Do you own a backyard garden or a plot surrounded by walls that makes the place look smaller and even boxed-in? No matter the size, you can create a beautiful garden space with some creativity and cleverly chosen landscaping features.
This guide will show you how to make the most of your square garden, offering you some valuable tips and ideas that can transform your outdoor living space into the garden you’ve always wanted.
What design ideas work well for square gardens?
If you live in an urban or suburban area, it’s highly likely that your garden will be square-ish shaped. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking your design options are limited by this, though, there are lots of creative, unique ways in which to make your box-shaped garden your own.
In actual fact, square and rectangular-shaped gardens can be completely transformed simply by incorporating different elements. The harsh, right angle corners of a square garden can be softened with curved pathways, retaining walls and foliage, and smaller spaces can be made to seem far larger with the use of light colours in any paved areas, perimeter walls and fences.
To get your creativity flowing, our garden design experts have compiled a list of ideas that you can use to create your ideal compact square garden.
1. Zone your garden
With a medium to large square garden, you have various zoning options to consider. Garden zoning is where you split your space into several areas and assign different uses to each area.
You could pick the quietest corner for some cosy seating for relaxation, and allocate the area nearest to the house for outdoor dining furniture and your BBQ; and don’t forget an area for the kids to play too! Some people prefer to break the space up in half, while others divide their plots into three or four zones and assign a different use to each area.
You can decide to define these zones with garden paths, hedges, or raised flower beds - the choice is yours!
There are plenty of patio paving and hedging ideas to choose from to best suit your property. For period homes and a more classic style, using natural materials such as natural stone paving or a garden path made of gravel can be a great idea.
For more inspiration, read our guide on how to create zones in your garden.
2. Use smart garden furniture
There are lots of clever garden furniture options to consider which can be swapped out or changed to make your space work for you all year round. Foldable garden furniture is a great option if you have a smaller garden, as you can easily collapse this and put it away when you don’t need it.
This is an effective way to achieve seasonal zoning in your garden, as seating and dining areas can be set up with minimal effort as and when the weather permits.
3. Keep the space balanced
A well-kept grassy lawn and some carefully pruned hedges can instantly make a square garden feel far more balanced and aesthetically pleasing. Making sure you keep on top of routine maintenance tasks like mowing, weeding, strimming and trimming will ensure that any grass-covered areas stay looking their best.
For a compact garden, using geometric shapes or elongated hedges can create a visually appealing space. In contrast, a larger square garden could benefit from curved lawn areas with sweeping retaining walls and a winding path to create great sense of flow throughout the space.
4. Add a paved patio
Adding a patio area to your garden adds versatility and breaks up the design, providing you with a space to relax or entertain guests. There are lots of paving slabs to choose from, so it’s easy to match your garden to the aesthetic of your home.
You could opt for something more contemporary like porcelain paving slabs to match a modern interior, or choose some striking black paving slabs to contrast against the greenery.
Balancing your new paved patio alongside the green space in your garden is easy. Garden planters provide ample planting space, while potted plants create interest and are easy to move around your patio.
A living wall is another modern feature that has gained lots of popularity in recent years. They are a great way to make a space feel lush and create visual interest. You can find out more about small patio ideas in our other guides.
5. Include garden beds
Whether they are raised beds or planted into the ground, flower beds are an easy and straightforward way of zoning your square garden and giving it some character.
You can create a modern garden with clean and even-sized concrete raised beds or a traditionally romantic country garden - the choice is yours.
Herb and vegetable beds can be a great addition to your garden and offer a sense of purpose. Splitting your flower beds into themes allows you to keep your garden looking lively and fresh with each season.
6. Create an urban courtyard
Many UK homes have an urban garden in the back that is squared off by garden walling. A great idea for making these courtyard-style square gardens feel more homely is to cover your walls with hanging plants or to add a living wall.
An outdoor space surrounded by walls can immediately look cosier if you hang up outdoor lighting like fairy lights, as well as an outdoor mirror which reflects light beautifully and creates a sense of openness.
7. Turn your space into a country garden
Typical country gardens or cottage gardens have a square layout that is divided into four separate zones and a water feature, such as a little fountain or an ornamental pond. The sections are often divided by perennial borders like hedges or small stone walls.
Between these zones, you could have traditional limestone paving or garden paths made of smaller pebbles, gravel, or mulch.
Intentionally placing garden furniture, such as a vintage bench between some rose bushes, can be a lovely place to drink your morning coffee or read a good book. And using pergolas with climbing plants, perhaps in an archway, would look great too.
8. Add outdoor lighting
Whether your square garden is a small courtyard or a wider square lawn, outdoor lighting plays an important role in defining the entire look and feel of your garden layout.
If you have installed garden paths, some floor lamps or lanterns are necessary to illuminate your way.
An existing tree or a focal point of your garden can become a point of interest even at night, with a spotlight right underneath or some fairy lights dangling from it. This will make any urban garden look cosy and provide some soft lighting to sit under during warm summer nights.
9. Use retaining walls as seating
Having a seating area can sometimes be tricky on a square lawn if you don’t want to place it right in the centre of your lawn space.
Utilising the tops of retaining walls is a great solution for this, as it allows you to maximise the potential of the available space. Low-level walls that surround flower beds can be transformed into attractive garden bench-style seating with coping stones and caps. These can be enhanced further with removable cushions for added comfort.
10. Add a fireplace
An outdoor fireplace is always a great way to spruce up your garden and intrigue your guests, no matter what size or shape your garden is. Whether you go for a fire pit or install a fireplace is up to you and the available space.
Fire pits tend to be a lot cosier and snug but can take up space in smaller areas. Fireplaces could be paired with an outdoor sofa and moveable garden chairs, making it easier to adjust to the space and accommodate more guests if needed.
Both fire pits and fireplaces look fantastic when placed in the centre of a paving circle. This elegant patio feature is perfect for giving your garden a real sense of finesse and luxury whilst making the entire area the focal point of your outdoor space.
11. Install mirrors around the space
Outdoor mirrors are the perfect optical illusion to create more space than you have or to lengthen out an otherwise square space.
When placed opposite an area with lots of greenery, it creates the illusion that your garden is large and full of life. You’ll also gain extra lighting due to the reflection, making your luscious green garden feel bright and warm, even at night.
12. Work with levels
Having a raised patio can create the perfect spatial separation from a grassy lawn and provide an great space for al fresco dining.
On the other hand, a sunken seating area offers a lovely chill space, where the steps down can be used as seating or as an area to display potted plants.
One of the best ways to light up a sunken seating area is to install spotlights into backrests or walls to illuminate them. Floor lights are also great for this and can help prevent people navigate at night.
13. Create a focal point
There are many ways to create a focal point in your square garden. You could plant your favourite tree in the middle of your lawn, install a fountain or add a dramatic sculpture.
Whatever you decided to do, think of something that draws the eye. This could be to the back of your square garden or to the middle of it, depending on how you want to zone your garden and how you would like the space to feel.
Adding a focal point is a great way to make smaller square gardens feel bigger, as your eyes will be pulled away from the edges and into the centre.
14. Create curved or irregular shapes
For a more contemporary design, creating curved shapes with garden walls or elevated planters can provide a playful optical design in your garden layout. On top of that, you can create a rounded paving circle where you can place a seating or a fire pit.
15. Branch out with trees
You can provide more structure to a square-shaped garden by planting a tree in the middle as a point of interest.
Japanese maples, for instance, add some colour, while an olive tree can provide your garden with a Mediterranean vibe - just add some paving stones beneath and benches! A tree in the middle of your rectangular garden can also be a cross-seasonal point of interest if it blooms in spring and has fruits in autumn. Installing a bench around the tree creates some seating space and focuses more on the unique plant in the middle of your garden.
Design the perfect square garden with Marshalls
At Marshalls, we provide expert knowledge on creating the perfect gardens, whether small or large. We supply high-quality hard landscaping materials and know-how to turn your square garden into the outdoor living space of your dreams.
Whether you need driveways, garden paving or kerbs and edging, check out our wide range of landscaping materials today and get your garden project started!
How can I split up a square garden?
If you want to create separate zones in your garden with different purposes, the easiest way to do so is with the help of hard landscaping such as trellis, archways, patio or elevated flower beds.
You can also do some soft landscaping by adding herbaceous plants, lawns or hedges. You're likely to achieve the best outcome when using a mix of these measures.
When splitting up your garden, think about how you want your garden layout to look and how you want to use that space. You could have zones dedicated to dining, gardening (herbs and veggie garden), storage (a shed), or leisure (sculptures, fountains, pond etc.).
Screening is also an intriguing option to separate your garden. Try trellising to make the whole sight a bit softer and make your visitors curious to see what lies beyond!
What are some low-maintenance square garden ideas?
A general rule is that the more hard landscaping you use for your garden layout, the less maintenance you will have.
Planting climbing plants is another easy option to bring low-maintenance greenery into your garden. Climbers do not take up much space and also do not require a lot of pruning.
How can I make my garden look nice on a budget?
The easiest way to update your garden on a budget is to reduce, reuse, and recycle! You do not need to buy everything new to make your garden look nice. Repurposing old furniture and other household items can be an excellent way to give your garden some personality.
There are so many ways to make use of things that you have lying around in your home, and with a bit of creativity and DIY, you can save some money and make your garden look lovely.