The Discovery Garden: An Imaginative Garden for Any Garden Landscape

 In General

When it comes to my own garden landscape, some may say I’m a maximalist if there is such a term.

I didn’t grow up with those mesmerizing I Spy books as a kid (I was way before their time), but our girls did. They loved searching the pages for all of those tiny discoveries. To be honest, I found them equally or if not more exciting.

Anyone who has visited my home or office finds out quickly that I am a visual person. 

Generally speaking, I love details, organized chaos, and discovery. The same applies to my garden.

It’s probably a bit over the top to some with regard to kitsch and collection. But as I wander about, I smile as I spy some of the weird stuff I’ve tucked into nooks and crannies of my garden landscape. This includes bizarre, repurposed items I find at the roadside or leftover yard sale heaps.

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A great garden addition for thirsty critters & watering
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A little kitsch for hamburger lovers
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A happy home just across the pond
Can you spot the men at work?
Found them!
“Anyone know a good campfire story?”
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Pitching a tent is based completely on the location. Stay out of the water!

Why Create a Discovery Garden for Your Garden Landscape?

There is a book by James Rose entitled Gardens Make Me Laugh. I’ve always wanted to poke through this book but admittedly never have. It’s a bit more on Amazon than I want to spend but can imagine what’s inside. My point is we need not be afraid of personalizing our spaces. This includes our garden landscapes. We should add things to our garden design that give us pleasure and amusement. Whether it’s raised garden beds, kitschy or unusual outdoor decor, your garden is a breathing living room that you should personalize to you.

I’ve designed my share of formal-ish gardens, and I understand one’s desire for “clean and simple,” but that’s just not for me. 

You can tell by our kaleidoscope of Christmas lights during the holiday season that ours isn’t one of those “green and white” gardens underneath.

Teaching Students and Finding Inspiration

I enjoyed leading students on many study abroad garden tours throughout Europe and Japan as a university professor.

While we were in Hamburg, Germany, locals advised I go check out Miniature World, an attraction with multiple and massive model railroad-like dioramas. Miniature World is inhabited by about a billion small scale people and figures in some mind-boggling displays. 

When I returned home, I quickly found myself Googling “model railroad” figures. I went on a quest to create some nearly microscopic amusement for both my family and visitors (I’ve found that O 1:48 scale works well in most cases, but as my aging eyesight declines, I may have to go up to G 1:25).

“Scale” is a term that will make or break any designer. I find it a blast to challenge visitors to our garden to find the team of surveyors shooting elevations or the tiny tent and campfire complete with pea-sized campers and their dog.

Exploring a Unique Garden Landscape

I recently had a friend who is also in the landscape business visit with his three young boys, whom I could tell when they got out of his truck were a little tired and thirsty. Probably from a long day of hauling garden planters.

After providing some refreshments, I challenged them to tally up as many odd discoveries as possible as they made a loop around the property. 

I laughed as I could hear them yell out to each other what they had stumbled upon during their small expedition throughout my garden path.

My point to all of this is that there are no “rules” for enhancing one’s garden. One’s landscape design should be rule-breaking.

Dare to make people question your tastes and perhaps make them smile as they explore. A simple herb garden is great, but life is way too short to take things too seriously.

Great garden ideas can come from all inspiration types, not just from your Pinterest garden boards or the DIY gardens you see online. Whether it’s a mini meadow, kitschy artifacts, or just unusual plant life and color: have fun.

Be adventurous. Be you. Because: why not?

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If you’re looking to horse around, a little color in your garden goes a long way.
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