Unusual Landscape Design Ideas

Brian Barth
colorful mosaic pathway

Pathways as Art

Start thinking outside the box with these unique landscape designs, which range from avant-garde art to simply wild to wacky. The results may not please everyone's taste, but they are sure to provoke some interesting conversations.

Beyond their utilitarian functions, paths can also be a canvas of their own. This free-flowing path is a mosaic of tiny tiles, but the concept can be achieved in other ways, as well - stamped and colored concrete, painted concrete, or even temporarily with chalk on an existing concrete pathway.

water garden in an old boat

Setting Sail With Aquatic Plants

Using an old boat to hold water is only slightly counterintuitive. Boats are supposed to be watertight, so repurpose one into a water garden. Lotuses cover the water in this old wooden rowboat, but water hyacinth, papyrus and water lilies would work just as well.

bonsai garden

Bonsai Garden

Bonsai trees are typically stand alone tabletop novelties, but consider setting them up in the garden. These fit right into this Zen-inspired landscape of petit plants and manicured pebbles, but the idea of building pedestals to display bonsai trees could be incorporated into almost any garden space.

ceramic planters on old wall

Hanging Gardens

This design is really simple to pull off and could be incorporated on the side of the house or a large retaining wall. The trick is to be able to water the potted plants suspended above arm's reach, which is why this potted display has drip lines running to each plant to water them automatically.

living chess pieces

Real Life Chess

Thousands of chrysanthemums and some very intricate topiary structures were employed to create this life size chess set, but it's easy to imagine other, simpler alternatives based on the same concept. By using numerous small like-colored plants and colored pebbles or sand, almost any imaginable scene could be depicted in the landscape.

striped roof garden

Whimsical Living Roof

Roof gardens are normally installed on flat roofs, but slanted - or even curved roofs like this one - are also fair game. This design makes bold use of color and texture, but it is only possible because the soil is held by individual plastic cells to keep it from sliding off.

elegant courtyard garden

Magical Inner Courtyard

This garden bridges inner and outer spaces in a stunning interplay of light, texture and muted colors. It is an inspiration for bringing plants, stonework and water features into the home environment. Follow suit and don't be afraid to think outside the box when designing a patio, porch, courtyard or other entryway to the home.

landscape with colorful snail sculptures

Painted Sculptural Forms

Snails are normally not what a gardener wants to find among their plants, but perhaps these giant mock-ups can help to scare them away. These cast concrete forms wouldn't look like much if it not for the paint job - so even if you don't want rainbow snail sculptures in your garden, it does give inspiration for other possibilities involving painted sculptural forms.

bizarre topiary garden

Living Geometry

Hedges and topiaries are not uncommon, but this example puts an interesting twist on the idea, with the nesting of geometric forms in both vertical and horizontal dimensions. Use dwarf boxwood for the ground level pattern and an upright conifer, like Leyland cypress for the vertical punctuation.

modernist gazebo in a pond setting

Modernist Gazebo

Gazeboes do not need to be in a symmetrical shape or sitting on dry earth. The breezes coming through this hangout space must be quite delightful. If you're planning a large water feature for your garden, think about the creative ways that it could be enjoyed, not just from the outside, but within.

round stone sculptures

A Well-Rounded Garden

The nice thing about stone is that it holds its form in perpetuity, while plants are constantly changing. This rock garden mirrors the pruned form of the plants around it in a very artful way. A similar affect could be achieved with vertical stone columns and upright plants or wide, flat boulders couple with prostrate shrubs.

swirling topiary design

Squiggle Hedge

Garden designers frequently use hedge plants to create privacy and demarcate the boundaries of the landscape, but the lines are often straight as an arrow. Instead, sketch an interesting form on a piece of paper that you might like to see in your garden and then plot it out with a dwarf shrub, like the boxwood pictured here.

Dare to take the neighborhood by surprise and try incorporating some unusual ideas into your next landscaping project - the results might just be spectacular!

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Unusual Landscape Design Ideas