Performing a Small Garden Makeover

Updated on May 4, 2019
Emanuela Suraci profile image

I have a strong interest in anything home-related and I relish working out solutions where space is a challenge.

Considerations in Planning My Small Garden Transformation

Not everybody has the luxury of having a garden big enough to relax in, entertain in, have a barbecue in, or simply exercise their green thumb in to satisfy their pleasure of being surrounded by beautiful and colourful plants.

Like many proud owners of an Edwardian terraced house, I am part of that group that has to make do with a small outdoor space, where the prospect of practicing my most primitive pastoral desires are very limited.

While for a few years after I moved in, I concentrated on improving the indoor space, I recently felt the need to venture into the confined outdoors to satisfy a wild craving for a visual as well as a practical creation that could complete and be a continuation of the rustic cottage living concept I had recently achieved indoors.

The relative space I could work was undoubtedly constricted and it provoked my imagination. Yet, at the same time, it stimulated and challenged me to stretch my perception of space to be able to understand what I could accomplish and how—to contemplate, understand and exploit the room I had available to its extreme and to provide me with a design that not only ticked all the boxes, but also gratified me with just being there.

And going back to "ticking all the boxes"...well...there were lots of boxes to tick!

A brief selection of the aforementioned is as follows:

  • Provide effective screening from nosey neighbours
  • Allocate space for al fresco dining
  • Dedicate shed space for bicycles and camping equipment
  • Create room for log storage
  • Accommodate potted herb garden and small greenhouse for small chili production (one of my many passions!)
  • Create some space for a large barbecue
  • Give plenty of room for trees and more trees...and flowers and more flowers...
  • Allow enough space for a small bistro table in front of the

Considering that my back garden measures L7m x W5m plus a side return of L4m x W1.2m, it was obvious from the start that accomplishing and gratifying all the listed requirements presented an indisputable challenge.

So, how did I do it?

Finished Makeover
Finished Makeover

Perception of Space and Ground Preparation

Needless to say that first of all I embarked into an in depth and exhausting internet search, trying to find a way to organize my tangled ideas into a realistic yet effective solution. Also, needless to say, trying at the same time to practically approach the design without being side tracked by pretentious developments.

What I was working with was neither glorious or exciting, therefore I needed to perceive the space in a certain way, forgetting the negative visual impact of what was in front of me while concentrating on the possibility of a completely different setting.

Before Makeover

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Back garden, west view.East view.Side return before makeover.
Back garden, west view.
Back garden, west view.
East view.
East view.
Side return before makeover.
Side return before makeover.

First of all, I was faced with the problem of having a very large shed that I previously used as a workshop, but that was now downgraded to an extravagant storage area.

As listed above, I still needed some sort of outbuilding to provide housing for bicycles and camping equipment, but surely I could make do with a smaller establishment!

Luckily, being a woodworker, I had the knowledge and the experience to recycle the existing shed and transform it into a more appropriate shelter.

I dismantled it and rebuilt it on a smaller scale to fit its new purpose and free some valuable garden space.

Unfortunately there was very little I could do with the side return.

A small brick built cabinet along the wall could still be valuable to store various small objects and most of all wine bottles and beers! Nevertheless I improved the fencing and gave it a new lick of vintage willow paint and employed a plumber to move the tap on the wall in front of the shed...I had a few ideas for the entrance of the side return and the tap was in the way....

At this point I finally got to do the fun work. Working down my long list I first started tackling the most important bullet point of them all: create some effective screening to protect my privacy and sanity from nosey neighbours.

Planting to Exploit and Maximize Available Space

Plants are not only a beautiful and relaxing visual solution but also and most importantly, when living in a residential area, a wonderful alternative to fencing or brick wall partition.

My side return unfortunately runs along the ugliest lean-to one could ever imagine. A lean-to, which is also unfortunately used for hanging my next door's washing.

Needless is to say that while I am enjoying a meal outdoor with the family, I certainly do not want to be looking at my neighbour's underwear.

This is why my first priority was to find a way to hide and screen this monstrosity, ensuring, at the same time, a successful, although purposely designed, planting element.

And what a better plant than bamboo could have I used?

After Makeover

Side return bamboo screening.
Side return bamboo screening.

Bamboos are not only evergreen, but they also grow at a very fast rate and provide a generously thick wall of wonderful intricate leaves, which gives you total enclosure.

Of course my bamboos are all potted so that I can control their rapid expansion. In fact I strongly suggest to never plant them in the ground especially in a small garden, because they can very quickly take over the landscape.

Nevertheless if potted and carefully maintained they are definitely the cheapest and most effective solution to screening.

Of course the side return could not be just a jungle of bamboos. I needed to make it a bit of a statement to create the illusion of space and perspective.

I therefore decided to create an entrance to the side return, using a wooden arch where I let grow fuchsia and jasmine plants.

Small cupboard in side return.
Small cupboard in side return.

The painted brick cupboard not only complements the row of sage coloured pots but also provides handy storage for beer and wine bottles.

Adding a few solar lights also stylishly fulfilled the quirky cottage look I was after.

Now that the side return was completed I was amazed about how much can be accomplished with little money and buckets of imagination.

Wonderfully green all year round, generously colored by vibrant flowers, sufficient to provide some household storage as well as log space, this little piece of garden was transformed from a boring and fairly grim and useless outdoor corridor into a crucial element of my new makeover.

A simple but effective achievement that provided the whole project with a hidden but attractive secret alley, along with framing the dining room window with an ever changing outdoor picture.

Using Plants and Small Trees to Distribute and Allocate Space

As much as reducing the size of the shed helped me achieve a bigger area to exploit in different ways, it also presented me with the difficulty of creating an useful habitat without compromising my craving for a bucolic environment.

Shed screening with small trees.
Shed screening with small trees.

I first decided to disguise the shed using some bamboos and small potted trees.

Again these wonderful plants are not only evergreen, therefore able to provide all year round disguise, but they also mostly grow upright and, most importantly, need very little maintenance.

Of course screening the shed wasn't the only goal I wanted to accomplish.

I needed to create a big enough space to give room for a good size wooden table and benches to enjoy Summer dining al fresco in a private and pleasant surround.

Al fresco dining area.
Al fresco dining area.

The already existing decking, a potted cherry tree in the corner, a large unbrella and the barbecue also contributed to the cottage country look I was determined to generate.

My garden was now a small paradise where to take in the amazing creative changes while savouring a well deserved glass of cold white wine!

Nevertheless, there was still a part of the project I hadn't plunged into yet, a part of the project, which was in fact paramount: develop and take the most of the available space in front of the kitchen's French doors!

I still wanted to create a potted herb garden and find some room for a small greenhouse for my chili production. The remaining space was definitely the most appropriate one (being in front of the kitchen), but I still wanted to make this area exceptional, without settling on an unimaginative outcome.

I also wanted to be able to sit under my brand new awning and enjoy a good cup of coffee, without compromising on space.

Outside the kitchen.
Outside the kitchen.

A gorgeous bistro table, bought for not very much in The Range, provide a most appropriate solution, while the corner behind the left French Door (which is hit by the sun all morning until lunch time) was the perfect space to house my small greenhouse.

Potted herb garden.
Potted herb garden.

I then placed a few pots in another corner just behind the bistro table to satisfy my need for the potted herb garden.

And with the addition of a potted Acer tree, given to me as a birthday present by my 2 boys, (a tree that being potted wasn't supposed to grow much but grew in great measure) the transformation was complete!

© 2016 Emanuela Suraci-Neve


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)