BBC/Remarkable TV/Gary Moyes
Joel Bird, artist, builder and garden designer on BBC’s Your Garden Made Perfect, can reinvent the smallest of spaces with the tightest of budgets, which comes in pretty handy because we’re always on the hunt for ideas to maximise compact spaces – especially when it comes to small gardens.
If you’re thinking about transforming your small outdoor space this year, Joel shares his top tips for making the most of small garden spaces, even if you have little or no budget.
‘With a small space my motto is “think big”. I always try to get some height in a small space, having different heights is a good idea,’ says Joel, who won the first Shed of the Year competition in 2014 with his Allotment Roof Shed – an actual allotment on the roof of his shed.
An easy way to achieve heights is through planting. Whether in a border or using containers, following a short-to-tall format will give your planting scheme some structure.
Secondly, Joel says, if possible, always try to cover or disguise the corners of a small space. ‘If the eye has different points of interest, then it moves from place to place and if we cannot see the corners of a garden we cannot subconsciously calculate that the space is small,’ he explains.
So what’s the third tip? ‘My other mantra is to simplify in order to be bold, so choose one or two ideas and really go for them instead of choosing 10 ideas that have less of an impact,’ suggests Joel. ‘It might be a beautiful seating area within a herb garden, it might be painting the whole area in just two bright colours with dramatic tropical planting. Or it might be something quirky like building a trendy tiki bar area.
‘In some ways it is easier to be bold and take chances in a garden because a garden is constantly evolving, so if a bright colour or a planting scheme doesn’t quite work you can adapt it or start again. The garden for me is the most valuable space in the home because of its power to bring us peace and to raise our spirits.’
Author of The Book of Shed: How to create your perfect garden office, room or space, Joel has years of experience working on a range of projects from mega builds to handmade artisanal furniture.
‘There are always things you can do with either a limited or even no budget at all to transform a space. I know this because this has been such a large part of my life,’ says Joel. ‘I have always gardened on a budget. I moved from Liverpool to London as an artist and a musician and this inevitably meant I only ever had the money to pay rent and buy food.
‘But I always gardened, I would grow my own crops in a tiny little space in a shared garden. I would use all kinds of old containers to grow things – old tyres and plastic manhole drains – and I would always grow herbs in a window box. Whatever space you have, whether it is a large garden, a small back yard or just a balcony, you can transform it.’
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