Today I want to share with you some of my favorite ideas for creating a whimsical garden.
What’s a whimsical garden? Well, it’s a type of garden that is half art project, and half garden.
Whimsical gardens blend found objects with artful garden design to form a sort of organic folk art. Done well, this type of garden becomes more than just a garden, it’s an adventure.
For some time now, I have been curating my own whimsical garden and snapping photos of unique, cozy, or artistic garden spaces when I encountered them. These photos have been a helpful reference for me, and today I thought I’d shared them for others who might be seeking fresh ideas and springtime inspiration to create their own whimsical and playful garden space.
I’ve included a collection of my whimsical garden photos below. Scroll through for ideas (and, in a few cases, links to the how-to-tutorial!)
1. Container Garden Arbor Tunnel
Traditional garden achitectural elements work well in a whimsical garden to create visual interest – but non-traditional elements work even better.
By varying heights and textures you can create a more beautiful flower garden or vegetable patch.
Finding plants that can add height artistically can be a challenge, but creatively using supports to grow vining plants like cantaloupe, beans, cucumbers, and watermelon can be a great way to encourage these plants to spread out and grow long vines while creating visual interest.
When vines are trained to grow up an arched fencing panel or bridged across two separate trellises leaned against each other to form a triangle, these vines can create not only height but also dimension – like this green bean tunnel that shows up every summer in Pike Place Market’s rooftop garden.
In the garden, often the easiest way to build a trellis is by using fencing panels you can purchase at farm supply stores. These heavy grade wire panels are still flexible, allowing them to support the weight of healthy plants and a full harvest while still maintaining the structural integrity of this dimensional whimsical garden element.
2. Sink turned Garden Fountain
Water features fit seamlessly in a modern whimsical garden. Water features in a flower garden, vegetable patch, or rock garden don’t justinteresting, they also add benefits to both humans and the wildlife visiting the garden.
GOOD FOR HUMANS: For us humans, we know that a garden can bring a sense of calmness and groundedness, but did you know that soothing background noise can reduce some of the negative health impacts that are associated with living near traffic or urban sound pollution? It can, according to acoustical researchers.
GOOD FOR WILDLIFE: For visiting wildlife, water features provide the essential hydration. If you were to set up a night vision camera near even a well-developed suburban backyard water feature, you would likely find everything from raccoons to birds, from squirrels to bees drinking from the water feature.
Although most people installing a water fountain in their garden start with a basic pond kit, integrating plumbing features into a garden water feature can be a head-turning way to create a more whimsical garden. In the image above, you can see that we’ve turned a simple bathroom sink into a waterfall that spouts from the faucet of the sink. (For instructions on creating a water feature from a sink, click here) other artist – gardeners have created interest in their whimsical gardens by integrating plumbing fixtures like bathtubs, copper pipes, faucets, and more. Most scrapped plumbing fittings can find a home in a water garden with a little bit of creativity and imagination.
3. Galvanized Bucket Fountain
For a rustic take on a whimsical garden ideas, look no further than water features made from galvanized metal. Galvanized metal is treated with zinc to shield it from the corrosive effects of wind, water, and air. The silver look of galvanized metal is actually a thin layer of zinc – a rustproof metal – that prevents the metal underneath from rusting.
Because of this, galvanized metal is perfect for water features in a whimsical garden. Garden ponds, waterfalls, and fountains made from galvanized buckets, wash tubs, and horse troughs create a rustic country look – without the rust,
4. Birdcage Fountain
If you can’t tell already, fountains are my very favorite way to decorate my gardens. Some of my best whimsical garden ideas have involved water- and I’m sure I will continue to experiment through sweltering hot summers in the future!
Making water features – whether it’s a DIY aboveground pond or this birdcage table fountain (check out the tutorial here) is so much fun! For me, making my own water features in my garden feels artistic, challenging, and refreshing. Like a toddler playing with a water table, I get to cool off a little bit in the splashing water while putting together what is, essentially, both an art project and a puzzle.
You can even garden within your own water features. One of my favorite ways to add dimension, natural edges, and an organic look to man-made garden water features is by placing water-loving plants directly into the water.
Thankfully, an uncontrollably spreading patch of Creeping Jenny – a plant that loves growing in moving water – constantly threatens to take over my property and provides plenty of cuttings for rooting in my whimsical garden water features.
5. Birdcage Hanging Basket
Much like the covered trellis archway whimsical garden idea described above, birdcages can be a fun way to create height in a garden.
Whether you are working with a tiny backyard pocket garden or a sprawling estate rose garden, you can create interesting and attention-grabbing whimsical elements in your garden by using birdcages in a similar way to how “normal” gardeners might use hanging baskets:
Birdcages stuffed with a layer of potting soil and dangling plants can be hung from arched stakes placed in the garden for just that use or from tree branches or roof overhangs.
6. Burlap Cover for 5 Gallon Bucket
Potentially the least head-turning addition to this list of whimsical garden ideas, this little trick might be the workhorse of the bunch: wrapping cheap planters – or even 5 gallon buckets – with burlap and wrapping them with jute twine.
This hack can transform cheap or ugly planters into attractive, organic-looking pots with a soft, woven texture that helps visually break up the sometimes monotonous textures of a garden.
7. Weed Bouquets
This is such a fun project and my photos just don’t do it justice, even though I tried creating an entire tutorial Making Bouquets from Weeds, Native Plants, and Herb Blossoms.
Culturally, we tend to think that there are plants that are “good enough” for bouquets, and those that are not – but the difference is really just a matter of opinion isn’t it?
In the past few years, perhaps one of the most whimsical ideas I’ve had for bringing my strange garden inside are these bouquets of native and/or nontraditional-for-bouquet plants.
In the images above, herbs like sage and fennel are cut and arranged with invasive – even poisonous – (don’t worry, only if you eat it!)- weeds I found growing on the margins of my property. Mixing some thrillers, fillers, and spillers, in the classic trifecta of building a good bouquet means that I can create these charming – if a bit weird – bouquets for free, making this project not only whimsical and zero-waste friendly, but also affordable.
8. Jute Twine Spider Web Trellis
One of my favorite whimsical garden ideas I’ve ever seen I found in a tiny, private, indoor garden in the Pacific Northwest. Building on the previously discussed idea of using plumbing features for water features in a garden (in this case, a cast-iron clawfoot tub) this gardener added a unique touch– a hand knotted trellis made in the form of a spider’s web.
Adding visual interest as well as a natural shape to complement the plants growing on and around it, this unique trellis is both sturdy and completely compostable at the end of a gardening season. It’s also affordable- for the cost of a ball of jute twine you can reproduce one of nature’s most iconic designs to decorate your garden while supporting growing plants.
This collection of whimsical garden ideas is just a few of the many ways that you can add visual interest to a garden by using some strange, interesting, and perhaps even weird ways for keeping your plants and the creatures that pollinate, fertilize, and make their homes in your plants feel a little more at home.