Experts warn against this common mistake with garden mirrors

A garden mirror is a popular addition to an outdoor space and can make a small garden look twice the size – but take care to avoid starting a fire

garden mirror against a brick wall and surrounded by planting
(Image credit: Charles Ted)

Perfect for adding interest to even the smallest of outdoor spaces, garden mirrors are seeing a surge in popularity as homeowners search for ways to create outdoor living spaces that have as much impact as the interior of their homes. 

Suitable for both modern and traditional spaces, the latest garden mirror ideas are a simple way to give your space an instant boost for summer. As such, mirrors are one of the top six favorite garden buys on Gumtree this year, says Hannah Rouch, UK chief marketing officer for buying and selling website Gumtree, 'With summer fast approaching but the cost of living increasing rapidly, we're seeing more and more people on the hunt for second-hand treasures to kit out their gardens without breaking the bank,' she says. 

It’s well known that care must be taken when placing a mirror in a garden to avoid causing confusion to birds, which can become disoriented by their own reflections. However, what’s less commonly talked about is the potential for mirrors to cause accidental fires if they are placed in direct sunlight.

gold frame garden mirror leaning against a grey painted wall

(Image credit: Rockett St George)

Reflect on the danger

'Garden mirrors are perfectly safe, as long as they are used sensibly,' says Carlos Real, lawn care expert and managing director of Total Lawn. 'A mirror can magnify the heat that it receives from the sunlight, but that alone will not set your lawn alight. In fact, the only time the sunlight is powerful enough to start a fire is when it is reflected onto flammable objects.'

To be extra sure your mirror doesn't cause an accidental fire, make sure you keep it away from fences and dry garden areas, adds garden designer Rachel Matthews, founder of Successful Garden Design. 'Place it carefully so you don’t end up accidentally setting fire to your fence or neighbor's garden with the reflection from the sun.'

vintage style garden mirror on a red brick wall

(Image credit: Gardenesque)

Place your mirror with care

Carlos says that when considering where to place your mirror, look for a cool and shaded area away from direct sunlight. 'This will still reflect the beauty of your garden and redirect the natural light to give you an extra illusion of space,' he says.

'If you have a small garden, look for old mirrors to buy second-hand – either metal-framed or glass that you can mount on walls or simply rest on outdoor furniture,' says Hannah Rouch. 'This creates intrigue as well as the feeling of light and space in darker corners.'

metal garden mirror against a red brick wall with pretty planting in front of it

(Image credit: Charles Ted)

Over time, plants may grow over the front of your mirror. Whilst this will lessen the sun’s direct impact, either trim back or keep well-watered; tinder-dry leaves could – potentially – turn into combustible material. Also, in drier periods, keep nearby grass well-watered to reduce the risk. 

Follow this advice and you can safely use your garden mirror as a clever trick for how to make a small garden look bigger

Jayne Dowle is an award-winning freelance gardening, homes and property writer who writes about everything from swimming ponds to skyscraper apartments, for publications including Sunday Times Home, Times Bricks & Mortar, Grand Designs, House Beautiful and The Spectator. Awarded the Garden Journalist of the Year accolade at the Property Press Awards in 2021, she has a degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Oxford and a lifelong love of homes, interiors and gardens. Her first memories include planting potatoes with her grandfather and drawing houses. Her own garden - her fourth - at home in a 1920s house in Yorkshire, is south-facing and on the side of a valley. It’s a constant challenge