5 Outdoor Garden Design Ideas To Create Illusions

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Garden and landscape design frequently doesn’t employ the same materials as interior design, though new ideas incorporating indoor floor and wall décor have become increasingly popular in the yard. Further, more homeowners are looking for cheap but chic ways to recreate luxury garden decorations in new and innovative ways. For a high style garden, try one of these six unique ideas for outdoor design to create illusions.

Water Illusions

Having a stream or pond in your garden is certainly a luxury, and one that requires a large budget and plenty of maintenance. Rather than spending thousands on installation and hundreds on upkeep, try one of these garden illusion ideas to mimic the look of water.

Before beginning, review your yard and check for areas where water naturally flows through. If you’ve noticed a path that rain water runoff normally takes, use this as your “river bed”. Purposefully channeling water through this area will help reduce storm damage to your garden, and occasionally create an actual water feature.

Rock River

Take a trip to your local home improvement store or rock quarry/dealer to check out what stones they have available for bulk purchase in sizes three inches across and smaller. From gravel to small stones, these garden accessories are perfect for mimicking the look of water. Creek Rock and River Run Gravel are naturally found in streams, and typically appear semi-polished from water erosion. Even if you don’t select stones normally found in water, any smaller, lighter colored rocks will do.

  • Arrange the stones in a winding path shape, creating the look of a small stream.
  • Again, try to follow the path of water flow through your garden, if you’ve noticed one, to create a functional channel for runoff.
  • Greyish-blue to white stones will appear similar to the color of water, giving your garden the inexpensive yet stylish illusion of a soothing stream.
Ready for Planting Finished Product

Flower River

If you’re looking for a softer appearance than stone, try creating the illusion of flowing water with flowers instead. In this design plan, finding the natural water runoff path in your garden is not necessary, and may actually be harmful to the flowers.

  • Select flowers in shades of blue and purple, resembling the color of a stream.
  • Plant the flowers in a winding river arrangement, creating the illusion of flowing water when the flowers bloom.
  • Plant at least three flowers across the width of the “stream.”

Stone Illusions

Whether you’re using stone, or mimicking the look of stone, these garden illusions are a popular choice for walkways and sitting areas.

Concrete Stone

Weathered stone pathways, patios and stepping-stones are a beautiful addition to any yard, but can unfortunately be very expensive to buy. Try this cheap landscaping trick to add the look of stone without the cost.

  • Many contractors now offer stamped concrete. Concrete is poured, then shaped using a large stamp, leaving the surface of the concrete “weathered” to replicate the appearance of stone.
  • Concrete can also be dyed a variety of colors, allowing it to accommodate any garden style.
  • Stamped concrete can also be used for walls, allowing your garden to be completely styled with the look of stone for the cost of concrete.
  • Stamped concrete can cost between $8 to $18 per square foot, depending on the intricacy of the design stamped and stains applied. To view photos and find a stamped concrete contractor near you, visit www.stamped-concrete-cost.com.

Stone Rugs

If you love the look of your designer rug indoors, why not create the same look outdoors? For this garden illusion, use small, decorative stones to recreate the look of an area rug.

  • Select a rug pattern you enjoy, and that compliments your garden style. Casual, natural gardens should use simple designs with two to three colors, while formal gardens can utilize intricate designs with many colors.
  • Visit a home improvement store or rock quarry/dealer to find small (under two inches across) stones you like and can afford. The larger you would like your stone rug to be, the more stones you will need.
  • Print out a photo of your rug design, or bring the actual rug outside to guide you.
  • Arrange colored stones in a garden sitting area to mimic the look of the rug. Use rope wrapped around sticks in the ground to mark off the rug’s shape, and refer to your rug/photo often to ensure you are accurately mimicking its pattern.

Glowing Stones

Try this unique approach to outdoor lighting for a one of a kind garden. Skip electric or solar lighting installations, and try gently glowing paths made of stone.

  • Glowing phosphorescent stones can be placed along the edges of a path, or be used to entirely cover it. During the day, these stones gather energy from the sun, and gently glow at night, illuminating your walkway.
  • Separate stones can glow in several colors, including yellow, green and blue.

If you’re planning to redecorate your yard, try some of these unique garden illusion ideas for a functional and beautiful outdoor space.

Last Updated: December 19, 2011
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About Alexandra Kerr Through Ideal Home Garden, Alexandra covers topics ranging from interior design to home improvement, gardening and cuisine. Having a passion for cooking and entertaining in her own life, she hopes to communicate her love of home design and decorating with her readers. 

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