Ideas for awkward shaped gardens: 15 ways to transform your narrow, sloping or otherwise tricky plot

Does your odd-shaped plot have you feeling baffled? These ideas for awkward shaped gardens are just what you need to turn its weaknesses into strengths

ideas for awkward shaped gardens: patio
(Image credit: David Still/Future)

Are you after ideas for awkward shaped gardens? If your plot is a tricky shape, it all comes down to optimizing the use of space. At first it can seem an impossible task, but with a bit of planning and a few clever enhancements you can transform your plot into one you love – odd bits and all!

Start by making a list of some of the problems you've 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 of your garden design ideas, 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.

Ideas for awkward shaped gardens: 15 stunning looks

We've identified some of the most common gardening dilemmas, and have gathered lots of advice on how to solve them. So, if you need ideas for awkward shaped gardens, look no further.

1. Transform your triangular plot with seating

ideas for awkward shaped gardens: triangle

Make the most of your garden's odd angles

(Image credit: James Merrell/Future)

If you're the owner of a triangular plot, then that far corner may have you bewildered. In fact, perhaps your entire view from the house seems to center around that rather severe-looking point, and you need to find a way to bring attention elsewhere.

Well, as this example above shows, there are a few tricks to make it feel lighter, brighter, and actually useful

For starters, paint surrounding walls or fences in pale hues and encourage foliage to grow up and around them – this will soften the harsh angles. Then, draw the eye to the front of the plot with bold patterns and fun features – we love the tropical vibe of this outdoor sofa. And, if you're looking for low maintenance garden ideas, you could opt for an artificial lawn behind, instead of the real deal.

Finally – add a nifty seat. That way, you can use the corner and admire your garden from a fresh perspective.

2. Cozy up a narrow courtyard

ideas for awkward shaped gardens: outdoor living moda furnishings

(Image credit: Moda Furnishings)

This small penned-in courtyard has been brought to life with a lick of white paint and an outdoor living set-up. The corner sofa slots perfectly into the space, and is accompanied with modern stools to keep the overall feel looking open and welcoming. 

A fire pit creates a cozy glow – our best fire pits buying guide has tons of top picks if you'd like one for yourself – and we love the pop of warm colored cushions too.

3. Transform severe slopes into statement steps

ideas for awkward shaped gardens: levels

A steep hill has been transformed with a contemporary outdoor staircase

(Image credit: Annaick Guitteny/Future)

Is your garden so steep it feels almost impossible to work with? Then perhaps it's time to take inspiration from the image above and break the space up into levels. It's probably not a job for the faint-hearted (nor if you're after cheap garden ideas) but the results can be transformative, both aesthetically and for how you use the space.

This modern staircase is framed by sleek, wooden-panelled structures which zone the space beautifully. 

If you prefer a softer look then why not introduce a climbing plant? Take a look at our guide on how to grow clematis, for example.

4. Double the space with a mirror

ideas for awkward shaped gardens: mirror on courtyard wall

A garden mirror is a clever trick to make a space seem bigger

(Image credit: Annaick Guitteny/Future)

If your garden feels small and overly square, then there's a few ideas for awkward shaped gardens that you can try to make it more interesting. 

One of the best ways to make it feel more spacious is to add garden mirrors – the bigger the better. Hang one up along a wall and not only will it help to bounce the light around, it will also create an illusion of space – your garden will be instantly doubled!

Another way to prevent your plot feeling cramped is to use uninterrupted lines. As seen on the wood panelling on these walls, it helps to elongate the space.

5. Make small, square gardens look bigger with circles 

ideas for awkward shaped gardens: "Serenity" RHS Flower Show Tatton Park 2011 Designer; Russell Watkinson awarded silver medal

Circles can help to break up an awkward-shaped plot – as seen here in the Serenity garden, designed by Russell Watkinson for RHS Flower Show Tatton Park 2011

(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.

6. Sort out a slope using multiple levels

Contemporary small garden with split levels

Create separate garden 'rooms' with steps

(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.

If you're looking for more info on how much does a garden designer cost, our guide has plenty of advice.

7. Line a thin plot with pots

ideas for awkward shaped gardens: side return area transformed into a shaded seating area with container plants

A shade sail and lots of plants transforms this narrow space

(Image credit: Future)

Terraced houses tend to have awkward side areas that often get very little light. A shade sail or a small seat could be lovely situated there, as part of your ideas for awkward shaped gardens. Try laying gravel with stepping stones and pots of lush, shade-tolerant plants, too. 

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

8. Add a new level

ideas for awkward shaped gardens: split level garden

Double your space by thinking vertically

(Image credit: James Merrell/Future)

If you're pining for more space, and have the budget to do so, then consider a more serious build for your ideas for awkward shaped gardens. This home extension offers a flowing indoor-outdoor experience, whilst its flat roof can be used as a whole other balcony area, for added pots, plants, and seating.

Our balcony garden ideas feature has more inspiration.

9. Think vertically in smaller gardens

ideas for awkward shaped gardens: Wooden ladder planter arranged with pots

Use tall shelves to make the most of small spaces

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

Small garden ideas tend to be overlooked by other houses. But, at least 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 color 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.

10. Keep things clutter-free

ideas for awkward shaped gardens: Wooden panel with plants hanging in pots, watering can and gardening tools above plants in pots.

Wooden panels are a great place to hang plants and accessories

(Image credit: Joanna Henderson)

If you have an awkward shaped plot you don't want to add insult to injury by having clutter. The key to keeping the space clear is smart garden storage ideas

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.

11. Create a gravel garden in areas with no shade

ideas for awkward shaped gardens: Gravel garden featuring grasses, Allium, Asphodeline and other drought resistant plants

No shade? No problem – simply embrace a rock garden vibe

(Image credit: Alamy)

A hot, dry site, especially on sandy soils, is ideal for Mediterranean-style features 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. Our small rock garden ideas feature has more top tips.

12. Introduce structure with a path

ideas for awkward shaped gardens: A garden path of pavers and gravel, with beds planted with alliums and flowering plants, and flowering plants on a trellis fence.

A winding pathway adds structure to this plot

(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 colors, materials and sizes, paving ideas can be laid in a variety of patterns. There's something to suit every budget and taste so spend time making your decision. 

Stepping stone ideas can be a fun feature and simple to lay across an existing lawn whilst reclaimed wood can add a rustic edge.

13. Mix up the materials

ideas for awkward shaped gardens: Small garden with wooden outdoor seating, fire-pit and wooden boardwalk on white gravel, black wooden fence.

Add a mixture of textures for added interest

(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. Alternatively, gravel and pebbles are fairly cheap, can be laid by less experienced gardeners, and are great choices as part of your ideas for awkward shaped gardens.

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. 

14. Change the shape of your flowerbeds

ideas for awkward shaped gardens: Shovel digging beds on edge of a lawn

Change up your borders

(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. 

You 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. We've got lots more info in our guide to garden borders.

15. Give a long, thin garden a new dimension

ideas for awkward shaped gardens: 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

Split your narrow plot into sections as part of your ideas for awkward shaped gardens

(Image credit: Rei Moon)

A long, thin garden 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. Instead, 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.

Looking for more advice? You'll find plenty in our long garden ideas feature.

What can I do with a sloped garden?

ideas for awkward shaped gardens: decking and seats

Decking is a great way to add a stable platform to sloped plots

(Image credit: zhudifeng/Getty Images)

There are a number of ways you can make your sloped plot feel more manageable when it comes to ideas for awkward shaped gardens.

Leigh Barnes of Jacksons Fencing says, 'Smart decking not only drastically improves the overall look of a garden, it can also be used to level out uneven or sloping ground, and fill awkward or unused areas on steep inclines, increasing the garden’s size and finding a purpose for previously unusable land.'

'Over more extensive areas, consider incorporating steps. These can be used to separate levels and form multiple, tiered spaces within your garden. It's an excellent option to maximize space, and implement adequate social distancing measures for as long as we may need them. 

'If the structure is built high enough, space underneath can be used as additional storage which can be easily locked and secured,' they add.

Our dedicated feature on sloping garden ideas will come in handy if you need more inspiration for your plot.

Teresa Conway
Teresa Conway

Teresa was part of a team which launched Easy Gardens magazine two years ago and she continues to edit it today. She is also the Gardens Editor on Homes & Gardens, Country Homes & Interiors, Ideal Home and Style At Home, so she is am lucky enough to see and write about gardening across all sizes, budgets and abilities. What she is most passionate about when it comes to gardening are the positive effects it has on our mental health to grow and care for plants. Keeping our patches alive with greenery is great for the environment too and help provide food and shelter for wildlife. Finally, she finds it to be such a wonderful opportunity to tap into my creative side and she loves the feeling that she is crafting a space which has a life of its own. Audrey Hepburn summed gardening up perfectly when she said - “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow”.