Wondering how to style a small garden or looking for balcony garden ideas? Whether you have a roof terrace, balcony, small back yard or patio, you can still create a dream design with some thoughtful planting and innovative additions, says award-winning designer, Ula Maria.

“Try to understand your space and what will grow there, the light levels, how much sun you get and where the shade falls, as well as the type of soil you have to work with,” says the former RHS Young Designer of the Year, whose new book, Green, offers design ideas for small spaces.


“Take inspiration and learn from nature, whether it’s artwork for colour or an aspect of past holidays, or something else which has inspired you,” she adds.

How big should the plants be in a small space?

“Don’t be too scared to bring in larger plants, because they always seem to make a small space appear grander,” says Maria. “If you are worried that planting a big tree may block your light, think about another statement plant, such as a tall grass. If you have a balcony garden, you may just want to include tall-growing perennials or something that will make a big impact.”

5 ways to style a small garden or outdoor space

The book features a mixture of small and innovative gardens offering a range of design ideas. Here, Maria shares tips on five styles for inspiration.

Balcony garden ideas

Balcony garden ideas
Merge florals inside and out (Jason Ingram/PA)

Merge florals inside with the balcony outside, she suggests, maybe in the form of a chair covered with a floral material which echoes the flora and fauna on your balcony. “It’s important to make the transition between inside and outside seem as seamless as possible,” says Maria.

Place houseplants close to the window of your balcony to enhance that connection and blur the boundary between outside and in.

Contemporary Mediterranean

Balcony garden ideas mediterranean
Make a feature wall with graphic tiles (Jason Ingram/PA)

Use materials such as graphic tiles, presenting them in a contemporary way, she advises. Look for companies which sell reclaimed tiles and furniture for ideas. “You don’t have to do a whole wall. You could cover one section of a wall, creating an artwork,” Maria suggests.

If you have a busy wall, you may want to play safe with planting, sticking to green rather than going for a eye-popping colour contrast. “Try not to introduce more than two colours at a time, and see how it works. Ferns are good stalwarts. If you are using busy tiles, keep the planting simple.”

Romantic idyll

Balcony garden ideas romantic patios
Layer plants of different heights (Jason Ingram/PA)

Create layered planting with soft, gentle hues, and use fragrance to create a small romantic space, she suggests.

This space has been assembled by an artist, layer by layer, using antique furniture, sculptures and planters to blur the boundaries of the garden and planting in layers to create different heights.

“Layers create interest because you have something to discover in every corner,” says Maria.

“Hydrangeas are great because they have these big, soft blooms. Ornamental roses also look brilliant, along with campanula and ivy, to create a fairy tale garden.”

Interior approach

Balcony garden ideas outdoor room
Comfortable sofas and a rug create an outdoor room (Jason Ingram/PA)

This style is for those who want their outside space to look like an additional room, featuring comfortable seating framed by flora and fauna. “There may not be many plants but there should be enough to create a sense of a garden,” says Maria. “It’s ideal for people who are too busy to maintain many plants.”

An inward-focused space enables you to forget what happens outside its walls. Outdoor rugs have also become a trend in recent years, giving the sense of extra outdoor living space.

If you’re worried about storage of garden cushions, consider buying furniture with in-built storage inside the seating framework, Maria suggests.

Container cottage garden

Charlie McCormick's Balcony Garden (12th July 2017)
A roof terrace can be transformed with container planting (Jason Ingram/PA)

For people with a city garden or roof terrace with no natural planting area, but who still want to feel like they are in the countryside, make the most of containers. These will soon have your space overflowing with plants, Maria assures.

“Large agapanthus, verbena and rosemary add accent colour, texture and scent and you can even grow a fruit tree in a large pot,” she says.

“Plant a mixture of cosmos, lavender, foxgloves and lupins for a joyful and informal look. Experiment with growing herbs, vegetables and fruit in large containers for the full cottage-garden experience.

“Again, allow many layers for different types of plants,” Maria adds. “Containers also provide flexibility for those who one day might want to relocate their garden to a different home.”

Climbers such as clematis or jasmine will cover privacy panels and fill the air with fragrance.

Remember, though, containers can dry out fairly quickly, so consider installing a simple automated watering system if you’re not going to be able to water your pots regularly, she says.

Green: Simple Ideas for Small Outdoor Spaces by Ula Maria is published by Mitchell Beazley.

How to grow fruit and veg on your balcony and windowsill


Best-selling garden design ideas books

Stuck for inspiration? Check out our list of best-selling Amazon products!

Bestseller No. 1
Garden Design: A Book of Ideas
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Howcroft, Heidi (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
Bestseller No. 2
RHS Encyclopedia of Garden Design: Planning, Building and Planting Your Perfect Outdoor Space
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Young, Chris (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
Bestseller No. 3
Alan Titchmarsh How to Garden: Garden Design
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Titchmarsh, Alan (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
Bestseller No. 4
Garden Design Bible: 40 great off-the-peg designs – Detailed planting plans – Step-by-step...
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Newbury, Tim (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
Bestseller No. 5
RHS How to Plant a Garden: Design tricks, ideas and planting schemes for year-round interest
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • James, Matt (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Last update on 2021-10-12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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