10 garden ideas for awkward shaped gardens

Every outdoor space has its challenges so follow our garden ideas for awkward shaped spaces and turn your garden’s weaknesses into its strengths

Small garden with wooden outdoor seating, fire-pit and wooden boardwalk on white gravel, black wooden fence.
(Image credit: Colin Poole)

On the hunt for garden ideas for awkward shaped gardens? If your plot is a tricky shape, it comes down to making the best of what you have. With a a bit of planning and a few clever enhancements you won't find it hard to love your space for its own uniqueness. Whether your garden needs a total redesign or a quick fix to give it a lift, it’s important not to become unstuck by not giving due consideration to your strengths and limitations before you get started. 

Start by making a list  of some of the problems  you have identified in your garden, such as poor layout or no clear footpath routes. If it's an awkward shape, does it appear too small or too big, or is it long and narrow? Maybe it lacks character and is boring visually without interesting focal points. Some gardens might be too sunny or shady making it difficult to keep plants alive. 

Once you have identified some of the problems, it is just as important to assess the things you like about your garden and wish to retain or enhance. Maybe you have a lovely tree, a great view or a beautifully sunny spot. Every garden space has its strengths. You can really help yourself by identifying advantages and working with what you have. With that in mind, we’ve identified some of the most common gardening dilemmas, so keep scrolling for our advice on how to solve them. You'll also find plenty more inspiration for your plot in our garden design ideas gallery. 

1. Make small square gardens look bigger with circles 

"Serenity" RHS Flower Show Tatton Park 2011 Designer; Russell Watkinson awarded silver medal

(Image credit: Alamy)

The designer trick for difficult plot shapes is usually to define a new and more pleasing garden shape within the boundaries. The resulting planting pockets will then help to disguise the existing boundaries. Circles are a bold shape which will create a strong statement and draw the eye from an otherwise awkward shaped plot. One of the most successful garden path ideas is to design one that sweeps around one side of a circular lawn, drawing the eye to an area beyond.

2. SORT OUT A SLOPING SPACE WITH STYLISH STEPS

Contemporary small garden with split levels

(Image credit: Alamy)

Sloping gardens needn't be seen as a disadvantage necessarily. Changes in levels – even just a 10cm drop – adds to the perception that the space is bigger than it really is and makes a garden more interesting. Terracing is a fantastic solution for a steeply sloped site, but it can be expensive. Consider whether the whole garden needs to be terraced – could you have just one area levelled and the rest sloping? It may be less costly to site a lawn and seating area away from the house.

3. LINE A NARROW SPACE WITH POTS

side return area transformed into a shaded seating area with container plants

(Image credit: TI Media)

Terraced houses tend to have awkward side areas that often get very little light in the shadow cast by the house. A shade sail or a small seat could be lovely situated there. Try laying gravel with stepping stones and pots of lush, shade-tolerant plants. The key is to start with a simple clean-up of the area. Once cleared, a muddy patch or a pathway can be spruced up with plenty of outdoor accessories to transform it into a useable space. Not sure what plants to use in a shady spot? You'll find plenty of options in our guide to the best shade loving plants

4. MAKE USE OF VERTICAL SPACE IN SMALL GARDENS

Wooden ladder planter arranged with pots

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

Small gardens tend to be overlooked by other houses but at least this means there are plenty of fences and walls to provide planting surfaces that won’t use up precious floor space, as well as providing a canvas for colour and greenery. Ladders are a popular choice for a pot display as they can be placed up against a wall and adorned with pots with very little effort required.

You can create a green oasis and much-wanted privacy by extending the height of your boundaries with materials such as trellis or woven willow, which will let through light for an airy effect. Cover with trailing plants such as evergreen clematis, climbing hydrangea and honeysuckle in soft shades of green. This will draw your gaze upwards and make the small space feel bigger.

5. KEEP THINGS CLEAR WITH SLEEK STORAGE

Wooden panel with plants hanging in pots, watering can and gardening tools above plants in pots.

(Image credit: Joanna Henderson)

If you have an awkward shaped plot you don't want to add insult to injury by having clutter, and the key to keeping the space clear is smart storage. This could be anything from putting up hooks in your shed to mounting shelving on a wall for your tools. A neat set of shelving adds a storage dimension and many garden furniture ranges include storage under the seats. Keeping as much clutter out of the way as possible will help keep your outdoor space looking its best.

6. CREATE A GRAVEL GARDEN IN AREAS WITH NO SHADE

Gravel garden featuring grasses, Allium, Asphodeline and other drought resistant plants

(Image credit: Alamy)

A hot, dry site, especially on sandy soils, is ideal for Mediterranean gardens, such as a gravel garden. For easy maintenance and to conserve moisture, cover well-dug soil with a horticultural membrane, securing with stakes: then cut two crosswise slits to plant through. Once planted, cover the membrane in a 3cm depth of gravel, adding stepping stones and piles of pebbles for contrast. Small plants may be swamped by gravel, so plant on a low mound in a circle of pebbles. Plant with drought tolerant, sun-loving plants like senecio, rock roses, cineraria, helichrysm italicum and cotton lavender. 

7. INTRODUCE STRUCTURE WITH A PATH

A garden path of pavers and gravel, with beds planted with alliums and flowering plants, and flowering plants on a trellis fence.

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

A garden looks more structured with the addition of a simple path to draw the eye and add a sense of 'journey' through the garden. With such a wide variety of colours, materials and sizes, paving can be laid in a variety of patterns. There’s something to suit every budget and taste so spend time making your decision. Stepping stones can be a fun feature and simple to lay across an existing lawn whilst reclaimed wood can add rustic edge. 

8. MIX UP THE MATERIALS

Small garden with wooden outdoor seating, fire-pit and wooden boardwalk on white gravel, black wooden fence.

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

Don't be tempted to cover the whole area of a garden with just one surface. Gardens that are all lawn or all paving can look bland and uninspiring. There is an array of materials to choose from. Wood is great for decking ideas, then consider porcelain or stone paving for pathways, while gravel and pebbles are fairly cheap and can be laid by less experienced gardeners. Work with the existing shape and mark out zones which could be laid with different surfacing materials and watch as the shape is transformed from awkward to awesome. 

9. CHANGE THE SHAPE OF YOUR FLOWER BEDS

Shovel digging beds on edge of a lawn

(Image credit: Alamy)

This can be easier than you think and doesn't necessarily involve any hard landscaping. Mark out the area before you begin so you know exactly what to expect in terms of size and area. You can use the sharp edge of a large shovel to reshape and expand your beds into your lawn. Your could go for a curved edge and introduce a softer and more wild planting style or go for something straighter and keep it looking clean and contemporary. 

10. GIVE A LONG THIN GARDEN A NEW DIMENSION

Long thin garden of Georgian townhouse with paved area with outdoor sofa and large, oversized standard anglepoise lamp Redecorated 3-bedroom Georgian townhouse in south London, home of Julia and Paul Thompson

(Image credit: Rei Moon)

This can be a daunting starting point, particularly  if you’re new to gardening. Seeing a long corridor of space spread out before you can leave you wondering how to make the most of it. Avoid having a long continuous path running down the garden that accentuates the length. Try splitting the garden up into distinct areas – you could even make these different shapes to make them more inviting to explore. For example, place some stepping stones through plants in a central space which links shady and sunny seating areas on either side. Use dividers such as trellises or tall plants to break up the line of sight between sections, to give intrigue and privacy.

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