Sydney / Living / Home Design / How To Make the Most of Your Small Garden Space

How To Make the Most of Your Small Garden Space

Adam Robinson garden
© Adam Robinson Design Landscape Design Project Balmain

As the weather warms up, we’re looking to the outdoors for styling inspiration to get that much-needed greenery back into our everyday. Landscape designer and exterior stylist (and all-round garden guru), Adam Robinson, has earned himself quite a rep for his award-winning gardens; transforming lacklustre spaces into places that pop. So, whether you have a courtyard, a balcony or neither, Adam guides us through creating hangout spaces that only those green beauties can bring.

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Courtyard Hangouts

On a balmy summer’s eve, nothing beats a courtyard hangout with chilled-out vibes. And Adam knows exactly how to create one, that is, with a bit of strategic planning and thought to some home comforts.

“It’s critical to plan your courtyard as every square inch needs consideration."

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"Firstly, decide how you want to use the space (dine and lounge or a bar setting). Then be smart by using versatile objects. For example, built-in barbeques with storage underneath, stools that double as side tables, or built-in benches for seating and a day-bed. 

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“From there, add mirrors as they provide depth to a small area. Go over-sized for maximum impact and always choose a grey tinted glass to nestle it into the outdoors, silver can look too glitzy. Find a balance between hard and soft surfaces and try integrating ground cover plants into the paving.

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“Finally, make the space comfortable for yourself and guests using rugs and soft furnishings, and don’t forget about the lighting for when the sun sets.”


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Balcony Vibes

Even the most intimate of balconies can beckon with lush foliage, a comfy chair and mood lighting. To start, Adam suggests first looking at how much space you have to work with and how you want to use it, meaning, will it simply be a few pots to style up the area or do you have space for furniture too?

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“Create an inviting space by making it as comfortable as possible." 

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"Make the most of pots by having a main, feature plant in the middle along with secondary, cascading plants dug in and around the perimeter of the pot. But, keep your plants low if your balcony is prone to wind. Finally, balconies usually ‘borrow’ light from the indoors, so candlelight is always lovely on a balcony.”

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Rooftop Hideout

We’ve all dreamed about having one, a rooftop garden that is our own private hideout away from the bustle of life below. And although they’re quite a bit of work to start out, with solid planning and smart plant choices, it will all be worth it.

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“Rooftop gardens look best with a plethora of planting for a real, lush garden vibe, and if your space allows, use lots of tree species as they look great in roof gardens. But, be realistic with water-wise planting. Many rooftops tend to get parched, so use plants that can cope. 

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“Shade is important to think about as well; otherwise, the space will simply never get used." 

"Rooftops tend to sizzle because of ex“Shade is important to think about as well; otherwise, the space will simply never get used." posure to the sun’s rays, except when the sun is down of course. Lighting, both functional and decorative, also plays a big role in any garden. Light up feature plants and have plenty of candles in hurricanes so they don’t blow out in the wind.

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“Having said all that, safety is critical. Getting the correct height for balustrades (you will need to check the Australian standards for your particular situation). You will also have to check the waterproof membrane. It’s a big effort to do this, but it’s so worth it, because if it ever leaks you’re in real trouble.”

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Indoor Oasis

Indoor plants are a trend that won’t be going away any time soon. Having lush greenery inside the home is a game-changer on so many fronts, the tricky part for many of us, is keeping them alive. Adam gives us a few pointers that will help keep our green companions well and truly kicking. 

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“Plants need some light to live, so rotate them, and give them some time outside in the fresh air and sunshine. Don’t overwater – it’s the most common cause of death of indoor plants. Most plants like to be left to dry out after watering.

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"And when it comes to what indoor plant is the best, Adam leans towards plants that have a perfume, such as a potted Gardenia or Jasmine, as they not only release a wonderful aroma, they are also a natural air freshener (they do need a sunny spot indoors though).

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