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Repurposed items such as bathtubs, toilets, and cinder blocks are great for container gardens. They're also unexpectedly striking garden accents that are sure to draw smiles. Use them for growing vegetables, edible flowers, and culinary herbs to add to your harvest.
Retired garden gear makes a great addition to the garden. For an easy-to-plant whimsical landscaping design idea, roll an old wheelbarrow into a corner or curve in the garden, and plant it with a pretty collection of same-color flowers. The portable nature of the planter makes it possible to move to make the wheelbarrow even more of a focal point for special occasions, such as a garden party.
Planting Tip: Line metal vessels such as wheelbarrows with heavy-duty plastic. If there's a rusted hole, pull the plastic through and snip a hole for drainage. Then fill with potting soil
Ordinary grapevine wreath can give an interesting organic twist to a variety of garden elements, including a birdbath. Here, grapevine is twisted around a shallow ceramic bowl. Loops of copper wire suspend the birdbath from a branch. Twigs tucked in here and there add to the natural look.
Design Tip: Position your birdbath so you can enjoy it both indoors and out. The view of birds splashing in the water can warm even a winter day.
Unusual finds might be just the inspiration you need to implement your own whimsical landscaping design ideas. Here, curved bases transform a trio of Gothic-style windows into beautiful, one-of-a-kind cold frames.
Design Tip: Salvaged windows can be useful and beautiful garden accents. Use them to top cold frames. Hang window frames on a fence or wall as garden art. Add a shelf to a window frame and suspend it in the garden; rest potted plants on the shelf and surround the vignette with larger plants.
Whimsical landscaping design ideas often come from found bits and pieces. Grouped together, those items have impact. It doesn't matter that they were intended for completely separate purposes. Here, a fire-hose winder, a rusted children's pedal car, and a fencing fragment add texture to a collection of pretty flowers.
Other people's trash can become your unique and whimsical landscaping design idea. This homeowner found inspiration in old water-spigot handles and brass garden nozzles; she used them to decorate a piece of barn board on a potting shed for sculpture that dresses up the wooden building.
More Ideas: Arrange a group of glass bottles to catch light, hang garden hand tools to focus on their shapes, arrange broken ceramic pieces in a mosaic, or hang nuts and bolts as a mobile.
One old shovel might be trash, but a small collection of them is treasure, as this display inside a potting shed demonstrates. It's an example of using garage-sale finds and flea market scores to create your own whimsical landscaping design idea.
Design Tip: Arrange colors and patterns to create smooth movement through a linear display. A fence naturally leads the eye in one direction. Display your gloves or other fence accents so the eye follows the linear flow.
Flotsam and jetsam -- wreckage or things cast aside -- become a stationary metal tree when grouped together on a tall pole with varied arms. Use different types of materials -- chipped porcelain, old wicker, rusted metal -- for surprising depth in the back of a flowerbed.
Design Tip: Top your display with a shapely focal point. Just as on a Christmas tree, a starring object at the top leads the upward and allows a visual respite.
Part of getting motivated to incorporate your own whimsical landscaping design ideas is figuring out how to use items as vignettes to draw the eye or create a focal point. Repetition of similar pieces is one visual trick; here, a grouping of old watering cans, tilted in the same direction, adds a fun, festive face to a shed wall.
Design Tip: Create motion in your display by giving things a tilt. These watering cans look ready to douse the nearest bloom and, as a result, imply a sense of motion.
In a different garden, this old purple-martin birdhouse might need a coat or two of paint. But in this cottage-style space and accompanied by battered Adirondack chairs, the house's weathered finish is completely copacetic. An old wire basket holds glass fishing floats, adding luster and color to the seating nook. This eclectic grouping relies on the well-worn look for its whimsical landscaping appeal.
Design Tip: Add contrast. The peeling paint and distressed finishes gain prominence when paired with shiny colored-glass balls. One element that's different from the rest can actually meld the individual pieces.
Architectural castoffs can provide inspiration for whimsical landscaping design ideas. To integrate such objects into a garden, plant flowers or foliage-focused plants that will trail onto or grow up and over the pieces, as done with these two stone heads. Besides statues, consider stone or concrete architectural pieces such as pedestals, cornices, corbels, and other decorative fragments.
Planting Tip: Rock-garden plants and creeping groundcovers can settle nicely in crevices next to salvaged stone statues or decorative fragments.
Whimsical landscaping design ideas are perfect for adding texture and height to a garden. A good way to group several items together is to pick a theme, such as this bird-focused border that includes a birdcage, birdhouses, flamingoes, and a tuteur.
Favorite plants may thrill with blooms, foliage, or color, but many lack in height. If that's the case, whimsical landscaping design ideas can help you integrate hardscape. Here, a collection of lightning rods adds vertical dimension to peonies and perennial geraniums -- and it acts as a conversation starter, too.
More Ideas: Arrange a display of whirligigs, windmills, columns, weather vanes, metal fence posts, or long-handle garden tools.
To maximize whimsical impact, think about how you can replace the ordinary and everyday with something unique. For example, mulch doesn't always have to be chopped-up wood -- especially in small spaces. Here, a "mulch" of blue glazed ceramic balls brightens up the base of a Japanese maple.
Design Tip: Be bold. Half the fun of a whimsical focal point is the surprise. Pick a contrasting or complementary color and concentrate it in one locale. The results will be impressive.
Part of adding whimsical landscaping design ideas is incorporating patina or layering to gardens. That might mean including practical items, such as a chair, in impractical places, such as in the middle of a flowerbed. The purpose is not so much to use the piece as it is to highlight the beauty and originality of the item, such as these Carre pillow-style chairs.
Design Tip: Nestle real resting places in niches and at the ends of pathways to create focal-point destinations for whimsical elements that combine the practical with the unexpected. Splash the seating with color, or position a vignette so it is primarily visible from that spot.
Drama can be a wonderful aftereffect of whimsical landscaping design ideas. This trash art, constructed from pipes and found pieces of wood, adds a sculptural element to a backyard's entry gate. Striking neon colors welcomes guests with folk-art flair.
Design Tip: Embellish the ordinary. A simple gate takes on whimsical personality with bright paint and a few accents. You can transform a basic gate by coating the frame and individual panels, pickets, or posts in bright, contrasting colors. It's a great use for leftover paint. Attach metal or glass baubles or other accents for a little shine.
If flowers can't provide the color you want, whimsical landscaping design ideas might do the trick. Here, a collection of blue bottles adds pop and vibrance; the collection resembles a cloudlike sculpture.
Design Tip: Insert color in uncommon forms. Arrange bright-color bowling balls along a path. Coat old garden tools with a vibrant hue and tuck the collection beneath a group of ferns or hostas. Create an edging of bright tiles along the perimeter of a foliage grouping.
Being whimsical is all about being fun, fresh, and festive. In this garden display, tin letters deliver a welcoming message for plants and visitors alike. Note how the arrangement of the letters emphasizes the waterfall-like flow of the container plantings.
Design Tip: Whimsical messages can elicit smiles. Make your own from tin, plastic, wood, or other weatherproof letters. Or scour flea markets for old signs that suit your sensibilities.
One of the benefits of whimsical landscaping design ideas is the ability to meld garden styles without feeling chaotic. To do that effectively, pick a single pattern or bright color for uniformity, or one large element that adds a focal point, such as this oversize, folk-art-style sculpture.
Design Tip: Position a main element in a place of honor: at the end of a winding path, amid a riot of flowers, or at an entrance. This placement showcases the piece and creates a sense of arrival for visitors.
Create wonder and amazement. For example, no one really expects a hardscape garden element to soar above shrubs or container plantings to tower at tree height. But this collection of neoclassic columns does both, shaking loose traditional expectations of a garden.
Planting Tip: To emphasize the vertical impact, choose plants with columnar or upright forms. Consider ornamental grasses that do well in containers. A plant with a mounding habit adds interesting contrast at eye level.
Pergolas, arbors, and trellises are great garden elements; this structure gains whimsy and style from interplay with the accents. Hanging stained-glass windows add a sense of boundaries to the space, and a chandelier, accented with a potted plant, creates an unusual overhead focal point.
Design Tip: Dress your whimsical space for comfort and style. Soften leggy wire furniture with fabric cushions in colors drawn from elements such as the stained glass. Include a pedestal, plant stand, or other flat-top element to act as a side table for drinks, books, or other necessities.
Nearly every garden has must-haves -- paths, edging, and mulch, for example. Whimsical elements can turn these essentials into personality statements. Here, blue bottles are recycled into striking edging. Repurposing everyday items for unexpected uses places emphasis on their color, material, or design rather than the original intent.
Design Tip: Mix and match. Every piece in your design need not be identical -- or perfect. Emphasize similarities and hide flaws through your placement of each item.
Tiny tabletop pieces can turn the focus to your garden's whimsical side. Here, a miniature garden becomes a perfect setting for fairies to pay a visit. For added impact, make the display a replica of your real-size garden.
Design Tip: Imagine you're Alice in Wonderland. How do tiny elements still seem to draw the eye? How do you react to the contrast of oversize pieces in another vignette?
Most items are created with a particular use in mind; part of integrating whimsical landscaping design ideas is to turn that use on its head. A birdbath becomes a spot to display a colorful collection of marbles. Covered with a piece of plastic or glass, the structure is a conversation piece that doubles as a small table.