11 charming small garden ideas on a budget

Posted By: Alexandra Campbell On: June 4th, 2017 In: Garden style & living

If asked for ‘small garden ideas’, I wouldn’t normally start with advising you to plant a large cypress tree right in the middle of your  courtyard garden.

But one of the great pleasures of helping to organise the Faversham Open Gardens & Garden Market Day (the next one is on Sunday 24th June 2018) is discovering all the amazingly different ways people garden.

Open for Faversham Open Gardens and Garden Market Day

Jack and Carolyn’s charming small garden is open for Faversham Open Gardens and Garden Market Day on June 25th. Many things have been collected from charity shops.

Make the best of what you’ve got

Jack and Carolyn’s garden is just 12 square metres. They’re opening it for Faversham Open Gardens for the first time this year. It is brimming with delightful, low-budget small garden ideas.

When they moved into their 1980s house four years ago, there was a large cypress right in the middle of the garden. And there was nothing else.

With remarkable restraint, they didn’t cut it down. ‘Although Jack’s always threatening to,’ says Carolyn.

Ideas for a small garden

The cypress tree in the middle of the garden creates a secluded seating area, and divides the garden up.

The effect is fascinating, because the tree prevents you from seeing the whole garden at once. Going round Jack and Carolyn’s garden is an adventure of discovery, and the tree is part of it.

Don’t let size curb your ambitions

Wildflowers for a small garden

A central bed of wildflowers, self-seeders and other plants flourishes – although the bed is shared with the cypress tree.

There is everything the gardener could want in this small space. It includes two mini-wildlife ponds,  self-seeders, wild flowers, containers of all kinds, sculpture, ‘garden paintings’, bird feeders, places to sit and abundant, gloriously healthy plants and flowers.

Don’t have a lawn in a small garden

There is a wide path around a large central bed, plus wide beds around the edges of the garden. There are two places to sit, but no lawn. That greatly increases the space to grow flowers.

10 small garden ideas on a budget

There’s a central bed with a wide path around it, then deep beds around the edges. This gives the garden an abundant feel.

Paving and paths are initially probably more expensive than a lawn – but you won’t need a lawn-mower!

And a lawn is hard to maintain in a small space – it quickly gets bald.

Use the walls – it doubles the growing space

The fences have ivy, clematis and other climbers, but they also host works of art. Jack calls them his ‘garden paintings.’ He hangs picture frames on the fence, and uses them to frame  hanging pots.

Small garden, big ideas

‘Garden paintings’ – a picture frame hung on a fence to frame a garden pot.

Raid the charity shops for small garden ideas…

The picture frames and many of the other quirky touches in this charming garden come from charity shops. Faversham is a great place for charity shops, vintage markets and other second-hand shops. And Jack volunteers at the Cancer Research Charity Shop in West St.

Search charity shops for garden pots and tools

There’s a mix of pots, picture frames, troughs, vintage gardenalia and lots more in Jack and Carolyn’s garden. Much of it comes from charity shops.

Mix second-hand chairs with garden furniture

If you buy chairs and tables from junk or charity shops, you’ll probably be less worried about whether they’ll rot. Paint your metal garden furniture with a good all-weather paint to help stop it rusting.

A mix of garden furniture in a corner of Jack and Carolyn’s garden. Collect it over the years, and paint it.

Painting garden furniture generally helps it withstand the elements.

Cut the plant bill by letting weeds and plants self-sow

If Carolyn likes a flower, she lets it set seed. So the garden is marvellously colourful and relaxed. Purple loosestrife is considered a weed in many gardens. But here it is part of the colour scheme. It probably counts as one of the cheapest small garden ideas you’ll find.

Self-seeders and pretty weeds fill a garden for free

Purple loosestrife mingling with other garden plants, filling the garden for free.

Upcycle your shed

Jack and Carolyn’s shed is an installation in itself. It’s painted, covered in old CDs and has window boxes and signs. In the sunshine, the CDs glitter.

Read this for more fun easy ideas for transforming your shed.

Decorate your shed in a small garden

The shed has been painted, covered in CDs and hung with blue window boxes where Jack and Carolyn grow lettuce. Could CDs be good anti-snail deterrent, perhaps?

You can be wildlife friendly in a small garden

Bird feeders and garden art in a small garden

Bird feeders and bird boxes are mixed with the ‘garden paintings’

Think about how your garden can offer food, water, shelter and access. Bird and bat boxes, bug hotels, feeders, mini-ponds all fit into the smallest of gardens. And don’t forget that fences and hedges need to have some gaps to allow small mammals and amphibians to access several gardens at once.

Find out how to create a good wildlife garden here, even in a small space.

Pots, pots, pots…

There is a wonderfully eclectic collection of pots and upcycled containers in Jack and Carolyn’s garden. Wooden boxes, old teapots, and more.

Pots work well in small gardens because they give you lots of flexibility. You can replace plants when they’re ‘over’ and change arrangements around.

Upcycled and vintage pots and troughs

A mix of pots, troughs and upcycled planters in Jack and Carolyn’s garden.

Re-use all kinds of containers

An old teapot full of succulents looks charming on the table.

See here for recommendations on the best plants for low maintenance pots.

Recycle a container to make a small pond (or two)…

Even the smallest garden can have a pond or two. You can make a pond out of anything waterproof, from a bucket or barrel to big plastic tray.

Below is a container pond, with bog plants in it. It’s important to make sure that creatures can get in and out of container ponds, so have different levels of planting and also vegetation.

Also make sure that babies and toddlers are protected. A very young child can drown in a few inches of water.

See here for how to make a mini wildlife pond.

Mini wildlife pond in a container

Don’t forget to have one or two mini-ponds – wildlife need water. There are two mini-ponds in this small garden. One is the square central planter in this photograph.

One of the ponds is the top of a recycling bin. Remember when we all had to put the bottles in a large tray at the top of the bin, then the newspapers went underneath?

Now recycling technology has advanced and we can throw all the different recycling elements in together. The black tray at the top has become redundant. Jack and Carolyn have used it to make a mini-pond.

Faversham Open Gardens & Garden Market Day

Join us on Sunday June 24th (10am-5pm) 2018 in Faversham, Kent for the largest one-day open garden event in the South East.

You’ll see a wide range of other gardens including walled gardens, long thin town gardens, tiny gardens, wildlife gardens, a town ‘meadow garden’ and more.

Faversham Open Gardens & Garden Market Day

A rose on the old wall at Ravenscourt, another new garden for Faversham Open Gardens & Garden Market Day. Ravenscourt is garden 34 in the guide book and is just a few minutes drive from Garden 36.

And there are 30+ market stalls selling plants, vintage garden equipment, pots, local food and craft and more. Plus we have a children’s competition called Hunt the Golden Pebble to keep children happy.

‘Like’ Faversham Open Gardens on Facebook or follow @FavershamOpenGardens on Instagram to stay in touch – and we also post about other open gardens in Kent, too.

More information from the Faversham Society, 10-11 Preston St, Faversham, Kent ME13 8NS. You’ll also be able to buy tickets in The Market Place on the 24th June.

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10 easy, enchanting ideas for a small garden

 

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