I grew up on a 20 acre hobby farm with parents who loved landscaping and gardening.  My father trucked in enormous trees (30 feet tall) and loads of boulders which lined the outside boundaries.  Then my mom went to work planting all sorts of smaller trees, bushes, vines, grasses, flowers of every kind to soften the edges and create interest.  With the outside boundary in place, mom then went to work on creating garden rooms. These room were where she and my father would relax and dream about their next project.  By this time, my dad was getting older so they made sure he had a place to sit and rest.  They loved soaking up nature. Even on rainy days you could find them outside under a gazebo or under a tree.

Below is a photo of my parent’s property.

Old road flanked by large evergreens at sunset

My dad passed away in 2005 and now my mom has dementia but she still lives on the farm.  Each time I go to visit her, we walk through her garden. She always shares with me how important it is to create garden rooms because:

  • they are cozy
  • each one has it’s very own character
  • they make you feel like you are somewhere else
  • they are interesting and welcoming
  • they are a space where you can get lost in your thoughts and no one has any idea how long you have been there because they can’t see you.
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Today is the July edition of “The Designing Women Tell All” and this month we are covering everything garden related.  So let’s dive right in!

What are garden rooms?

Garden rooms are secluded and partly enclosed spaces within a garden that create room-like effects. 

They are not new and have actually been part of garden design for centuries. Walls, hedges, fences, trellises and plants can all form part of the boundaries of a garden room.

One of my favorite examples of garden rooms is the garden at Sissinghurst Castle.  I love how they used a large brick wall with doorways and windows as well as large hedges, trees and bushes to create a series of garden rooms.

Overhead view of garden divided into garden rooms with brick walls and hedges

Photo credit:  Wikipedia: Garden room. (2023, March 20).

The “Hungarian Garden” at the Cleveland Cultural Gardens in Ohio is a dreamy example of a garden room.  

Pool surrounded with large trees

Photo credit:  Wikipedia: Garden room. (2023, March 20).

How do you create garden rooms?

First make a list of all the things you would like to do outside such as:

  • read a book
  • visit with family and friends
  • nurture a vegetable garden
  • exercise
  • dining area

Then make a map of your yard, and plot out what areas are suited best for each activity.  

Just like your home, garden rooms are sectioned off areas to be used for a particular purpose.  So now consider how you can create these different zones and how you will separate them from each other.

Ideas for materials to achieve this separation are:

  • cedar, yew or boxwood hedges
  • a wooden fence
  • a trellis covered in vines
  • garden walls made of brick, cinder blocks, poured concrete walls, a series of old doors
  • a line of tall grasses
  • the side of a shed could form one of the privacy walls

Next lay out a floor plan for the interior design of this garden room.  Things to consider are:

  • any needed furniture pieces for a seating area or dining
  • lighting
  • plant material
  • soil for plants
  • materials for path
  • storage for garden tools and supplies
  • water source for irrigation
  • water feature and any water pumps
  • fire pit
  • childrens’ play area

At our current property, I was working with a blank slate.  There was only natural vegetation, large boulders, breathtaking views and also areas that had been chiselled out in the rock when the area was blasted to create a ledge for our home.  I enjoyed creating four different garden room ideas to meet the needs of our family and then had even more fun naming them as follows:

  • The Spa
  • The Think Tank
  • The Lab
  • The Observatory

THE SPA

The spa was the first outdoor space we tackled. It is located at the back of our home in an area we had to blast in order to build our home because the land in this spot is solid rock on a steep slope.  As a result we have a 12 foot solid rock wall on two sides, the house on another side and a trellis with gates on the remaining side.  As you can imagine this created the perfect environment for an outdoor garden room.

Black iron gates leading down a concrete path with a water feature at the end

During the blast, a very large boulder was left with a hole in it from the drilling rig.  This rock would be perfect to create a focal point waterfall. So we dug a pond in front of it, lined it pond liner and then with river rocks found on our property, added a pump and water and voila the most amazing water feature.

Large rock with water flowing over it to create a waterfall into a small pond

We added shrubs, trees, flowers and vines and a beautiful sanctuary it became.  Some of my favorite flowers in this area are the peonies and the lilies. I feel that these flowers contribute to the feeling of a spa because they are elegant and fragrant. Their scent fills this area naturally and you cannot reproduce this.

Two soft pink peonies
White and pink oriental lilies

For lighting, we zig-zagged string lights from the rock wall to the main house and placed some ground solar lights for every night use.

Outdoor dining area in courtyard

This truly is the best version of a garden room that we have due to how closed in it is.  

I refer to this area as the Spa because of the natural look of the rock wall, the large water feature and the lush vegetation.   The sound of water is the best way to relax and rejuvenate.

It is a place to come to refresh your soul and wipe away the worries of the day.

I should also mention this is an area where we watch outdoor movies. We set up a large screen with a projector and bring out cushions and blankets to watch movies. It is wonderful.

The set up takes a while so it would be better if we had something permanent set up like an outdoor large TV. I just saw this post by Designed Decor about how to construct an outdoor weatherproof TV cabinet and I think it could solve our problem. Just click this link to learn more.

THE THINK TANK

The Think Tank garden room is the area around our vintage window greenhouse.  The tall trellis, double arbours, and picket fence provide the hard materials for the boundaries of the space.  Each year, I plant a hedge of tall sunflowers just inside the fences and they further enclose three sides of the garden space.  

Peering through the leaves of a line of sunflowers

The fourth side is left open from approximately the 3 foot height and up to take in the expansive lake view.

White picket fence surrounding greenhouse

I refer to this area as the Think Tank, because this is where I plan my garden plantings.  My greenhouse is my second home office and I love spending time in it any time of year. 

Flower books spread out on a desk in an old greenhouse
Vintage window greenhouse with pink zinnias growing in front

It is also the area that I decorate for Valentines, Easter, Halloween and Christmas. It allows me to get more use of any decorative element I have.

Valentines in the Greenhouse
Greenhouse transformed into Santa's lounge
Greenhouse with garden bike baskets filled with white pumpkins

This garden room brings me peace and fuels my creativity.

THE LAB

The Lab is a brand new area to our outside space. This is the area where I have the 32″ tall raised garden beds that were gifted to me by Sproutbox Gardens.  Click here for a link to the post with all the details on these garden beds.  

Tall raised garden beds with arbours over top and the sun setting

Saying that these raised garden beds saved my garden this year would be an understatement.  This spring brought forth multiple families of hungry marmots that ate every plant I was growing in other flower beds.  They accessed areas we had fenced and electrified which they had not been able to get to in past years.  

Raised garden beds with sherbet colored snapdragons growing

Thankfully these tall raised garden beds with all metal sides arrived in time for me to transfer all of my seedlings to.  Neither the marmots, nor the chipmunks are able to climb these beds so my seedlings were safe.

I call this area The Lab because this year, I tried many new varieties of flowers such as California poppies, snapdragons, celosia, yarrow, stocks, larkspur, etc.  I grouped the seedlings according to color into one of the four garden beds:

  • vintage blush,
  • soft pink,
  • bright pink and
  • yellows with blues.  

It is proving perfect for a cutting garden, because so many of the varieties of flowers I chose will bloom more, the more often that I cut flowers and bring them inside.  It is a win win!

Snapdragons at sunset
White strawflower
White strawflower
Creamy cosmos
Red and white poppies
Celosia

As in all labs, observation is key which then helps with the planning stage in future years.  They were all in the same soil and they had the same amount of sunshine, heat, wind, water, etc., so their growing environments were controlled.  This allowed me to see how:

  • well they grew in these conditions,
  • when they bloomed,
  • how much space they took up,
  • how much water they needed

which then allows me to plan for next year and position them properly in other parts of my garden.

The fun part of any garden is that when others begin to help you with the planting, such as chipmunks or birds. For example, this gorgeous sunflower must have been planted by a bird and I think I know just which bird. We have a pair of robins that have their nest in our rock wall. They love to come and sit on the arbour right above where this sunflower grew all on it’s own.

Bright yellow sunflower with lime green center

Getting back to the components that are key for garden rooms, this area is lined with:

  • cedar hedging and a row of sunflowers on two sides,
  • a rock wall on one side; and
  • a tunnel of arbours down the middle that creates a great place to peek out at the lake.
View from above of a raised bed garden

THE OBSERVATORY

This garden room is brand new space. This circular raised garden is a brand new product from Sproutbox Garden and it is called The Nest.  Should you be interested in purchasing, please be sure to use my special discount code “SVA10” for 10% off your purchase.

Circular raised planter with sunflowers and pumpkin vines

It is so unique and I love it from every angle.

To create a garden room in this area, the plantings will create the walls as I have lined the Nest with 8 feet to 16 feet tall sunflowers.  Streaming out below them are pumpkins.  At the entrance to the Nest, are Canna Lilies and dabbled here and there are lavender and Black-eyed Susans.  As the sunflowers grow they are going to create their own hedge. I like to imagine what it will be like to be surrounded with sunflowers, especially in fall.

The name the Observatory came to me for two reasons.  Firstly, this area is my highest elevation garden so it looks out over the rest of the garden.  It is the perfect place to gain a bird’s eye view.

Curved raised flower bed at sunset

Secondly, when the sunflowers grow up, I imagine myself laying in the middle of the Nest looking up at the sky like you would through a telescope.  Or at night, gazing out at the stars from a circle of sunflowers.  How magical will this be, don’t you think?

Sunflower hedge

Are garden rooms in your future?

Have I sold you on the idea of creating different garden rooms?  With some planning, some muscle and lots of work, I think anyone could achieve a charming outdoor garden room.  If it isn’t something you want to take on, always consider hiring a garden designer or landscape designer. They will be able to design something perfect with lots of different ways to meet the needs of all your family members.

Whether you have a small garden or an entire yard, consider creating a series of rooms to accommodate different functions.  It will be the perfect opportunity for you to create an outdoor living space perfect for your lifestyle!

Let’s check out the gardens of the other Designing Women

Designing Women Tell All banner with photos of three women

Kristy from At Home with Kristy is from Texas is a homebody at heart and very passionate about creating a warm & welcoming home environment for family and friends. Kristy has a BS Interior Design and has worked as an Interior Designer for 35 years specializing in Residential Interior Design. She is a planner, perfectionist, & big picture thinker, but also loves getting lost in the weeds perfecting every detail. Kristy loves sharing her knowledge and expertise to inspire, encourage and empower others.  This month Kristy is sharing the secret to creating a French farmhouse garden.

Front Corner Landscaping with Bench and Flower Pots and Partial View of Side Yard

Sheri from Savvy in the Suburbs is also from Texas owned and operated a successful interior design business for most of her adult life.  Now she is enjoying fluffing her own nest, spending time with her family – three married children and five grandchildren, and growing in her relationship with the Lord. As she joyfully enters the last season of her life, she relishs family time and believes in the old adage: God first, family second, all else third. She is enjoying the opportunity to share this truth as well as her years of design expertise and love of all things home.  This month Sheri is sharing all her tips on how to create a pretty container garden.

Pretty terra cotta planters along a path filled with various flowers

Looking for more inspo?

I have lots of tips on how to host a fabulous outdoor dinner party, just click here.

Garden tool beverage center

Or would you like to see the prettiest garden wallpaper?

Blue Wild Meadow garden wallpaper wall mural by Photowall in a powder room

Thank you!

As always, thank you so much for subscribing and sticking around until the end of the post. Please leave me a comment as I would love to hear from you!

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8 Comments
  • Sheri
    July 19, 2023

    Omg…,I’m in awe! I love all your garden rooms and the names you gave them! Breathtaking spaces! And that view!

    • Crystal
      July 23, 2023

      Thanks so much Sheri!

  • Kristy Mastrandonas
    July 21, 2023

    Oh my goodness, Crystal! Just when I thought your home and garden couldn’t be more fabulous than it already is you wow me with your spectacular garden rooms! I love how you’ve given each of them their own names. I am definitely convinced that I need to have some garden rooms on our property too and already have the perfect space in mind…in our front yard beneath the trees. I will be checking out Sproutbox Garden soon!

    • Crystal
      July 23, 2023

      This is so good to hear. You will love it!

  • Susan
    August 20, 2023

    Hey Crystal, Such a nice post. I enjoyed reading about garden rooms and especially seeing more of your lovely property. Susan

    • Crystal
      August 20, 2023

      Thanks so much Susan! So happy you enjoyed it!

  • CYNDY
    August 20, 2023

    I’m curious as to why being considered religious is offensive. I’m not trying to start anything I would really like to know so I don’t offend anyone.

    • Crystal
      August 20, 2023

      Hello Cyndy – thank you for your question and I think it is a great one. My hope for myself not to be “religious” stems from my mother-in-law who was the best woman I ever had the chance to have in my life. She had grown up in an area of church going people who went to church on Sunday and then never behaved as God would have wanted any other day of the week. It bothered her that they knew right from wrong and acted as if they were saints, but didn’t live that life fully. She labeled them as “religious” on the outside but not on the inside. She made it her way of life to have a deep relationship with God but not come off as “religious” because sometimes that appeared fake and turned people off. It was just her experience and I feel a lot of people feel that way. She was the most beautiful and wonderful woman I have ever known. She would help absolutely everyone and loved everyone – just as Jesus wanted. As I grew up in a completely unreligious home and never went to church, my husband and his family, were the ones who not only shared the gospel with me but daily lived it as an example to me and everyone around them. They were the best role models I could ask for. So my comment in my “About Us” page is in keeping with my mother-in-law’s way of living. At the core of me is religion but I don’t want to appear as the bad example of “religious”. Does this help? We are supposed to be here to share the gospel and win people to God, not to turn them off by not living it completely and thoroughly every day, not just on Sundays. Also, just the way you asked this question, which was so lovely, I can guess that you never offend anyone. You seem like a very thoughtful person. Thanks for being here!