An Englishman's home may be his castle but chances are, particularly if you live in a town or city, that it no longer includes much in the way of a garden. According to Defra, less than 44 per cent of flats or apartments have private outdoor space. And as the sun finally (tries to) beat down on us it's time to make the most of this prized possession.
Architect Thomas Griem of TG Studio (tg-studio.co.uk) says the secret to making the most of a small garden is to use every inch of the space. "The most common mistake people make is to push everything to the edges in a bid to keep the central area clear, but that just makes the space look small and empty. Choose your favourite piece and put it bang in the centre," he says.
Pale colours reflect light and help a space feel bigger so paint a fence white or choose pale wood or stone flooring. "Keep base colours neutral and introduce brighter tones with accessories like cushions, crockery or candles," Griem says. An outdoor mirror (try primrose.co.uk) is another great way to give an illusion of more space and will add light.
Garden designer Jo Thompson (jothompson-garden-design.co.uk) says multi-purpose pieces are the way to go. "Make sure everything performs more than one function – raised beds can double as seating, as can stairs. And you always need storage, so try to find benches that incorporate storage."
Make the most of walls and fences by planting climbers or a vertical garden and invest in one good tree, which can provide a focal point. Make sure its roots won't damage your foundations as it grows – Thompson says a birch is a good choice. Try Hillier garden centres (hillier.co.uk) for a wide choice of trees.
1. Sitting pretty
This small garden designed by architects TG Studio includes a dining and seating area framed by densely planted bamboo. Pale stone paving and natural materials are brightened up with colourful cushions. tg-studio.co.uk
2. See the light
Tealights and candles add atmosphere and charm and allow you to enjoy long, balmy nights outdoors. Cage tealight holder, £12, johnlewis.com
3. Wall's fair
Create a small vertical garden and grow salad and herbs with these neat wall planters. £9.95, gardenbeet.com
4. Top table
Multi-functional furniture, such as this table that also doubles as a stool, is useful in small spaces. Applaro table, £25, ikea.co.uk
5. Contain your excitement
One of the pleasures of outdoor space is al fresco dining. We like this bright jug, part of a collection of tableware designed for outdoor use. Jug, £10, johnlewis.com
6. Light up your life
Clever LED lighting, whitewashed walls and sculptural planting give this courtyard garden an illusion of space. £160, johncullenlighting.co.uk
7. Mellow yellow
This yellow mini lantern will look just as good in daylight hours as it does at night. TU lantern, £2.33, sainsburys.co.uk
8. Feather in your cap
If your space is too small for outdoor furniture, scatter a few floor cushions over a rug to make an informal seating space. Parrot floor cushion, £39.95, dwell.co.uk