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Rustic Landscaping Ideas for a Backyard With a Creek

By Meg Jernigan ; Updated September 21, 2017
A naturalized backyard creek.
Forest and creek image by Maxim Petrichuk from Fotolia.com

A rustic landscape can be anything from a natural countryside to an old-fashioned garden or can even have a Wild West theme. Successful landscapers usually choose one idea and design around it while keeping all the necessary elements in mind. Grasses, trees, shrubs and flowers are complemented by fences, benches and arbors. A backyard creek adds an appealing dimension to backyard landscaping.

The Creek

Furry catkins on a pussy willow.
fluffy pussywillows image by weim from Fotolia.com

A bridge over the creek built from local trees with the bark left on or an Adirondack-style bridge built of intertwining twigs and branches adds rusticity. Rough stepping stones add a pastoral look without the complication of building and maintaining a bridge. Another attractive addition is a path to the bridge made of the same stepping stones. A low dam constructed from rocks and pebbles creates a natural water feature. The varieties of plants you can use along the banks of the creek depend on your climate. Tall pussy willows, cattails or daylilies planted in clumps add natural contours to the banks. Mosses and ferns grown in shady spots soften the landscape and create a woodsy atmosphere. Heirloom or open pollinated flowers, like black-eyed Susan, trumpet vine and cornflowers, draw hummingbirds and butterflies.

Trees, Shrubs and Grasses

Primrose—perfect for a rock garden.
wild primrose image by Sean Wallace-Jones from Fotolia.com

Native trees and shrubs should only be pruned to clear out dead or diseased branches or if they encroach on other plants. Hardy, adaptable sedges come in enough variety that there is probably one that will thrive in your backyard. Most don’t need to be mowed or fertilized. Some grow to 3 or 4 feet tall, while others only reach 1 or 2 inches. The slightly wild look will give the feel of a meadow, and the yard won’t require a lot of maintenance. You can bring focus to one part of the yard by creating a rock garden, using large stones piled to different heights and planting bluebells, ice plants and primrose.

Furnishings and Decorations

A colorful handmade birdhouse.
house for nuts image by leafy from Fotolia.com

The right furnishings and decorations emphasize the rustic backyard with a creek. A few well-chosen and well-placed accents work better than a clutter of objects. For example, you can hang wooden, dried gourd or colorfully painted birdfeeders from trees or set them on top of fence posts. Flowers planted in either wooden or galvanized horse troughs add a colorful accent. Wooden or stone benches create natural seating areas and work well in tandem with a wooden swing looped over a nearby tree branch. Rough-hewn wooden fences can replace your old fence to blend seamlessly into the backyard creek environment. An arbor or trellis built from vines that have been trained can replace the backyard gate. Oak barrels make wonderful planters for strawberries or tomatoes.


About the Author


Meg Jernigan has been writing for more than 30 years. She specializes in travel, cooking and interior decorating. Her offline credits include copy editing full-length books and creating marketing copy for nonprofit organizations. Jernigan attended George Washington University, majoring in speech and drama.