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All Things Garden,  Beginner Basics

9 Ways to Add Whimsy and Interest to Your Garden

Need a little #gardeninspo? Read along for 9 creative ways to add personality, flair, and interest to your garden. These ideas will help to elevate the appearance of your yard, and perhaps more importantly, how it feels to be in it!

Close your eyes and picture a lush garden at sundown. As the last rays of sun kiss the colorful plants, flickering tiki torches start to illuminate one-by-one as a water fountain babbles softly nearby. Gardens can be downright magical. Along with bountiful food, flowers, habitat, and beauty, they’re capable of providing immense joy and peace – especially if you make a little effort to enhance your space beyond the basics! It’s time to create your own paradise at home.

I should probably mention that I’m not a professional landscape designer, but our gardens always have ample style and beauty! Also, the tips we’ll explore today can be applied to any size garden. You’ll see plenty of photos of both modest and large spaces below. We spent many years curating the gardens at our old ⅕ acre urban homestead; it was overflowing with charm by the time we moved away! We’re still working on weaving the whimsy into our big brand new garden… slowly but surely.



HOW TO ADD INTEREST TO YOUR GARDEN


1) Mix Textures, Materials & Shapes


Use a variety of plant textures, ground cover and hardscaping materials to create balance in your garden. For instance, I like to incorporate curved lines, round stones, large boulders, tree stumps or interesting branches, potted plants and wine barrel planters into our landscape to soften the space and offset the hard angles created by our rectangular raised garden beds and pavers. I also find using a combination of gravel and bark or wood chips (nearby, but not together) creates a nice blend of rustic and modern. Visit your local bulk landscape supply company to see what materials they offer.

Play with height and add interest to your garden by mixing a combination of raised beds and in-ground planting areas. You could even arrange your garden beds in an interesting pattern, such as a U-shape or herringbone layout. Raised planting spaces don’t have to be traditional wood garden beds either! We’ve created terraces and large elevated perennial planter beds using stone blocks (shown below). Galvanized steel raised beds also add a unique flair. See this article for more ideas about alternative raised garden bed materials.

In perennial landscapes, mix plants with various heights, leaf size or structure, and bloom times. Add flowy plants like native ornamental grasses or ferns to balance the more structured ones. On the flip side, we like to incorporate stately cacti and agave to complement all of our other softer plantings. Trees create the most majestic vibes of them all. Finally, don’t be afraid to experiment! You can always change plants later.



2) Play with Color


In addition to plants and flowers, there are plenty of other ways to add pops of color to your garden. Incorporate colorful ceramic pots, yard art, outdoor pillows and patio furniture, shade umbrellas, or an outdoor rug. Heck, you could even paint your fence or arbors! Black fences and arbors have been especially trendy lately.

Hardscaping materials like flagstone or gravel can make a color statement too. In our old garden, we used stunning pastel-colored cobblestones that looked gorgeous against the blue-green gravel. Yet the materials in our new garden are a bit more rustic and natural. I love both for different reasons!

Decide if you want to stick with a particular limited color scheme, or mix and match many colors for an extra playful space. For example, we grow annual flowers in every color of the rainbow, but I usually choose purple, pink and yellow flowers in our perennial landscape. I also tend to be drawn to blue, green or purple pots, pillows and other accents.


Gravel pathways with pavers and cobble stone lined planting areas lead to a few wooden garden beds with vegetables growing in them. Add interest to garden by using various hardscaping along with different sized pots.


3) Light it Up


Solar lights are one of my favorite ways to add interest to the garden! Come evening time, our outdoor spaces feel downright magical. We use a combination of solar pathway lights and awesome flickering solar tiki torches (they look like real flames!) that have held up wonderfully over the years. Our arched trellises are adorned with solar fairy string lights, which we’ve also strung along fences and around garden beds over the years. Overhead bistro lights are always fun, and add even more functional bright light for entertaining. 

And of course, don’t forget a fire pit! In addition to light, fire pits provide warmth and cozy ambience. We absolutely love our low-profile round gas fire pit, perfect for kicking your feet up to warm by the fire. Other ways to add mood lighting in the garden include tabletop lanterns, citronella candles, or landscape spotlights under trees. I absolutely love the way they light up our oak canopy! See more details below.

Tip: Did you know that you can change the batteries in many solar lights? If the lights start to look weak or stop working, simply swap out the batteries with new rechargeable solar batteries. Also, you can turn them on and off to conserve battery life – rather than leaving them on all night long. 


Flickering solar tiki torches and fairy string lights on display.
We love our fire pit. It comes with a little side table that hides the propane tank (it’s on the other side of the sofa).
A winding brick pathway goes through the middle of a smaller garden area that contains various hydrangea bushes, agave, tall ferns, and various other plants. Solar powered lights flank the pathway all the way to light up the space and cast rays of light throughout the walkway. Add interest to garden by using various forms of lighting to enrich the space.
Solar pathway lights stealing the show.
String lights in the old front yard garden.
The sun is just setting below the horizon, solar lights are lining a gravel pathway while a few well lights light up the canopy of oak trees. Beyond lies a garden with arches that are lined with solar string lights as well as various solar powered lights that are spaced throughout. Add interest to garden by using solar powered lights to light up the area once the sun goes down.
Our tree spotlights operate on a low-voltage landscape lighting system. These LED well lights attach to a basic landscape cable, which then connects to a control box/timer that plugs in to an outdoor outlet.



4) Adorn with Art 


Add personality, flair, and interest to your garden with outdoor art. Adorn the space with metal sculptures, statues, a cute sign, garden flags, murals, or other artistic accents that suit your style. Pop in an old wagon wheel, a few little mushrooms or gnomes if that tickles your fancy! Get crafty and make your own art, or look around your local garden centers. I’ve also seen some creative flower beds made from old clawfoot bathtubs or wheelbarrows.

Gardener’s Supply Co has some really cute yard and garden decor options – including metal sculptures, weathervanes, wind spinners, statues and more. Don’t forget to add a pretty hummingbird feeder for our little friends!

We have a variety of decorative metal flowers, birds, leaves, suns, and butterflies throughout our garden space, along with a few fun windmills and this adorable rustic steel hummingbird. Our old homestead was dubbed “the beach jungalow”, so I created a sun mural out of sand dollars. I also found a fun “garden” sign at our local nursery, and then customized it with small copper tubing to create the shape of a rising sun. We also made a rad insect hotel (which is honestly serving more as an art piece than functional bug hotel at this point. Lol.)


Two suns – my favorite metal art piece, and my homemade sand dollar mural on the fence in the background.
Two tall metal flower stakes sit between a grove of oak trees. A chicken coop/shed lies beyond and the side is adorned with a metal sun sculpture. Add interest to garden by adding metal art.
My favorite sun now lives on the side of the chicken coop at the new homestead, and two tall metal flower sculptures greet you at the start of the path down to the raised bed garden.
A sign with the word "garden" is attached to a house. A garden bed is just below the sign with various kale plants, squash, and calendula flowers growing in it. There is a small gate to the garden area that keeps the chickens out of the growing area. A brown chicken stands in front of the gate, fluffing her feathers. Add interest to garden by using art as well as different size plants with different foliage to create contrast.
The point of this pic was to show you the garden sign I dolled up with copper tubing… but the kale trees are stealing the show! I guess that’s one way to make your garden feel as whimsical as Dr. Suess.
An insect hotel is next to a fence, there are various logs with different sized holes drilled into them. Pinecones, eucalyptus nuts and various other items fill out the wooden structure. Add interest to garden with items that are functional and pretty to look at.


5) Define Borders & Pathways


Define your space by accenting borders or transition areas with edging, decorative rocks, pavers, logs, attractive fences, arbors, arches, low-growing shrubs, or other materials. This could include the edges of a pathway, around an in-ground flower bed, a central patio area, the perimeter of the entire garden, or a statement at the entrance to the space. Adding a few stepping stones between garden beds makes the space look far more interesting and complete. It’s amazing what a big difference a few details can make! 


A newly planted avocado tree has a ring of cobblestone rocks placed around it. It has been mulched with magenta colored leaves. There is bark mulch around the tree area while nearby the garden used gravel hardscaping and pavers. Add interest to garden by using a variety of mulches and hardscaping.
Something as simple as a ring of rocks around the base of a tree creates definition and interest. I mulched the tree with fallen bougainvillea flowers.
This was a huge empty field before, but it’s now quite defined. As you walk down the path to our new garden, the gravel pathway is lined with steel edging for now, but we plan to add rocks along it soon (like the rest of the garden perimeter). Then you officially “enter” the garden by crossing under an arched trellis that will eventually have plants growing over it. We’ll likely add pavers in the center seating area, and stepping stones between some of the beds soon too.


6) Grow Vertical


One awesome way to add interest to your garden is to grow UP. Use vertical trellises, arches, or arbors to create dimension – and increase your usable growing space! In the veggie garden, things like pole beans, peas, vining squash and cucumbers all love to climb. Passionfruit and kiwi are two vining perennial fruits. Other beautiful ornamental plants well-suited for climbing include jasmine, wisteria, bower vines, trumpet vines, black eyed susan, or trailing roses. 

There are also some really awesome vertical garden towers (not just for trailing plants) that are perfect for small or urban spaces. Finally, don’t forget about hanging baskets – especially around your porch or patio garden!

Need some trellis inspo? Check out our step-by-step tutorial on how to create an inexpensive DIY (flat) trellis. As far as arched trellises go, we found ours at a local nursery – but I know many folks make similar ones out of cattle or hog panel too! Or, check out these beautiful arches and arbors from Gardener’s Supply. I especially love their rounded “moon gate” or modern Gracie ones.


Garden beds and half wine barrels make are set amongst gravel hardscape. Beyond lies a two tiered wooden terrace that spans the back of the yard. A short fence is the backdrop while five tall trellises add interest to garden and will soon be covered in foliage to double as a privacy screen.
We installed a row of 6 homemade trellises along the north side of our old garden, both to add interest and privacy from the neighbor. Check it out all filled in below!
A living green privacy wall, created with DIY trellises and a combination of edible passionfruit and ornamental passion flowers.
Garden beds flank a concrete patio creating a separate space between the patio and the yard beyond. An arch trellis is used to span two garden beds with a gate in between and under the arch which has a thick vine growing on it. Chickens are pecking around in the ground beyond while various plants, vines, trees, and veggies grow in the raised beds and the yard beyond. Add interest to garden by growing plants on arches and trellises to create dimension.
Our old back yard garden. The trellises on the back side of the raised beds provided vertical growing space to annual veggies like cucumbers or peas (and kept the chickens out of the patio). The arches were covered in passionfruit, which helped provide privacy from the tall house behind us. Note the bit of whimsy on the back fence too; I made little hanging succulent planter boxes with old wine barrel rings around them.


7) Water Features


No yard or garden space is complete without a water feature, IMHO. Water features can provide flowing movement, soothing sounds, and also offer an important lifeline to wildlife and pollinators! A water feature can be as simple as a birdbath, as stately as a fountain, or as elaborate as a pond and waterfall. In deeper fountains or bird baths, add a few large stones for bees, small birds, or lizards to safely perch on. 

We’ve found all of our water features at local nurseries, though I do love the look of this highly-rated ceramic bird bath and this beautiful cascading lotus fountain. You can also get crafty and create your own small pond in a wine barrel, galvanized metal tub/trough, or a pot that doesn’t have a drainage hole. Add a basic pump and turn it into a fountain! 

If you’re concerned about mosquitoes, keep in mind that they need standing water to breed in – and 10 to 14 days to complete their life cycle. So, a running fountain is not a concern! Refresh your bird bath water at least once a week to avoid long-standing stagnant water. In larger ponds, consider adding a handful of mosquito fish to keep them away. 


A two tier fountain is flanked by two large green ceramic pots with bay laurel planted inside of them. Two metal copper colored monstera leaves are hanging at an angle from the side of the house that is the backdrop. Add interest to garden by using different sized pots or water features.
A bird bath is tucked away between lavender and yarrow plants creating a place for birds and wildlife to access fresh water. Add interest to garden by creating variety in your space.
The fountain in our new garden. The accented border of rocks and succulents really makes it pop!


8) Music to My Ears 


Sometimes the sounds of birds chirping and leaves rustling in the breeze is all you need. Yet other noises can add pleasure and interest to your garden too! (Especially if you live near a busy road or highway like we do.) We’ve already covered a popular option in the water feature section above; the sound of trickling water from a fountain is oh-so-calming! I also love the sounds of deep melodic wind chimes and rain chains. 

Tip: If your fountain is too noisy, try reducing the water flow with one of these handy tube clamps. It made our new fountain sound so much more peaceful.

More often than not, we also play music while we’re out in the garden! We simply grab our favorite wireless “Move” Sonos speaker to bring out to the patio with us, plus open the back windows. The Move is all synced up with our home Sonos speaker system via WiFi, but is also bluetooth compatible. This Bose bluetooth speaker is also highly portable and well-rated by fellow audiophiles. If you’re looking for some new tunes, be sure to check out our music playlists here. We love reggae, blues, folk, indie, alternative, and everything in between!


A three tiered fountain has water cascading down its sides into the bottom trough. Succulents are planted in a ring around the outside of the fountain with a rock border. Beyond lies garden beds and a few metal arches connecting two pairs of them. Two white pots that contain yellow flowers flank the front two beds. You can add interest to garden through various ways.
I wish you could hear this photo.


9) Places to Relax


Last but not least, add personality and interest to your garden with seating areas – perhaps enough to entertain! Arrange lounge chairs around a fire pit, or set up an outdoor dining space with tables and chairs. Even the most petite gardens need a bench or small bistro set! In addition to providing function and comfort, seating areas can add a lot of style to your garden too.

Elevate seating areas with pavers or flagstone, bistro lights, or even a pergola overhead! Decorate with outdoor pillows, table lanterns, citronella candles, shade umbrellas, or other accents to match your vibe. After you’ve gone through all these lengths to create such a beautiful space, it’s time to sit back, relax, and soak it all in. 



And that is how you add interest to your garden!



Well friends, I hope this article gave you plenty of ideas and inspiration to spice up your outdoor space. Remember, it took us years to get our old homestead looking as whimsical as it did, so be patient! Good things take time. (This is also me telling myself this as I compare our old garden to our new one… it feels so naked! 😭 I can’t wait for all the plant life to fill in.) Are there any other fun and quirky ways you like to add flair to your garden? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below. Now go have fun creating your own paradise at home!


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15 Comments

  • Mariana

    Hi! Looks beautiful!
    Building same size beds as yours. What are the measurements of the cattle panels you used? Length and width? Did you use anything to anchor them?
    Remember watching some IG stories related to these, but cannot find them 🙁
    Love, love, love what you have done so far! Thanks for the awesome content accross all the social platforms!

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hello Mariana, the trellises we found at our local hardware store/nursery and they are 28 inches wide and probably close to 8 feet tall. We insert them into the bed and used a 2 foot stake of rebar (two on each side of the trellis) to dig down into the raised bed soil and just beyond into the earth. From there, we use a pipe clamp to tighten the trellis and the stake together and they are quite sturdy after that. Hope that helps and thank you for following along with us. Good luck!

  • Elizabeth

    Lots of great ideas here! I can’t wait to start making my garden look less utilitarian! Your pathways are so neat and weed-free. What do you use to keep weeds out of your path?

  • Mary W

    I’ve been trying to find the best way to have a fountain on a small patch of grass in front of my flower beds. Your fountain framed with round rocks and succulents is the PERFECT idea. Thanks for the inspiration. The birds, cat, and visitors will love it. Now, to figure out how to keep the deer out – its a work in progress.

    • DeannaCat

      Oh yay! I’m so glad you love the idea and can adapt it to your space! I’m really excited about our installation too since the now the minor splashing around the fountain isn’t a “waste” and will passively water the succulents for us, a win-win! We added a few small rocks to the very top tier to make it more hummingbird friendly too. I hope all your visitors enjoy it! 🙂

      • Amber

        Beautiful post and garden, as usual! I’m interested to know about the tiered garden fountain. Is a post about install planned? I’d love a fountain in my garden but I do not have a spot near an outlet for the pump and am interested to know how y’all set this up. Thanks for all the wonderful content 🙂

        • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

          Hello Amber, thank you for the kind words, we don’t have a post about the fountain or the planning behind it. The fountain has a pump with a 10-15 cord, we have an outdoor power source located near our house so we plugged in a heavy duty outdoor extension cord and ran it about 80 feet towards the fountain. We dug a trench for the cord so it was below ground so we wouldn’t trip on it etc. and we connect the fountain cord to the extension cord before using electrical tape to tape over the connection thoroughly. The main thing with a fountain is getting a power source to it, some smaller fountains may have a solar powered pump which eliminates the need for an external power source. Hope that helps and good luck!

  • Bridgette

    I love everyting about this article! I want to work on adding more whimsy and space to rest in my garden this year. Thank you for always providing artistic inspiration along with your knowledge packed growing articles!

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Bridgette, hopefully you found a few tips to help make your garden more whimsical as you should find the time to sit back and enjoy your space. We appreciate your support of H&C and thank you for reading!

  • Mia

    Yes, thank you so much for the thorough reply! I’m a little bit of a cowboy with stuff like this but I’ve been putting a lot of work into the gardens/yards and I want to make sure I’m doing things the “right” way. This helps a lot!

  • Mia

    I have always loved your garden taste, so this was fun to read! I’m wondering about if you could give more details on how you “attach” things? To the outside of your house, the fence, etc. Tips or materials you use? Thanks!

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hello Mia, thank you so much for the kind words and we appreciate you reading the article. If we had to attach something directly to the house which is stucco, we try and use concrete screws to drill into the exterior walls to hang items from. We have also utilized hooks to screw into eaves or rafters to hang string lights or rain chains. Hanging items on the fence we would typically use cabinet screws that have a larger head but it can be tricky if you are only screwing directly into fence boards since they are usually quite thin, it is best if you can screw into an area that has a 2×4 on either side of the fence board as it gives you more room to screw into. Our old property had about a 15 to 20 foot drop off down to the back neighbors property so we could screw into the fence boards (with shorter screws although they way have stuck out of the other side of the boards some) without worry of someone on the other side being injured by the exposed screw tips. Hope that helps and good luck on adding some whimsy to your space!

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