How to Choose the Right Plants for Your Small Garden...

Often having a small garden feels like there's no room for anything as luxurious as a gorgeous, bright, bushy plant. It can get overwhelming, and you feel left with a boring, unexciting garden- but that doesn't have to be the case. 

No matter how big or small your garden is, there's always possibilities for fitting in a plant or two. Whether that involves putting a small shrub into a pot on your balcony, or filling in those two small front garden borders, shrubs are the ideal plants when it comes to planting in smaller conditions. 

Generally, we recommend low-growing shrubs or climbers for this sort of situation. Low-growing shrubs are ideal for growing in containers, or planting in small areas, whereas climbers are the perfect plant species for adding a beautiful feature to your garden without needing any extra space!

That being said, we've put together our top recommendations for turning your mini, bare, lifeless garden into something as beautiful as any other!

Firstly, evergreens...

If you're looking for something to add year-round colour and interest, evergreens are the perfect choice. The stunning green foliage will create a great screen of foliage up against a wall or fence- here are some of our evergreen recommendations for smaller gardens:

1. Brachyglottis senecio 'Sunshine' 

Perfect shrub for creating colour and texture, with its fuzzy leaves and bright yellow, summer flowers. It's just the way to spruce up that garden of yours, and give it year round colour!

Brachyglottis senecio Sunshine

2. Euonymus fortunei 'Emerald Gaiety' 

If you're looking for a wide-spreading shrub to fill in that empty border, this is the one for you- it has tonnes of colour and interest, with it's gorgeous, variegated leaves and bright colours, so will surely keep that border looking bright all year-round.

Euonymus emerald gaiety

3. Irish Ivy (Hedera Hibernica)

Ivy is the ideal plant for climbing bare walls and fences in small gardens, as it's low maintenance and will continually grow all year round! The lush, dark-green Irish Ivy can create a deep, bold canvas in your garden, meaning it can easily be used when wanting to hide a certain feature or cover any gaps. 
Irish Ivy

4. Hebe 'Sutherlandii' 

Hebe 'Sutherlandii' is one of most recommended low-growing shrubs, for its stunning, little, purple-green leaves and white blooms- it really does give you that year-round interest. The flowers are around for a while, too, as they often stay from Summer all the way through to Autumn and Winter! Plus- Sutherlandii is even pollution tolerant, meaning it's perfect for a small urban garden with very little space for greenery.
Hebe 'Sutherlandii'

All the colour...

As much as evergreen shrubs are loved and adored for their year-round greenness, those with smaller gardens will often dream of having beautiful, bright, attractive shades of colour, too, outside of green- whether that's coming from flowers or not.

That being said, these next four, stunning shrubs will provide the perfect amount of vibrancy to your small garden, with their vividly coloured flowers or interestingly shaded leaves, we promise they'll add that bit of extra brightness!

1. Photinia 'Little Red Robin' 

Photinia is a beautiful evergreen hedge that showcases glossy, bright red leaves in the Spring and Summer seasons, and often continue to look this bright throughout Winter, too. Best yet, wildlife are attracted to the Photinia for its flowers are red berries that burst through in Autumn/Winter. It's the perfect, low-growing, colourful hedge.

Photinia little red robin

 2. Barberry Rose Glow (Berberis thunbergii 'Rose Glow')

Barberry Rose Glow is a lovely, deciduous, compact hedge with gorgeous variegation colours of cream, purple, and pink, making it ideal for ornamental purposes- the foliage will turn shades of red before dropping off in the Autumn. 

During Spring, the small, yellow flowers will turn into bright red berries during Autumn, too, which are always a welcomed treat by the birds! 

Barberry 'Rose Glow'

3. Yellow Potentilla (Potentilla fruticosa 'Goldfinger')

Yellow Potentilla is a deciduous, hardy hedge with a long flowering period that boasts little, sunny-yellow flowers right from June through to October. The five-petalled, saucer-like flowers which sit nicely amongst the bright green foliage will surely brighten up your little garden- it's ideal for welcoming bees to the garden, too!

Yellow Potentilla

4. Compact Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus 'Otto Luyken')

Compact Laurel is a hardy evergreen plant, which is popular amongst gardeners for its dense, lush, deep green, narrowly-shaped foliage with an upright growing habit. The lovely cotton-white, Spring flowers appear on spikes with a deep, fragrant scent, following with cherry-like berries in the Autumn- it really is a unique specimen that's ideal for adding a bit of extra colour and interest to your garden!

Compact Laurel


A touch of fragrance...

If you have a little seating area on your balcony or small outdoor space, having a touch of fragrance is always a wonderful addition- who doesn't like a gorgeous, flowery waft drifting over their way as they sit on their garden chair, reading their favourite book in the warm, afternoon sun?

Here are our top 4 favourite scented shrubs for sprucing up your small garden:

1. English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia 'Munstead')

A favoured, well-known species for its stunning shrubbery that's easy to grow, is compact, and has a hardy nature. It's bright purple blooms have a distinct, lush scent that can easily deter pests- and are edible, too! Being an evergreen, English Lavender will even give you year-round interest in your little outdoor space.
English Lavender

2. Lavender 'Hidcote' (Lavandula Hidcote)

The Hidcote Lavender plant is perfect for any UK garden, giving you that 'old-fashion English garden look.' Hidcote is a pleasant variety of English Lavender, but the key feature is the dark purple, elegant flower spikes which give off a lovely deep fragrance. It's slightly more compact than English Lavender, too, and it's evergreen nature makes it perfect for year-round interest.

Lavender Hidcote

3. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Wonderfully fragrant and evergreen, Rosemary can sit as a stunning shrub or low hedge. It's known to be a culinary herb, making it perfect for kitchen gardens or bordering your paths. Rosemary will provide year-round interest with its deep, evergreen leaves, purple flowers, and distinct, stunning scent. 


4. Russian Sage 'Blue Spire' (Perovskia atriplicifolia 'Blue Spire')

Russian Sage is a deciduous perennial plant which produces clusters of little, purple-blue flowers that cling onto thin, white stems. The distinctly coloured, grey-green leaves have a gorgeous, herby scent too. The flowers stay fresh for weeks, from the middle of Summer through to Autumn, making it quite a tough little plant- it's resistant to heat, poor soils, drought, and pests! 

With it's lush, elegant, delicate-looking nature, Russian Sage is the ideal fragrant shrub for your small outdoor space.

Russian Sage


Introduce texture...

As much as we all love wonderful colours and scents, texture is something else to consider when it comes to choosing your shrub based garden. Not many people know that having mixed textures is a key trick to creating the perfect garden- it's the secret hack to providing wonderful, different level of interest (which is something we all want in our outdoor spaces!).

That being said, here are our 4 favourite textural based, low-growing shrubs:

1. Carex 'Evergold' (Carex oshimensis 'Evergold')

Carex 'Evergold' is a striking, small, ornamental grass variety that forms low bunches of stunningly dark, evergreen leaves with strips of yellow running down the middle. It tends to grow brown flower spikes on long stems from the middle of Spring, too, adding that extra bit of textural interest! 

It's quick-growing and will easily reach its ultimate height of 30cm in minimal time, all whilst being very low-maintenance.

Carex 'Evergold'

2. Red Hook Sedge (Uncinia Rubra)

Red Hook Sedge is an evergreen, fountain-like grass type which boasts glossy, red-green/red-brown leaves, along with dark brown or black flower points during Summer. It originates for NZ, and is a popular, small, ornamental grass which can create a stunning contrast against other grasses like Carex 'Evergold.' 

With its deep, interesting colours, Red Hook Sedge will add the ideal amount of texture and interest to your outdoor space. 

Red Hook Sedge

 3. Tufted Hair Grass (Deschampsia Cespitosa)

Deschampsia forms direct, dark-green, wispy, thin leaves that grow to about 60cm high. The leaves are placed on unique, arching stems which produce feathery, silver-purple coloured flowers that hang as long panicles. 

It's an ideal, uniquely textured shrub for any small garden, and can look fantastic when placed against other stunning grasses like Carex 'Evergold' and Red Hook Sedge.

Tufted Hair Grass

4. Japanese Quince 'Pink Lady' (Chaenomeles x superba 'Pink Lady')

Japanese Quince 'Pink Lady' boasts gorgeous, cup-shaped, bright pink flowers in March-May, which are then followed with bright green, fragrant fruits that turn yellow when ripe- all of which compliment the glossy-green, obovate leaves perfectly. 

With its stunning colours and berries, and woody stems, it creates a welcomed bit of interesting texture. 

Japanese Quince 'Pink Lady'


That's our recommended four KEY "ingredients" when it comes to creating and decorating your small outdoor space. Simple, right? Choosing your shrubs doesn't have to be difficult- just pick four (one from each section), and place into your pathway border or balcony containers, and have a stunning, interesting, colourful outdoor space!

Needing further advice? Go check out our Container Garden blog, or have a chat with our friendly team- email, or send a call on 0330 555 1020.