6 transforming garden ideas from elegant to eccentric

Whenever I’m in a garden having a major Wow! moment it’s usually because I’ve stumbled onto a garden design or decor idea that’s both breathtakingly simple and wildly transformative. Here are five why-didn’t-I-think-of-that DIY garden ideas progressing from the simply elegant to the seriously eccentric (in a good way).

Ideas 1 and 2: Maximizing a small garden with tasteful tweaks

I’ve never been a big fan of hot tubs or jacuzzis in the garden but I’ve got to admit that disguising a party pool as an elegant water feature is pretty clever. Seriously, when I first laid eyes on this garden (shown below, left), I had no idea you could actually jump into the water, sit down and pass around margaritas until I walked right up to the pool’s edge and noticed the built-in underwater seats. So how does this structure deceptively signal ‘formal fountain over here‘ rather than ‘plunge in and party‘? A brick wall (actually the garden’s side fence) and trellis combine to mimic the top of a water feature. Raising the side of the pool that backs onto the fence sets the stage, literally, for what could be a tumbling waterfall. The tall garden sculpture finishes the faux feature perfectly.

Another way to maximize space in a small garden is to make an eye-catching seating area. The idea is that a small space doesn’t seem small when it’s big on drama. Slipping a bright faux throw under your propane fire pit accomplishes that beautifully. No worries if your collection of chairs and tables is a jumble of styles and colours. That humble woven plastic rug will pull it all together, turning a small corner of your garden into an unmistakable entertaining area.

Ideas 3 and 4: Getting creative with big recycling projects 

Making a garden sculpture out of deadfall is not new. Taking large (as in way taller than you) dead branches and making them into the organic version of a Louise Nevelson grouping is something altogether new and inspiring. These limbs, partially set into the ground to maintain their position, make for a striking marker where a mown path in a private meadow forks into two trails.

I love the simplicity of these stairs gently connecting two garden spaces. Building pillars and a partial retaining wall from slate shingles rescued from the roof of an old barn doesn’t require mortar, just plenty of patience.

Idea 5: Finding a fab alternative to pruning 

Most gardeners wouldn’t resist the urge to cut off this far reaching dead branch. Not Bill Loney of Keppel Croft Gardens on Ontario’s Bruce Peninsula. Instead, painting a dead branch bright blue is a perfectly respectable alternative to cutting it off. Adding faux fruit and a parrot are just the right finishing touches, too. From a distance, this quiet corner in his rambling (and awe-inspiring) gardens looks like a soothing retreat. As you walk up to the tree, spying that electric blue branch is like that first taste of a frosty lemonade–zing!

Idea 6: Adding whimsy with a crop of trellises

Vegetable gardens tend not to have a whole lot of vertical interest. Yes, climbing veggies like beans, peas or tomatoes growing up a trellis or two is always a welcome sight. But how about adding a whole schwack of trellises? I mean a buy-out-the-garden-centre quantity of trellises. All three photos below are of the same garden (located north of Toronto in Cdn zone 5b). Surrounded by a low stone wall, a wild variety of plants–not just edibles–have been planted in abundance and almost with abandon resulting in great swaths of colour and texture. I got the impression that any kind of harvest was almost beside the point. And then, sproinging up like curving jets of water from spurting fountains, is this crazy amount of trellises. If they had been covered in vines of any sort, the effect wouldn’t be nearly as magical. Remaining uncovered, they provide vertical interest, of course, but the repeated arcs also lend rhythm and a sense of movement.

Want more transforming garden ideas? Check out tips on disguising an average-sized suburban garden as a limitless Eden in Garden Ideas For The Plant Maximalist. And my 21 Garden Seating Ideas From Prehistoric To Futuristic has lots of inspirations for gardens of every size.

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