feature

A water feature uses the light-reflecting properties of the water to add cool, bright highlights. A water feature planned and sited with this in mind makes the best kind of focal point and can transform a small and shady place.

Open up more sight-lines with a mirror

A strategically positioned mirror can appear to add space and light to a garden and can make areas of a narrow garden look wider. Experiment with different positions to find the one that works best, and make sure the mirror's edges are concealed by framing or planting. 

Make paths and views appear longer

Garden path

You can play tricks on perspective with paths and plants

In a small garden, paths need to feel leisurely, to give the impression of a larger space. Long, straight paths suggest hurrying to a destination, especially if their components are laid lengthways.

Use paths to add extra depth

Gentle curves tend to slow progress through a small space and make it seem bigger though you should avoid too many pointless wiggles, or everyone will take short cuts. Another way to slow down a path, visually, is to include wide stripes of bricks, slabs or timber sleepers laid crosswise to the direction of travel. 

"Gentle curves tend to slow progress through a small space and make it seem bigger"

A path that narrows slightly as it runs away from you will look longer. This is easier to achieve with paths of loose materials such as gravel or chipped bark than when paving slabs are involved.

Play perspective tricks with plants

Another way of exaggerating perspective to create views that appear longer than they really are is to have large plants or objects in the foreground, with smaller but similar ones farther away. 

Add more light to shady gardens 

White lilies

Use white accents to bring in more light

Small gardens, especially in towns, are often hemmed in by buildings and tall boundaries that can prevent light reaching the ground, especially in winter when the sun is low. Choosing plants and other features that will bring in some light can make all the difference. 

Paint walls white to bounce in light

Introducing pale colours is a quick and easy way to dispel the gloom in a shady garden. Give rendered walls a facelift with a fresh coat of whitewash to reflect more light, and paint house doors and window frames too if they need it.

Timber structures such as pergolas, gates and arches can also be transformed very quickly using easy-to-apply garden paints for unplanned wood. Here, too, white or cream will add a lightening touch. 

Introduce warmth with hard landscaping

When choosing surfacing materials, avoid drab grey or khaki pavers or slate chippings, which can look quite depressing, especially when wet. Instead, go for a warm, pale honey-coloured stone effect for paved areas.

Add bright highlights with plants

Avoid creating a mass of drab, dark foliage in a small, shady garden. Plants with white variegation in their leaves work well if used in moderation among other plants. White flowers also show up beautifully, and a white-themed planting can look cool and sophisticated in low light.

"Golden foliage creates the welcome illusion of sunshine on a dull day"

Pots of white lilies (lilium regale are the purest white) will add intoxicating fragrance, too. Golden foliage creates the welcome illusion of sunshine on a dull day but avoid siting golden-leaved plants in very deep shade, because they will turn green if there isn’t enough light.  

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