Besides being cramped and confined, they’re often shaded by buildings or walls, and too often they end up neglected and unloved. But, with a little inspiration, these areas can be transformed into attractive garden spaces with tons of character.

1 Zigzag your way to the end of the garden and slow the visual journey. To create the illusion of width, cut across the space and provide stops along the way. Here the path is broken by an L-shaped water feature, while low pots of azaleas act like full stops.

2 Divide and conquer space by creating a chequerboard pattern with formed concrete or rows of pavers. Plant out with low-growing grass, bulbs and groundcovers that emphasise the horizontal plane of the ground. Use lollipop trees to add height without encroaching on the space underneath.

3 Halve the vista of a long, narrow side passage with a solid gate. Here double doors, part of a lychgate, do the trick. Clumping bamboo grows tall and narrow to
form a canopy above.

4 Treat the area at the side of your house more like a terrace or patio than a passageway. Only plant down one side, and break up the run of the bed with an inset area paved in the same way as the path. Use this space as a charming sitting spot. Create a focal point at the end with a fountain or sculpture and grow jasmine in a diamond pattern behind.

5 Break up a long, angled bed with foliage patterns and plant forms that will hold your interest. Here a high laurel hedge on one side and a low buxus hedge on the other, border the bed. The long lines are balanced by a bed filled with visually distracting elements. Clipped balls of coastal rosemary, a mop-top robinia, and a wilderness of gardenias, windflowers and liriope are all anchored by a fountain made from an urn.

6 Grow a formal architectural entrance with hedges and topiary. They always look attractive, no matter what the season. Create dramatic perspective by staggering the height of the trees and put a sculpture, water feature or garden ornament at the end of the path to further draw the eye. Notice the large pavers keep the scheme simple and uncluttered.

7 Avoid disappointment and forget the lawn, especially if your area is used for lots of outdoor entertaining. Practical paving creates a clean-looking space that won’t show areas of wear and tear, and has the added bonus of no mowing.

8 Take advantage of vertical space and use your fence to grow gorgeous climbing blooms. By their nature, narrow spots only allow for slender garden beds, so by planting vertically you can make better use of the available space. Here a border of dwarf agapanthus looks splendid with rambling roses.

9 Be clever and make your garden beds do double duty. Create a little resting place by building a sturdy retaining wall about 400mm high. Then cap the top with a bench. Dress it decoratively with a length of foam rubber, cut to size and wrapped in your favourite fabric. And why not add to the scene by resting your garden art against the wall?

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