The new season of the BBC's Your Garden Made Perfect has started, and with the first episode having aired last night, we're already inspired by the many useful garden design ideas the programme gives people with small or awkwardly-shaped gardens.
The first episode takes us to Bushey in Hertfordshire, where couple Laura and Demi are at their wits' end how to transform their L-shaped, poorly designed garden into a welcoming and relaxing space. Although the garden is generously sized, it is awkwardly split into two levels, with a raised patio that has sharp edges and the rest of garden almost a metre below.
That wasn't all of the issues with the garden, however. A vast hedge dwarfed the space further, making the garden dark and oppressive, and large monkey puzzle tree right in the middle of the garden dominated the space. Asked to describe the garden as it was, Demi said that it felt 'like a tunnel' and 'stressful'.
The couple were presented with two transformation options, both of which they explored using innovative virtual reality (VR) technology.
Garden designer Manoj Malde offered to keep the monkey puzzle tree and alter the design to reflect the couple's interest in small Japanese garden ideas, installing a Shinto-style archway and planting bamboo across the perimeter.
Designer Helen Elks-Smith had quite a different plan for the garden, focusing on identifying multiple zones of interest and softening the harsh look of the space. In Helen's version of the garden transformation, the monkey puzzle tree would have to go.
After much dliberation, the couple settled on Helen's design – and the result is stunning. Helen's ingenious solution for this garden is to create a middle level connecting different parts of the garden, reducing the drop that was the garden's biggest flaw. There is now much more space for entertaining and mingling in different parts of the garden, rather than just the raised patio.
Helen also removed the 'monster hedge' that was blocking the view of neighbouring gardens and instead created a seating area at the back of the garden. A brand-new pergola has been installed and softened with several clematis plants – you can find inspiration on how to create something similar in your own space with our pergola ideas.
Romantic, billowing planting ensures that the garden no longer looks harsh. Helen also has honoured Demi's love of Japanese maples – a gorgeous red maple tree is now a focal point in the garden; it's slow growing, so won't take over the space like the monkey puzzle tree had. You can find suggestions for the best trees for small gardens in our guide.
Helen's most valuable tip for small or awkward-shaped gardens is to walk around the space and identify 'where is nice': these should be the garden's focal points, but there should always be more than one to prevent repeating the 'tunnel vision' issue identified earlier. Demi and Laura now have a garden with multiple zones that can be enjoyed by all members of the family at the same time.
Check out our family garden ideas for more inspiration on how to transform your own space.
Anna is a keen urban gardener, with David Austin roses and Japanese acers among her favourite plants. She moved into the world of interiors from academic research in the field of literature and urban space a couple of years ago. She's always been interested in how people make houses into homes, and how our concepts of what's stylish change over time.
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