Horticulture Magazine

15 Special Garden Feature Ideas That Stand Out

a panoramic rock garden in spring

Do you have the feeling that you want to do something special in your garden, but you’re not quite sure what? Something to pique people’s interest and to really make the space pop?

Then it sounds like you need some garden feature inspiration.

And guess what? We’ve pulled together fifteen of the most inspirational garden feature ideas out there – from traditional favourites like rock gardens and bench swings, right through to modern and creative features like pizza ovens and LED light displays. Then, peppered throughout, are things you very well may not have heard of at all, like shishi odoshi.

So, whatever creative gardening itch you’re looking to scratch, this guide is sure to help. Whether you read them all, skim through, or pick one at random, we’re confident that you’ll come away feeling inspired.

Let’s get started.

1. A bubbling cascade water feature

a bubbling garden water fountain with cascading wall

Everybody’s seen a garden pond before. Dig a hole, whack in a plastic pond mould, fill it with water, chuck in a couple of fish, and you’re good to go.

But wouldn’t you rather have a water feature with a little more distinction? Something like the striking, almost jet-black structure above. Underwater blowers create towers of bubbles, and gravity pulls attractive cascades of water over the side and down over the uneven stones, further contributing to the slapdash water movements.

This design is just one of many, of course. There are countless ways to combine stones, water, air, and gravity. So whether you take direct inspiration and replicate this stone for stone, or just use it as a creative launchpad for your own garden water feature, you’re good to go.

2. Stepping stones

stepping stones over a garden water feature

What better way to make a water feature more interesting than to make it interactive? By using stepping stones as a bridge over featured water, you give garden guests the opportunity to get a close up look.

Watch kids playing on stepping stones anywhere and you’ll see the pure joy at being able to do something as novel as walk over water. We think that if you bring these into your garden, you’ll see snatches of grown-ups experiencing this same childhood joy, too. What else can you ask for from your garden?

The example above is heavily modern: Straight lines, brute angles, a black, grey, and white palette. But you’re not limited to modernity when choosing stepping stones. In fact, the majority of stepping stones we see are rustic and old fashioned – maybe an aesthetic better suited to your garden?

3. Vertical gardening

a wall covered in growing plants

The image above is actually taken in a public square in Malaysia, but we still think it counts as garden inspiration. And our logic is this: Pretty much every garden has flowerbeds. Traditionally, they’re horizontal – purely because this is the orientation the ground presents us with.

But why not go vertical? Why not move beyond horizontal flowerbeds – admittedly with the possibility of creating vertical interest by combining plants of different heights – to create something truly diverting.

In recent years, vertical gardens have been booming. You see them in trendy cafes, up the outside of fancy office buildings, and even on university campuses. With an upsurge in interest in vertical gardens, it’s easy to get hold of the equipment you need to create one in your garden at home.

We guarantee that people will admire your creative flair when they see it.

4. Rocks and water

rocks in water with plant edging

We’ll be honest: When we first looked at that image, we didn’t realise there was water for a few seconds. Something about the stones doesn’t look quite right, but it’s not immediately obvious why.

This is the exact same thought process your garden guests will go through when they see an equivalent rock and water installation in your garden. It’s a nifty and enticing twist on familiar pond and water feature designs, and the slightly optical-illusion aspect will keep people looking back time and time again.

Make sure to learn what you need to do to keep the water sitting clear. Nobody wants a big rectangle of dank algae in their garden.

5. Animal gargoyles

animal gargoyles part of a spa water feature

Ignore the pool for a second. While that’s a feature many of us no doubt want in their garden, this guide is designed for people with slightly more modest budgets.

No, what caught our eye here is the attractive elephant spurting water whimsically into the pool. Isn’t it eye-catching?

We can imagine one or two of these dotted subtly around your garden, connected up to a hosepipe or water pump to send a trickle of water into a nearby feature. Or, if you’re feeling particularly hilarious, you could draw inspiration from a more human form.

Fun fact: Gargoyles are only gargoyles if they have a spout in their mouth to send water away from the wall they’re mounted on. If it’s just a stone face, that’s called a grotesque.

6. A rock garden

a rock garden

Rocks can bring a lot to a garden, as we’ve seen already. Not only do they look great under a thin layer of water, but they offer a perfect way to frame and highlight other garden features.

Here we can see a small curated shrubbery delightfully framed by some well-placed rocks. They provide form and structure, setting the shrubbery apart visually from the surrounding path, lawn, and plants.

And the thing about rocks is that they’re versatile. They can form a border, or they can be the feature itself. For the latter, stacking rocks of different sizes and colour against each other can create something surprisingly attractive.

7. A succulent garden

a succulent garden with cacti in the background

Following on from number 6, here’s a way to use rocks as the backdrop for something a little different. Because succulents aren’t traditionally associated with British gardens, they still carry something of a novelty factor. As you can see above, arranging a succulent garden can create an attractive and interesting feature for your garden.

The colour palette is slightly different to what we’re used to. There are gentle purple-greeny-blues, with a smoky white sort of colour that you don’t often see on non-succulent plants. And with the right colour of rock backdrop (orange above, and we’ve seen black used to great effect as well), this type of plant can really pop.

Not only that: They’re easier to look after than some other plants, too. Far less watering is required!

8. LED lighting

led lights illuminating a garden at night

Continuing the theme of drawing out different colours than we’re used to, using LED lights to illuminate your garden brings them to life in a whole new way. In the picture above there are couple of LEDs dotted around the flower bed, but you can also hang lights in trees, or even use LED strips as a border for the bed itself.

You’ll be surprised how much of a difference this can make. If you enjoy sitting out on your patio at night, perhaps with a glass of wine and a book, you’ll be struck by how vibrant and exciting illuminated foliage can be. Instead of looking of into a dark, sullen garden, you’ll see yours in a whole new lease of life.

And what’s more: LEDs have very low power demands, meaning they won’t jack up your electricity bill. You can even buy solar-powered ones that collect enough energy during the day to power them through the night.

9. A ‘spilled’ flower pot

a spilled flowerpot with flowers

This suggestion is simple, but very effective. It takes the familiar aesthetic of flowers in a pot, and quite literally turns it on its head. (Well, side.)

The simple act of flipping a flowerpot onto its side and creating the illusion of plants spilling or flowing out of it reimagines elements that otherwise might not get a second glance.

Although the image above shows only one pot, we’ve seen plenty of examples of three or four pots arranged together, their flowing flowers creating a medley of colour and really drawing in the eye.

This is the perfect way to use broken flower pots, too. If you smashed your favourite pot and only managed to salvage one unbroken piece, fear not. That piece can find a whole new lease of life as a garden feature.

10. Shishi odoshi (aka bamboo fountain)

a bamboo water fountain

For a little Asian flair in your garden, why not incorporate a shishi odoshi? This simple bamboo tube is open at one end, allowing it to slowly fill up with water. When a certain amount of water fills the tube, it shifts the balance to the other side of the fulcrum and tips the water out. Then, the empty tube rebalances, and it tips back. The bottom of the tube gives a satisfying clonk on the support stone, and the cycle repeats.

It’s a simple, but very effective feature. The sound of the clonk can be heard from quite a way away, adding an interesting aural element to your garden’s soundscape. The trickling water can be quite therapeutic, too, making this feature one of the most relaxing on our list.

11. A pizza oven

pizza oven with garden furniture

If you haven’t got one already, cancel all your upcoming plans. Because you’re building a pizza oven in your garden.

These humble little ovens are deceptively easy to build. And once built, they give you the means to create delicious, handmade pizzas in just a few minutes. Delicious, and guaranteed to provide a steady trickle of friends and family who want to taste the fruits of your handiwork.

A pizza oven makes a fantastic centrepiece, as well. They’re a great focal point for patios or other outdoor seating areas, providing a conversation starter, an entertainment piece, and visual interest all in one.

If you’d not already guessed, we’re fairly enthusiastic advocates of garden pizza ovens.

12. Planters

planters stacked on top of one another

Planters riff on the same theme as suggestion number 3 in this list – vertical gardening, if you can’t remember that far back.

By elevating your plants off the ground and backdropping them against whatever material your planters are made from (most likely wood), you switch up the familiar aesthetic and turn it into something mildly more diverting.

Planters are a great way to upcycle bits of wood you’ve got laying around the house. Just take a hammer, a few nails, maybe a saw to cut pieces down to size, and you’re good to go. (Oh, and take care. Using tools always requires diligence and attention!)

The image above has one plant per planter, for the most part. This is an option, but you can also combine plants within planters to create stunningly colourful visual displays.

13. A shed

a wooden shed in the corner of a garden

“Put a shed in your garden” may not sound like a groundbreaking feature suggestion, but hear us out. Your conceptualisation of a shed is probably rooted in the traditional “place to store all the random clutter you’ve got laying around the house.” A worthy tradition, to be sure, but one that entirely misses what a shed is truly capable of.

For example, did you know you can turn a shed into a pub? That’s right. Whack in a bar, some drink, a few bar stools, and some themed paraphernalia, and you’ve got your very own local.

Or how about turning your shed into a writing room? Many famous authors escape the hustle and bustle of their homelife, and write in a specially designated backyard building.

It’s not just writing, either. Sheds can also be made into yoga studios, exercise rooms, music studios, woodworking studios, and so much more.

Done right, a shed can be a real talking point in your garden. Maybe not a feature in the traditional sense, but definitely something that will attract interest.

14. A fire pit

a garden fire pit with young people sat around

Is there anything more satisfying than sitting beside a fire with friends? Sharing the experience with millions of years of our ancestors, drawing the same warmth and meaning from the flames that seem to invite inquisitive thought and grateful appreciation.

We truly believe that a firepit is one of the best things you can have in your garden. Whatever your age, hobbies, and interests; whoever you spend time with, sitting around a fire together will be a warming and bonding experience.

There are so many options with firepits, too. You can get a portable metal one that goes away between uses, so as not to clutter up your otherwise-manicured garden. Or you can build an enormous fixed pit complete with bench seating. Both allow the same core experience of sitting near an open flame, but each brings something completely different to your garden.

15. A bench swing

a garden bench swing with flowers in the background

Sitting out in the garden is one of the best joys of being a gardener. It’s an opportunity to sit back and appreciate the results of your toil. To see the colourful blooms and striking designs that you’ve brought, through hard work alone, from idea to reality.

So why sit on a tatty old plastic garden chair? Something that completely contradicts the time and effort you’ve invested into your garden. Why not sit on something simultaneously rustic and majestic, instead? Like a bench swing.

Although these are something of a blast from the past, there’s a reason the design has endured for so long. A suspended seat is that little bit different from a regular bench. A twist on something familiar, intriguing enough to capture your interest but not so much to distract attention from the garden itself.

Essentially, everything a garden feature should be.

And if you’re not sold on the traditional swing above, check out some of the more modern variations on the theme.

No small feat(ure)!

A well-chosen, well-implemented garden feature can take your garden from good, to sublime. And as this article has proven, you have so many options.

Whether you decide on something simple and familiar like a rock garden or bench swing, or go a little more avant-garde and create stunning illuminated flower displays, this guide should have given you the inspiration you need to take the first step.

We don’t recommend making carbon copies of the ideas in this list. Rather, use the features here as the basis from which to build your own garden feature. Something that captures your flair and creativity, and manifests them physically. Something that you can show to your guests, and leave them with a bit of a better idea of who you are.

Your garden is your canvas, and garden features are just another way of painting onto that canvas. So go, be inspired, and create something wonderful.

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