Whimsical Landscaping Design Ideas

Repurpose Practical Pieces

Infuse your yard with color and lightheartedness, courtesy of this collection of whimsical garden ideas.

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Use Vintage Items as Containers

Find Cool Planting Places

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.

More Ideas: Fill up bicycle baskets, toolboxes, jugs, galvanized containers, buckets, ceramic bowls, old pots, and enamel tubs.

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Reuse Old Garden Gear

Reuse, Reuse

Retired garden equipment makes a great addition to the landscape. For an easy-to-plant whimsical garden 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.

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Add Natural Accents

Add Natural Accents

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 watching birds splashing in the water from inside your house or while out on the patio.

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Use Salvaged Windows in the Garden

How to Make a Cold Frame from Old Windows

Unusual finds might be just the inspiration you need to implement your own whimsical landscape idea. Here, curved bases transform a trio of Gothic-style windows into beautiful, one-of-a-kind cold frames. Salvaged windows can be beautiful garden accents. 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.

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Display Castoff Metal Objects

Display Castoffs

Group together found pieces of old metal objects for whimsical garden accents. 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. Use material, color, and shape to create cohesiveness among disparate elements. For example, the rusty color and curved shapes of the pieces bind the scene. For a refreshed look, spray paint them all with one color.

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Sculpt Your Own Accents

Sculpt Your Own Accents

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.

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Group a Collection

Group a Collection

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 landscape ideas.

Design Tip: Typically, a grouping of objects looks better with an odd number.

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Get Your Glove On

Get Your Glove On

Before you trash those old garden gloves, consider them for a whimsical garden display. This wooden fence got a fabric-focused accent with a variety of worn-out gloves. Arrange colors and patterns to create smooth movement through a linear display. A fence naturally leads the eye in one direction.

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Create Garden Art with Antiques

Create New Life for Old Things

Gather vintage items that have been cast aside to make whimsical garden art. Dress up a stationary metal tree with pitchers, watering cans, garden tools, and anything that interests you. Top your display with a shapely focal point. Just as on a Christmas tree, a starring object at the top leads the eye upward and allows a visual respite.

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Add a Focal Point

Add a Focal Point

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.

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Embrace Less-Is-More

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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.

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Add Stone Statues

Set Up Statuary

Architectural castoffs can provide inspiration for whimsical landscape 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.

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Pick a Theme

Pick a Theme

A good way to create a whimsical garden is to pick a theme, such as this bird-focused flower bed that includes a birdcage, birdhouses, flamingoes, and a tuteur. Other landscape-friendly themes include garden tools, gnomes, outdoor games, wildlife, color, or geometric shapes.

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Add Height with Garden Accents

Look Upward

Favorite plants may thrill with blooms, foliage, or color, but many lack in height. Use tall garden accents to add whimsy to a flower bed. Here a collection of lightning rods adds vertical dimension to peonies and perennial geraniums, and it acts as a conversation starter, too. You could also arrange a display of whirligigs, windmills, columns, weather vanes, metal fence posts, or long-handle garden tools for more whimsical garden ideas.

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Embrace the Unexpected

Embrace the Unexpected

To maximize whimsical garden impact, think about how you can replace the ordinary 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 garden is the element of surprise. Pick a contrasting or complementary color and concentrate it in one locale. The results will be impressive.

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Include Impracticality

Include Impracticality

Part of creating a whimsical garden 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.

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Tap Your Inner Artist

Tap Your Inner Artist

Embellish the ordinary. A simple gate invites you to a whimsical garden with bright paint and a few accents. This trash art piece, constructed from pipes and found pieces of wood, adds a sculptural element to the backyard's entry gate. Striking neon colors add folk-art flair. It's a great use for leftover paint.

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Play with the Palette

blue faux-flowers made with glass bottles

If flowers can't provide the color you want, whimsical landscaping design ideas might do the trick. Here, a collection of blue bottles adds vibrance. Insert color in uncommon forms. You could arrange bright-color bowling balls along a path or coat old garden tools with a vibrant hue and tuck the collection beneath a group of ferns or hostas.

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Spell It Out

Spell It Out

Having a whimsical garden 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. Make your own message from tin, plastic, wood, or other weatherproof letters. Or scour flea markets for old signs that suit your sensibilities.

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Center of Attention

Turn the Focus

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.

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Give Plants a Lift

Focus Skyward

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. To emphasize the vertical impact, choose plants with columnar or upright forms. Consider ornamental grasses that do well in containers.

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Be Practical and Playful

Be Practical and Playful

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. Add comfort to chairs with colorful cushions. Include a pedestal or plant stand to act as a side table for drinks, books, or other necessities.

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Maximize Little Details

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Nearly every garden has must-haves--paths, edging, and mulch. Whimsical elements can turn these garden 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.

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Fancy the Fairies

Fancy the Fairies

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.

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Reimagine Practical Pieces

Repurpose Practical Pieces

Most items are created with a particular use in mind. Turn that use on its head with whimsical garden ideas. A birdbath becomes a spot to display a colorful collection of marbles. Turn old windows or doors into tabletops, or use old folding chairs as plant stands. Salvaged columns are now lantern holders or plant stands, and mailboxes can be flower vases.

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