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Decorative Garden Ideas

By John Albers ; Updated September 21, 2017

Decorative or ornamental gardens can be the most difficult to put together simply because of the sheer possibilities they represent. Any plant, tree, shrub, fern, stone, fern, or other element you can name is fair game as long as it has an overall aesthetic appeal. That in itself can be the issue: lots of plants can be colorful and evocative on their own, but when combined in a single space, they clash.

Consider a few simple options when putting together your own decorative garden to help prevent lots of hard work going to waste.

Butterfly Garden

A butterfly garden is one that chooses its plants primarily because they attract butterflies; appearances are secondary, meaning some species used might technically be considered weeds. Ideally, place the garden in an area with partial shade or cover to help retain the nectar scent.

As this type of decorative garden is meant to be one a guest might spend time in, place the garden beds around a central pavilion or series of benches and tables where people can talk and relax outside. Moss-covered stone is an evocative floor choice.

Aster, dogbane, goldenrod, sunflower, and clover all attract the most species of butterfly; place them as homogenously as possible to keep the butterflies interspersed throughout the whole garden.

Symmetrical Garden

Symmetry is something that’s often missing from gardens, whether thanks to design or content. In this case, take a page from ancient architecture by creating a series of freestanding steps with concentric wooden-framed forms to appear like a stepped pyramid, though it could conceivably be any symmetrical shape.

Frame the structure on each side by a latticed arch, allowing for climbing ivies and hanging potted bromeliads. Ringing each tier is a specific species of bulb: tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, crocuses, each carefully spaced so that the garden is identical in appearance from each side it’s faced. Stone or cast-iron framed benches could sit just outside each of the arches with a fine-bladed grass such as bentgrass as a groundcover.

Grass Garden

Grass is often considered just a groundcover, used in between points of decoration rather than actually being the decoration. Why not try showcasing different types of ornamental grass and bamboos? Instead of stepping stones or a paved path, interlocking squares of Kentucky bluegrass and red fescue sod would work to create a red and blue checkerboard pattern that can be walked on.

In the garden plots themselves, assemble different ornamental grasses into long rows, allowing the merits of each species to be seen and clearly delineated. Place a heavy layer of gravel between rows in order to keep them from propagating beyond control.

Rabbit’s tail grass, like all ornamental grasses, grows in clumps and produces fluffy white sprays at the end of long stalks. Annual quaking grass has woody stems and produces little white flowers in a curtain. Annual red fountain is a startling red and spiky as opposed to soft, making for a pleasant diversion from the softer-edged grasses. As a windscreen and makeshift fence, a line of juvenile lucky bamboo would work admirably, but they can grow out of hand if not watched.


About the Author


John Albers has been a freelance writer since 2007. He's successfully published articles in the "American Psychological Association Journal" and online at Garden Guides, Title Goes Here, Mindflights Magazine and many others. He's currently expanding into creative writing and quickly gaining ground. John holds dual Bachelor of Arts degrees from the University of Central Florida in English literature and psychology.