A lot of homes in the UK have rectangular-shaped gardens, which can sometimes make it difficult to know how to plan the best layout for your outdoor space.
The elongated shape often makes your garden feel open and empty, with just a garden shed and some garden furniture in the corner.
In this guide, we’ll show you how to turn a rectangular garden into a welcoming space where you want to spend your time.
1. Install a living wall
Stoneface® Drystack Veneer Walling in Slate Verte
If garden walls enclose your rectangular garden, embrace it! Install a living wall to cover up the fences and walls around you and create a haven of green foliage. This not only opens up the space but also lifts your mood and protects your garden from noise and air pollution.
You might even want to grow herbs or veggies on a living green wall if picking specific plant forms doesn’t work for you.
2. Create new seating areas
SYMPHONY® Classic in Blue
If you already have an outside dining area, adding couches to your outdoor space can make it more inviting. You’ll have a separate area to relax, drink your morning coffee and read your favourite book.
Since a rectangular garden has some corners to fill, why not place your alfresco dining table or seating area in one and leave the rest of the floor space for other features?
Sit back and relax while overlooking the rest of the backyard. You could even use stepping stones or a garden path to lead to your seating area, making your garden feel less narrow.
A popular trend is to add a sunken seating area to your garden. This can create an extra level of comfort and turns the garden into a multi-level space with more room for seating or potted plants.
3. Include a fire pit
SYMPHONY® Classic in Barley
Installing a fire pit in the middle of a sunken seating area is an excellent way to liven up your space. Imagine relaxing around a cosy fire on your own patio with a good drink in hand.
If you do install a fire pit or fireplace in your garden, ensure this is placed on heat-resistant material such as porcelain or natural stone paving slabs. To achieve an aesthetic of luxury and finesse, consider installing your fire pit in the centre of a paving circle. This will instantly make the area the focal point of your entire garden (and the envy of your friends)!
4. Design a cosy courtyard
SYMPHONY® Classic in Barley
Most gardens have a wall or fence surrounding them, but that doesn't mean they can’t feel cosy.
Adding some outdoor fairy lights or garden lighting to your garden can give your rectangle garden a romantic vibe. You can decorate the walls with a few hooks and hanging planters or hang a large outdoor mirror to reflect light and immediately provide the visual illusion of more space.
If your rectangular garden is on the smaller side, opt for paving stones in lighter colours, such as buff or pale grey, as these will help to reflect any natural light and make the space seem larger.
5. Build a multifunctional shed
SYMPHONY® Plank in Corrado
Why not add a modern shed to the back of your rectangular garden, which could either be a tool shed, a gym or an office space?
You can also turn this shed into a little outdoor bar if you're looking to entertain visitors. Just add some beautiful lights or even install a sound system to create the perfect party environment.
6. Add some levels
SYMPHONY® Elements Metallic
If you have a sloped rectangular garden which is a decent size, try and create a multi-levelled layout instead! You could connect these with clean, modern lines and garden steps or some rustic hedges and cobblestone steps.
Each level can have its own theme, including a patio and dining area, some flower beds or a herb and veggie garden, a water feature, a space for a shed, or a playground for the children (young and old!).
7. Add round shapes
SYMPHONY® Classic in Buff
Not everything always has to be a straight line. To make your garden feel less enclosed, install round shapes like a round pond, a circular lawn, a paving circle, or even a round seating area.
The curved lines of these features will soften the entire look and feel of your garden and make it a more relaxing, homely space in which to spend time.
8. Build a patio area
SYMPHONY® Plus Classic in Stone Black
Add a carefully designed patio for a dining table or a comfortable seating area to your house. There are lots of patio styles to choose from, ranging from soft natural stone paving to unique grey blue garden paving.
Patios can be installed in shapes and sizes to suit your specific needs and budget. You can either choose to lay a smaller patio area at one end of your garden, maybe accompanied by some flower beds or lawn, or lay paving stones across the majority of your outdoor space for a low-maintenance, courtyard-inspired aesthetic.
9. Make a long garden look wider with flower beds
SYMPHONY® Plus Classic in Dark Grey
If you break up your narrow garden into sections by installing raised flower beds, it will make your outdoor space feel wider. You could even have the flower bed walls double up as part of a seating area. Just purchase some comfortable cushions to place on the walls and put a table next to them so you have a seating area right next to your flower bed.
Raised garden beds are multifunctional as they are not just to be filled with colourful flowers, scented herbs and tasty veggies but also work as a garden divider or zone creator.
If your garden is too small for garden beds, you could opt for a greenhouse - there are some great space-saving options on the market, they don’t have to be huge glass structures that take up all the space in small gardens!
10. Choose dark colours for depth
SYMPHONY® Urban in Steel
Choosing dark garden materials and plants can make a garden feel modern. If you decide to go for a patio space or a garden path, look at some paving slabs with more depth, like black garden paving. Darker colours make it easier to create depth in a somewhat narrow space.
11. Add a water feature
Stoneface® Drystack Veneer Walling in Harvest Mix
The soothing sound of water flowing or tickling down a fountain turns even the smallest urban garden into a space of relaxation and tranquillity.
Whether you add a pond in the back or have a fountain in the middle will depend on your budget. Symmetrical ponds on either side of your garden or along the garden paving can create a sense of formality and order.
In small spaces, a small round pond can be a great focal point at the far end of your rectangular garden.
Make sure when you install it that you place stones or other objects on one side to make it easy for small animals, such as squirrels or hedgehogs, to climb out in case they accidentally fall into the water.
12. Concrete is your friend
Argent® Smooth in Luna
A patio does not always have to be made from sandstone or granite. Concrete paving slabs are a fantastic, low-maintenance option that will turn your outdoor space into a modern garden. No longer is concrete the boring choice, and, if you do your research, you’ll end up with a more sustainable space too thanks to the way it’s manufactured.
You could choose square stepping stones in the same colour to complement your patio or go for something different in contrast. Use the stepping stones to lead your guest to points of interest in your garden, like a seating area or raised flowerbeds.
13. Spruce up your driveway
Drivesett Argent® in Dark
Driveways are more often than not a natural rectangle shape and when thinking about updating your garden, many people often forget their driveway as an integral part of their outdoor area. Make your driveway more appealing by setting up a gravel bed at the border, giving it a more modern look.
Sprucing up your driveway with pretty potted plants is also a great and easy way to make your entrance to your house welcoming.
You could also update your current driveway and install matching driveway paving and garden paving to create a coordinated look.
14. Add some outdoor lights
SYMPHONY® Plank in Oak
Lights can be a great way to add more visual appeal to your garden and help you to make the most of the space you have. With a levelled rectangular garden, try installing lights on your steps or at the edge of your patio.
If walls surround your garden, hang fairy lights or install minimalistic wall lighting. You could illuminate any focal points in your garden, such as a sculpture, water fountain or a favourite tree.
These days, there’s no need to worry about any electricity bill when installing garden lights, as most of them come with solar power options.
15. Install a pergola or awning to your patio
SYMPHONY® Urban in Clay
For your perfectly shaded courtyard retreat, install a pergola or awning above your seating area. Round the look off by putting some hanging baskets on the pergola or have some climbing plants to provide a more romantic look.
16. Make the most of the rectangular shape
SYMPHONY® Elements Corten in Cobalt
The clean, geometric lines of your rectangular garden can make for an elegant finish if you choose to emphasise its shape cleverly. Rectangular seating areas, ponds or even elevated flower beds can add a great sense of contemporary finesse to your garden, especially when paired with a minimalist colour palette of grey or white paving stones.
For added visual drama, use dark colours for any planters or flower beds to create some depth for your garden.
17. Add diagonal lines
Arrento® Encore in Platinum
A diagonal garden path or diagonally placed flower beds can help make the space look wider. This is because your eyes get drawn to either side of the garden instead of looking straight towards the back.
18. Be smart about storage space
Fairstone Slate Casarta®
It’s a great idea to have fold-up furniture you can easily stack and store away to give more room for other activities.
A fold-down bar is another super smart garden idea. Just install a board with chains onto a wall and let it down whenever you need a bar table. The same works for a dining table that you can fold up against the wall!
19. Split your garden up
SYMPHONY® Urban in Smoke
Separating your rectangle garden into two areas is a smart way to create two zones with different purposes. The front could be a tiled patio with a seating area and a calm atmosphere, while the back can be a grassy area with plants and trees, letting things grow more naturally.
20. Go wild with plants
SYMPHONY® Plank in Cherry
If you have limited space, why not go all in with lots of exotic plants in the back of your garden or on different levels? This will give your garden a jungle effect and make it feel like there is more than meets the eye hiding in the dense foliage.
Top it off with some statement plants, such as strelitzia or any other colourful wildflower that provides a hint of colour in an otherwise green and tropical mini woodland.
Design the perfect rectangular garden with Marshalls
Picking out the right design for your small, rectangular garden can be difficult. But with a bit of innovation and creativity, you can do lots with your outdoor space to make it fun and exciting!
Whether you opt for clean lines for modern garden paving, round lawns, elevated flower beds or window boxes - make sure to check out the wide range of products and services we can offer you at Marshalls.
How can I keep my garden low maintenance?
If you’re a novice gardener or don't have much time on your hands, a garden design should work for you and your lifestyle.
Large shrubs and evergreen shrubs provide lots of greenery and take up space but will not require much pruning or maintenance. On top of that, artificial lawns can be easily installed and give you the illusion of a perfectly trimmed lawn.
How do you break up a large rectangular garden?
When thinking about breaking up a large rectangular garden into various zones, the best way to start is by drawing the space on a piece of paper and thinking about how you would like to use it.
If you have a large plot, think about creating zones with different purposes:
- Dining and seating area
- Herb & vegetable garden
- Seasonal and perennial flower beds
- Entertainment area
- Water feature (pond, pool, hot tub etc)
- Storage (shed)
Once you know where each of these areas should go, think of the style that would best suit you. Some people prefer country-style gardens with lots of romantic arches and trellises, while others prefer clean-cut and straight lines.
When going for a country garden, use climbers for your arches and trellises, and set up a pergola and evergreen shrubs or hedges to zone your plot.
For a more contemporary approach, use hard landscaping such as patios, large square stones or tiles for garden paving and perhaps large concrete raised beds for flowers or herbs that can be used as dividers for your plot.
How do you make a long thin garden look wider?
With a few smart changes, you can make a thin plot look much wider and more inviting. Most of these changes entail creating optical illusions by adding shapes, for instance:
- Create curves - Oval lawns, winding pathways, or round ponds will trick any eye into thinking that your garden is wider than it actually is.
- Go diagonal - Instead of laying your paving vertically or horizontally, placing them in a diagonal manner of about 30 to 70 degrees to your house tricks the eye into thinking your garden is more expansive.
Zoning your garden for different uses immediately makes your garden look bigger as well. Always make sure you create layers when planting, as you want to avoid creating a corridor effect that enhances the shape of your narrow garden