Long & Narrow Garden Design:
Making thin gardens feel spacious

Long and Narrow Garden Design

When it comes to challenges, we frequently come across the issue of how to design for long, narrow gardens in London. Many of the city terraced houses built by the Victorians have a long run of narrow garden behind them. This is great as a space for your children to play or the family dog to run up and down, but from a visual perspective, a long narrow garden with a strip of lawn can be a little uninspiring.

Narrow Gardens can feel small and short of space

The difficulty is that our eye tends to look for and follow lines, especially ones that are visually dominant such as a long, rectangular lawn, a run of wall or a length of wooden fence. This sort of garden layout will make the garden appear even thinner as the eye quickly travels the length of this visual line and stops at the far end.

The key to creating successful gardens from a narrow space is to break up those ‘long lines’ and stop your eye travelling from one end to the other. If your eye finds points of interest and focal points on which to linger, then it spends longer pausing and focusing on the near, middle and then the distant features of the garden.

Narrow Garden Design Case Study:

One of our recent projects was to create a stunning contemporary space for clients who inherited a rather unloved and narrow garden space in Hampstead, north London.

The Narrow Garden design challenges:

As you can see from this photo, the garden was extremely narrow with a steep incline at the far end. It had many classic design issues:

This was almost a textbook example of a classic, narrow garden with no visual interest and nothing to distract from the unappealing structures. Our clients asked us to design a space which had a modern contemporary feel and which would be easy to look after. They wanted a garden which would combine flower beds with areas to sit and in which they could entertain friends and family.

An unimaginative, long, rectangular lawn

A visually dominant brick wall with high trellis above, which made the space feel penned in

A long stretch of unloved wooden fence on the opposite boundary which was swamped with ivy

An unattractive brown shed at the end of the garden which quickly drew the eye.

The Narrow Garden design solutions:

The key to successfully redesigning a long, narrow garden is to break up the lines and create visual interest along the space. In this garden design case study, the wall on the left and the fence on the right were fixed features and so the space in-between had to be used to achieve the design. In the new garden design we created interest by:

Breaking up the long rectangle into a series of oblongs and squares, to visually widened the space.

Adding different heights of shrubs and trees which created new focal points for the eye to rest on. This also serves to ‘screen’ parts of the garden which can only be seen as you move further into the space.

Adding contrasting textures of hard landscaping; the coarse texture of the gravel contrasts well with the smooth porcelain paving and the sleek grey water feature.

Designing contrasting textures into the planting scheme; the large, lime coloured leaves of Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ contrast with the tiny leaved Osmanthus x burkwoodii (which is an excellent alternative to Box topiary).

Now the eye gradually explores the space, finding new things to focus on and eventually leading to the new planting of silver birch trees on the upper level. The garden no longer resembles a bowling alley but has become a series of interlinked spaces with visual interest both at the edges and in the centre.