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Check out these contemporary city gardens for tons of tight ideas for small outdoor spaces

Small space, big impact

You can pack a lot of wow into small spaces. Even a tiny courtyard can be transformed into a glorious garden world, where lush plant specimens rub shoulders with wonderful water features, clever vertical gardens and stylish outdoor furniture. Take a look around these two stunning city gardens one an eco-conscious rooftop, the other a delightful jewel box of a garden behind a narrow terrace house. Together, they prove how you can take show-garden-style cues to achieve something fabulous around your own home. Compact and creative, they are filled with ideas you will want to own.

Shed walls are features waiting to happen. This alluring statue and small plant shelf turn a forgotten window into a cute little garden grotto.

Brent Wilson, garden design Ian McMaugh

Tropical retreat

With cascades of luscious foliage reaching out from all sides, you can barely tell where the boundaries of this tropically inspired garden actually lie. Thats the secret of its design its small dimensions are cleverly disguised, and just enough open space fills the middle area to provide a place to sit and relax. Even the garden gates are obscured from view, courtesy of their plantings epiphytic species like bromeliads and epiphyllums form a wall of foliage on the gates surface. Other quirky elements in the garden include salvaged objects and old enamel containers used as planters for a miniature cactus garden.

Brent Wilson, garden design Ian McMaugh

Rooftop planter

Use every inch of space in small gardens. This trough of hardy succulents sits on a roof, providing a scene to view from the window.

Brent Wilson, garden design Ian McMaugh

Upcycled planters

Old enamel containers can be used as curious planters for succulents and cacti. Drill a few drainage holes in the base before you plant.

Brent Wilson, garden design Ian McMaugh

Underplanted orange tree

Despite its small size, the garden is home to a mature orange tree, its trunk festooned with bromeliads and underplanted with various sub-tropical species.

Brent Wilson, garden design Ian McMaugh

Outdoor setting

In a densely planted garden, always include a clearing in the woods, where the space opens out to accommodate a relaxing spot.

Brent Wilson, garden design Ian McMaugh

Disguise walls

Try disguising garden walls with a tumble of tropical foliage plants, like this combination of bromeliads, colocasias (taro) and monstera.

Brent Wilson, garden design Ian McMaugh

Potted wall and table

An old drainage board is reinvented as a mounting panel for a collection of tillandsias, while the table below hosts a buffet of succulents.

Brent Wilson, garden design Ian McMaugh

Urban oasis

Edging a rooftop billabong with a timber boardwalk is not the sort of thing you'd expect to find on top of an inner-city house. But thats what makes this high rise garden so delightful - the feel of a natural environment in a distinctly urban context. The rooftop patch is just part of the eco-conscious design, which includes a seven-metre high vertical garden and a fabulous outdoor dining table with water feature. The garden and house work in perfect harmony, with the green roof space creating effective insulation for the building, vastly reducing the cooling requirements and energy bills over summer.

Brent Wilson, garden design Ian McMaugh

Vertical garden

Vertical gardening reaches new heights in this inner-city garden. Both the front fence and the wall beside the front door are planted to the max with ferns, grasses, cordylines, ctenanthes and plenty more.

Brent Wilson, garden design Ian McMaugh

Simple colour palette

Keep the colour palette simple and muted so the garden becomes restful and receding.

Brent Wilson, garden design Ian McMaugh

Colourful foliage


Striking foliage plantings keep a garden looking good all year round. Note this combination of liriope with burgundy aeonium and Sedum Gold Mound.

Brent Wilson, garden design Ian McMaugh

Rooftop billabong

With its own billabong and boardwalk path, a rooftop garden becomes a gorgeous retreat, which doubles as home insulation.

Brent Wilson, garden design Ian McMaugh

Symmetrical layout

Where courtyards can be viewed from above, consider a symmetrical layout and a sleek black and white colour scheme.

Brent Wilson, garden design Ian McMaugh

Dining table water feature

How's this for double duty? The glass-topped outdoor diningtable doubles as an amazing water feature!

Brent Wilson, garden design Ian McMaugh

House to garden

An open view from the back of the house takes the eye straight into the lush garden.

Brent Wilson, garden design Ian McMaugh

Outdoor lighting

For a courtyard that glows rather than glares, incorporate built-in downlights into the walls of raised garden beds. It saves space, too.

Brent Wilson, garden design Ian McMaugh

Rustic wooden pathway

If you love rustic materials, decline the usual array of mod pavers and make your paths from weathered sleepers instead. They add a touch of the unexpected when used in a courtyard or rooftop space.

Brent Wilson, garden design Ian McMaugh

Succulents

Even a sun-baked space like a rooftop can look pretty - mass plant succulents in shades of green, grey, gold, red and mauve.

Brent Wilson, garden design Ian McMaugh

Uncluttered design

Smother the walls but don't over-clutter the middle. Use vertical garden systems to add foliage, then dress the scene with gorgeous ornaments like plaques and mirrors.

Brent Wilson, garden design Ian McMaugh