12 Easy Ways to Take Your Garden to the Next Level

It's simple to make a huge impact in your garden with these easy ideas.

Each garden, like the person who planted it, has its own personality. Wild. Romantic. Eccentric. Classy. But the one thing a garden shouldn’t be known for is having a wallflower personality. Garner your garden the attention it deserves with these 12 tips and tricks.

1. Less is More

It doesn’t take much to make a statement, especially in a small garden. A single specimen tree, a brightly painted obelisk, a piece of stone sculpture—set out simple touches like these in highly visible or high-traffic areas.

2. Embrace Shapes

Formally sculpted evergreens, the spiky fronds of a yucca or the striking ball of blooms atop an allium are good examples of how shapes can create intriguing focal points. Plant in groupings to make a statement or plot out points around the garden to help visually lead an observer’s eye through the space.

3. Wow with Water

There’s something about the sound and appearance of water that speak to the human soul. Whether it’s a quiet corner pond teeming with koi or a bubbling stone fountain among the roses, water is a strong element that can’t be overlooked. For the biggest splash, opt for flowing water, like waterfalls and streams. If space or budget is an issue, try smaller items like rain chains or a tabletop waterfall. (Make It! A DIY Miniature Pond)

4. Master the Art of Unpredictability

Every corner of your garden is an opportunity to show off your unique sense of style. A wall of planted garden boots or teakettles will stop passersby in their tracks. Try grouping quirky collectibles together. Adorn a single tree with pretty beads and ornaments, hang a salvaged chandelier from a rustic arched arbor, or make a wine bottle tree.

5. Learn to Accessorize

Instead of smaller elements competing for a viewer’s attention, use the right garden accessories to spin harmony out of havoc. It’s easy to achieve garden unity with structural elements, like large urns or gazing balls. (Here’s your chance to go really big!) Try spacing identical pieces along a pathway or placing them in low-growing beds. (Instructions to Turn an Old Bowling Ball into a Ladybug Garden Accessory Here!)

6. Catch a Drift

Planting in drifts, or swaths of colors or textures, is easier said than done. It requires dedicating large areas to one kind of plant, but the attention-grabbing effect it can have on your garden is worth the work. Mass planting works well alongside pathways and garden bed borders. Good plant candidates include Russian sage, purple coneflower, Moonbeam coreopsis, Autumn Joy sedum, coral-bells and ornamental grasses.

7. Offer a Seat

A garden is lovely to look upon, but adding a bench invites visitors to sit down and soak in its beauty. A small seating area fitted with a couple chairs and a bistro table is all you need to create an outdoor room. Set the space apart from its surroundings with a floor made from pavement, crushed stone or manicured grass. Go a step further by creating living walls with a few large shrubs.

8. Go Big

Plant a few “garden peacocks”—plants with showy blooms or larger-than-life foliage—and get ready for the “oohs” and “aahs.” Best bets?  Delphinium for its gorgeous spikes of bountiful blossoms, canna for its bright blooms and tropical-like foliage, hydrangea for its impressive size, and blue hosta for its cool-hued leaves. (Read more: Top 10 Biggest Blooms for Your Flower Garden)

9. Create Layers

Like a good outfit, layering builds interest, but it’s important to mix textures and keep the color scheme harmonious. If you’re not sure where to start, try planting a screen of dark evergreens, ornamental grass or dense shrubbery of the same variety. In front of that, add a row of plants with contrasting textures that require the same growing conditions. A low-growing bloomer—carpet roses, Walker’s Low catmint or dianthus—along the outside border finishes the look.

10. Take a Walk

Give your garden room to breathe by incorporating a bit of green space. Wide pathways, grassy courtyards, natural meadows and labyrinths generate an open-air feel. Plus, showier plants really shine when edging an unassuming strip of space.

11. Be Bold with Containers

Magically make over any space with containers and the miniature gardens they hold. Think oversized—urns, tall stainless steel planters and upcycled wheelbarrows. Think colorful—glazed ceramic beauties in cobalt blue, sunset orange and lemon yellow finishes. Think dramatic—plants like red cordyline, angel’s trumpet, hibiscus or flowering kale. How you display your container creations can be even more impactful than what is inside them. Secure your containers to a wall, hang them from a fence or stack them on a ladder.

12. Light Up the Night

Well-placed lighting accentuates our most attractive attributes, and the same holds true for your garden. There are many options available when it comes to outdoor lighting, from pathway and accent lighting to deck and pond lights. Spotlight landscape features, like trees and plants with interesting foliage, and your garden will look as dapper in the dark as it does in the daytime. (Instructions to Make an Upcycled Tiki Torch Here!)

Rachael Liska
Rachael Liska is a freelance writer and editor specializing in birding, gardening, food and family.