DIY Small Fantasy Gardens

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There are many who enjoy the outdoors and there are many people who love to have a garden where they can retreat in order to relax among the flowers, bushes and other amenities.

Most of us have small garden spaces but this does not mean that we have to be limited in how we enjoy them or how creative we can make even a small outdoor space be.

The key is to be creative and utilize the space appropriately and if you also happen to enjoy photography, then the project takes on a more personal approach since you can add elements which makes it photogenic and allows for growth like adding flowering plants that will attract butterflies or hummingbirds.

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The first thing that one should do is to make a rough sketch of the space and reach a decision as to what it will be used for; to relax, to simply admire, to attract butterflies and hummingbirds, to use it as a photography spot etc.

After you have reached a consensus as to the use or uses, then plan and research what are the best plants,flowers or bushes that will allow you to add color.

Plan with the help of a local nursery as they are very knowledgeable and can offer good advice. It is better to plant same types of flowers in groups like fire bushes, zinnias, potter's weed, roses etc in small groups and in mostly the same color. Then add other varieties in different colors in close proximity to each other group.

The idea is to use color to create contrast. Be aware that some species need more Sun than others and the water requirements may be quite different. Therefore do not plant a species that requires a lot of water too close to one that thrives in drier conditions.

Another good tip is to plant bushes or tall growing flowers in the back and use shorter ones to fill in the front, much like a cascade effect.

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Once the planting, mulch and general set up has been completed it is time to start planning lights if this is your design. Small Christmas type lights work really well and are not that expensive although their lifespan is only about two years when exposed to the elements.

Do not go crazy with the lights even if they are meant for the outdoors. It is best to use them to accentuate key spots than to flood the entire space with them.

Too many lights distracts from the subtle shadows that a few lights create. A few lights work best since it adds an atmosphere of privacy without overwhelming the scene.

Other ideas are to use old style hurricane lanterns and place candles inside of them. These look more attractive, more romantic and charming than electrical ones. You can substitute plain candles with scented ones to give the garden a special "touch".

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One thing before I forget. There are many gardeners that think that because tier space is flat that their gardens have to be flat too.

Use soil or even sand to build up mounds and plant grass seeds to help keep the soil from washing away and the roots of the flowers will also keep the soil in place. You can also use stones, wood or pebbles to create barriers and edges too.

Break up the scene with small mounds and other accents to make the scene more interesting and photogenic plus a mound can be use as a place to plant low growing flowers and thus offering them a more prominent area from which to be admired.


Other useful accents can be garden figures like animals, gnomes, water globes or small fountains, stone or metal benches and chairs as well as terracotta planters.

Small globes which derive their energy from the Sun are ideal as are small rotating accents like wind spinners. Color is the key and do not despair if the only space that you have is next to a wall or fence.

The wall can be used as a back space on which you can hang other decorations and it makes a great location to set up a bench or small table with chairs.

You do not need to go overboard with the accents either. Often less is more and simplicity is paramount.

If you overwhelm the space with too many elements it just becomes a collection of clutter which distracts the eye. It is better for the eye to move from location to location rather than trying to assimilate too much at one time.

This is a technique which has been long practice by the best photographers and it works with garden design as well.

Since this is supposed to be a fantasy garden consider adding some small fantasy figures such as fairies, elves and other fantasy creatures. They give your garden a twist and adds charm to the entire scene.

These figures are easily obtained form garden stores, on the Internet and through various catalogs. Again, do not go overboard with them. Simplicity often works best.

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If you want to do the gardening and not worry too much over the plants then I suggest that you concentrate on choosing perennials instead of annuals. Perennials last much more than annuals and will flower year after year.

Annuals are beautiful but you must be dedicated to replacing them after their life cycle ends and this is the same with bulbs such as tulips and others.

Other plants which are long lasting and come in beautiful colors are orchids, but they must be placed in an are that is away from direct Sunlight and require almost daily misting during the hotter months of the year.

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After everything is in place then it is time to add the finishing touches and create a path where people can walk and not damage your flowers and other elements.

Small river stones work great, so does simple gravel and ready made stone squares will do. Just place them at comfortable and normal walking distances from each other.

Use wood to separate them from each other if you need to or to give the pathway a more clear cut appearance.

Other larger stones can be used as separate accents and if you can, buy lava rocks, they do very well for looks as their almost black color scheme adds contrast, they are very light and can be easily cut to make designs such as cavities for air growing varieties such as air plants (Tillandsia ) of which the more commonly know species are Bromeliads.

Word of caution; lava rock is very sharp and can easily cut so wear gloves at all times when handling them.

The paths should lead people to the chairs or bench and take them on a "tour" of the garden. Do not design them to lead to dead spaces or dead ends.

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if the space allows adding a small fountain does wonders for the scene and the noise of the falling water is great for creating a relaxing atmosphere. There are many commercial self contained ones but you can easily make your own with simple tools.

One cool design is to use a large garden tub and a thick piece of plywood along with a small water pump. Make a hole into the tub, run the pump's electrical cord and its water hose that recycles the water through it, seal it with silicone.

Run the electrical cord and hose through the plywood, attach a regular water faucet like the ones for the garden hose to the plywood and attach the hose that runs the water to the back of the faucet.

Attach the plywood with silicone or prop it with stones against the tub, better to make a small stand for it. Remember to use silicone to seal all edges where the tube attaches to other elements.

Adding small bird feeders either the ones that hand or the free standing ones gives the set up that much more of an appeal plus it will invite creatures to pay the garden a visit from now and them.

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© 2013 Luis E Gonzalez

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7 comments

purl3agony profile image

purl3agony 3 years ago from USA

Gosh, these are beautiful! Love, love, love! So inspiring, thanks for sharing! Adding this to my pinterest board :)


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 3 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

purl3agony: Thank you


Gypsy48 profile image

Gypsy48 3 years ago

Lovely hub and the photos are beautiful. I wish we had a small garden but we live in an apartment and have no gardening space. The next time we move I hope to have a small space for gardening. Voted up.


Mike Robbers profile image

Mike Robbers 3 years ago from London

Wonderful photography Luis and some amazing gardens!


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 3 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

Gypsy48 and mike Robbers: Thank you both for the kind words


cat on a soapbox profile image

cat on a soapbox 3 years ago from Los Angeles

Hi Luis,

I love small garden spaces , secret places, and areas made to display favorite plant varieties! Thank you for sharing such a variety of photos and good tips to go with them. I've enjoyed this very much.

Cat :)


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 3 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

cat on a soapbox: thanks

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