Downsizing is all about a new lifestyle – an ease of living without tiresome and time-consuming chores and maintenance. It’s about keeping the parts of your life that you enjoy and not having to worry about the things that you don’t.
In line with this, most downsizers are keen to keep a small garden, which gives them pleasure and an attractive environment, while at the same time doesn't require intensive maintenance.
A report by The Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute released in February 2020 found that 60 per cent of downsizers want a smaller garden and 16 per cent are finished with gardening entirely.
Below are some ideas to help you create the perfect downsizing-friendly small garden.
Small is beautiful
The perfect small garden is not a compromise; it is carefully planned and crafted to be inviting, interesting and enduringly pleasurable.
The design can be as simple as a group of large pots planted with strong shapes and dramatic foliage, or it can be a beautifully lush and luxurious oasis whose visual impact defies its modest boundaries.
Clever use of foliage, colours and textures, and carefully chosen hard landscaping materials are all design elements that will create a harmonious garden. This may well become your favourite spot for a pre-dinner drink in the dappled light of late afternoon.
There’s a lot of fun in creating a small garden.
The outlay is not as great as a larger area, anything is possible and the space is easily maintained.
Consider what's on the other side of the fence
When planning and designing the garden, borrow from the neighbours.
Note what is on the other side of the fence and use it to your advantage.
If large shrubs or trees are visible, then incorporate them into your design.
Balance your plants to work with theirs.
For example, don’t put one of your tall plants in front of the tree next door, but place it to the side so that the shapes work together, and choose contrasting foliage.
Think about texture and colour in the hard landscaping as well as the plants.
Dark walls or fences and pale paving is a classic look. There are myriad options for paving and, naturally, it’s vital that it be non-slip. A mix of pebbles and paving is stylish and casual.
Colours and materials
A black fence makes the space seem larger as the boundary seems to vanish; strong colours, particularly terracotta, make the area dramatic; white and grey backgrounds show off the plants beautifully, but pastels seem to sink into the background without achieving much at all.
Wood is a given and wonderful either new or weathered, and stone is a luxurious material that speaks of the Mediterranean and sunny climes. If the shape allows, a brightly coloured feature wall may add a spectacular dimension.
Layers of success
When planning the overall look of your garden, consider layering. This dramatic design element adds height, interest and a sense of abundance to a small space.
Raised planters, used at varying levels, allow plants to drape, climb and flourish in an easily tended space.
Fences and walls can host vertical gardens, adding to the sumptuous, verdant appearance. Layering is a very effective idea if you are no longer keen on a lot of bending and kneeling.
Follow this up by layering the lighting to add another dimension that also looks fabulous from indoors. Light the steps, paths and sitting areas, and then focus light up into feature plants.
When choosing the plants, select those that will look good for as much of the year as possible, bearing in mind that small gardens are often shaded.
Talk to a reputable nursery about what would be the most suitable plants for your area and then mix a range of textures, shapes and colours.
Incorporate plants that attract birds, bees and butterflies and steer clear of thorny varieties.
Garden to table
As well as being practical, a few pots of herbs and an espaliered lemon or apple tree take up very little space and yet provide that satisfying garden to table connection.
Be generous. Lush looks luxurious. As long as there is room for entertaining, then almost all the rest of the garden can be plants and landscaping.
If you need to plant for screening and to provide privacy, bamboo is an excellent choice for a small garden. Slender at ground level and bushy as it grows, it takes up little space. However, choose a non-invasive, clumping variety.
Laser cut steel screens, which can be custom-made for the space, timber slat screens, or a trellis for climbers all offer excellent privacy.
Bring the garden to life
Entertaining in the garden is one of the joys of summer, so think about the number of people who will gather there.
When positioning the dining setting, remember to allow one metre at the very least all around the table so that chairs can be pushed back.
Casual seating can be included by having wide edges on raised garden beds.
Another option is an outdoor storage chest for garden tools that doubles as a bench seat.
It’s likely that this beautiful bijou garden is going to become a favourite relaxation spot in your new home.
A water feature, even one that cannot be seen and just tinkles in the background, is a soothing addition. And, it’s surprising how much fun a bird feeder can be, even in the heart of the city.