Garden Inspiration: Fabulous Features

by The Decorcafe Expert Jo Connolly Design

Garden features add impact and structure, particularly during the winter months when many plants lie dormant. They can bring you to a natural pause in a quiet spot, create a focal point to draw the eye away from a less attractive aspect, and even frame the view of the garden from the house.

Whatever the reason for adding a garden feature, there are a number of factors to consider in your choice:

  • Positioning: within a garden bed or as a stand-alone feature?
  • Light: reflection & shadow add drama and life.
  • Size & scale: what suits the surrounding space?
  • Sound: wind and water, for example, introduce additional sensory layers.
  • Function: does the feature need to be used or simply viewed?
  • Style Personality: most importantly, what resonates & appeals to you?

Take time to select the exact type of feature you might like:

Features that function.

I love to include features that function as well as creating a sculptural element because they draw you into the garden. This can be achieved with sitting walls, benches, seating and archways.

Sitting walls can be made in a variety of materials from stone to concrete and many types of masonry – painted or unpainted. Sitting walls are a great use of space, enabling seating without cluttering up the area with furniture.

An attractive seating feature can be as simple as a chair, a bench a rock, or a tree stump. Anything that suits your style and can be perched on whilst you stop & enjoy your garden.

Archways and arbours not only lead the eye to frame part of the garden or a view but can lead you through a space to a destination. They can be free standing or planted to soften the effect.

Walls and Wall Sculpture.

A feature wall is when a wall becomes a stunning backdrop and can be used to hide something unsightly, like garden tools or an outdoor BBQ, or simply to create a foil for fabulous planting.

The addition of a wall sculpture is a fabulous finishing touch bringing pleasure to what might otherwise be of little interest.

Water Features.

Water features add the element of sound & ambience. They can be as simple as a large urn with water rippling at the top or spilling over the sides, or as complex as a flowing structure or rill. Whatever you choose, the light reflecting off water is quite magical, particularly when located in dappled shade.

Most water features require continued maintenance and are not something you can simply install and forget about. An easy and inexpensive option is the selection of a beautiful bowl that can be kept filled with clean water during the summer months and used as a fire pit once the weather starts to cool.

Feature Urns and Planted Pots.

Feature urns and planted pots sit wonderfully within a garden bed or as as stand-alone feature and can be set on a plinth for added height if required.

Create a wow factor by combining the beauty of the vessel with a special plant, choosing an oversized single urn, repeating the same urn in a formation or having a group of complimentary pots.

If you want to plant the urn, ensure that the shape of the urn enables repotting from time to time or you might need to break the pot to maintain the plant! A minimum of width at the top & bottom is worth remembering and be careful with an over hanging internal lip as this can cause difficulty.


Sculpture is a very personal choice & can create the most ‘special’ impact in a garden. Whatever the budget, choosing garden sculpture should be considered with the same level of care and attention as choosing artwork for your home. It requires time and effort to find the perfect piece to suit you and your garden.

The size & scale of the sculpture must work in the space as well as the nature of it. It could be anything from a natural piece of stone to a highly ornate piece of sculpture. It is not something that, in my view, you can simply go out & buy. I think time spent searching the internet & local galleries, garden centres & arstisans will ensure you select just the right feature, even if it takes a little longer.

Feature Plants.
These are a more subtle form of sculpture but can have real effect. A stunning Japanese Maple or architectural plant in an urban setting or a copse of feathery Birch trees with a mown path in a larger garden can form the most natural and beautiful features of all.

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