Magical Ideas for Your Garden

I've always had these crazy ideas for what I called an "enchanted garden", but it turns out that to most people "enchanted garden" means lots of little houses for fairies grown amongst herbal remedies.  To be honest, I find that a little creepy.  My version doesn't involve fairy houses, but would still be an awesome garden for imaginative kids or adults.
Lets call this the "Enchanted Rainforest".  My idea of an enchanted forest is one where lush ferns carpet the forest floor and exotic flowers "magically" appear from the finely textured foliage.  The best flowers for this are bulbs that appear to have no leaves that pop up without warning like these suggested plants, most of them commonly called lilies though they bear no relation.

Rain lilies are also known as "Fairy Lilies" and they usually spring out of the ground following a heavy rain.  Since their foliage blends well with grass, they can be naturalized on a lawn and eventually cover huge swathes of white, pink or yellow. 
Blood Lily forms bright red puffballs that appear to float over the ground as if by magic.  I once saw a photo of a drift of these with two kids in the middle and thought, those kids are so lucky!  They are poisonous, but only if eaten.
Surprise Lily (or Naked Lady) collectively describes several plants in the Lycoris genus.  They appear on long stalks in late summer and open up to reveal pink flowers similar to those of amaryllis.  Hurricane Lily is another Lycoris, but instead has wildly exotic red flowers with long stamens.  Because they open in late summer or early fall they are associated with the hurricane season.  Photo courtesy of Floridata.
Gloriosa Lily actually is a lily, but is unlike any other!  It rambles up adjacent plants as a vine and bears a magnificent show of flaming downward facing flowers with upturned petals fading from yellow to scarlet.  Like blood lily, these are poisonous but only if eaten.
Siam Tulip is a ginger in the Curcuma genus that holds its pink inflorescence high above the foliage like a torch.  I can see a resemblance between these and tulips, but these are much more exotic looking. 
Other Flowering plants for your consideration are Coral Hibiscus, Passionflowers, Globba gingers, Medinilla and Billbergia bromeliads.  If you live where its warm enough, try growing orchids from the branches like Encyclia Tampensis or Oncidiums.

Theres more to this garden than elegant flowers, though.  As you walk down a winding path, stone relics become grown over by ferns, mosses and creeping vines, and gazing balls are scattered around and clumped together to play tricks of light on your eye.  Use whatever ferns and mosses you have available for a soft and dreamy look, and use Asiatic jasmine and creeping fig to grow over walls, pottery and relics of statues.  Just be sure to control the creeping fig so it doesn't get away from you!

Shaving Brush Tree also looks magical!

Make your way to the end of the path and in a corner of the garden would be a resting place with a bench and a pond with mirrors submerged to form something of a looking glass for deep introspection... maybe there would be strings of foil or tinsel in the water to catch the light.  Surrounding this opening would be large leaved alocasias to make you feel dwarfed in an "Alice in Wonderland" way but without Johnny Depp or Tim Burton, who I also find more than a little creepy.  Just imagine sitting under the leaves of an Alocasia Odora or a Xanthosoma Sagittifolium and listening to the sound of running water.  The only thing cooler than that is having an Easter egg hunt in this garden!  For the kids, I mean.  Yeah.


  1. 'Naked Lady' would definitely fit in with the garden...what would be so Enchanting about it without disrobed woodnymphs?

  2. I used to have a lot of naked ladies in my garden until the cops showed up. We were just doing a pre-raphaelite figure painting!

  3. I like the idea of an 'enchanted garden' without little fairies. I don't have anything against them, they just aren't me. My gardens are my haven from the outside world. I keep working on them, tweaking, adding here and there or taking away from. It's always a work in progress, part of the fun of it, although it would be nice to take a break like northerners get to do. I'd like more shady areas. I recently watched 'The Secret Garden' again and just love that movie. That garden was definitely enchanting.

    I remember those pink 'Naked Ladies', haven't seen any in years, have never seen the red ones.

    Gloriosa lilies are pretty. I do have 2 kinds of passion flowers, and have the coral hibiscus also. Plus a couple of gingers.

    An enchanted garden, gives me something to think about while it is so dang hot and humid out. I only spend a couple of hours out in the gardens in the mornings, and that's enough, I'm beat.

    Hope we get some much needed rain, to help our enchanted gardens along.


  4. I'm with you on that one. I have an enchanted garden, but mine leans more towards Alice in Wonderland style enchantment. Breezy flowers, and a magical space for the kids to play! I love creating a world for their imagination to bloom!

    You have one fine enchanted garden my friend!

  5. Glad you mentioned orchids and bromeliads toward the end there. Those would be must-haves for my enchanted rainforest. A few ghost orchids hanging from the tree trunks would be the perfect touch. And my enchanted world would include many an Amazon lily and tree fern. Oh, and lots of moss-covered rocks. Well, there I go day-dreaming.

  6. I like your garden Floridagirl. It definitely needs a gunnera or two. The Shaving Brush Tree is amazing!

  7. All beautiful!!! And magical too, for sure! Love your gloriosa!!! Mine still haven't bloomed! Drat!

  8. little houses for fairies grown amongst herbal remedies? I sure prefer your version, Steve. Lovely flowers and I will go to your enchanted garden.

  9. I'm right there with you and your version of the enchanted rainforest! Of course you have to add a plethora of orchids hanging from tree trunks...huge vanda blooms jumping out from the branches. And dainty little epidendrum dancing about. Lots of moss, too, to squish between your toes while you walk barefoot, or for the children to roll around in. Steve, you're on to something here!!!

  10. What a beautiful idea for a garden. I especially like the rain lilies popping up en masse within a grassy expanse of lawn. All the vines covering the walls, the reflecting pond, I can just picture such a place. Are these elements you're implementing in your own garden? Or is this a future place? It is so nice to dream and plan.

  11. I enjoyed your post especially all the description of the lilies that can do well in tropical region.
    I also like the Enchanted Garden theme, for me the idea relates to me as something that gives that enchantment - like fragrance flowers, heavy blooming hanging plants and some ornaments like unicorn and Peter pan.

  12. Hi Steve,
    Your description of an Enchanted Garden is so perfect! I'm not into fairies either but all that tropical lushness sounds dreamy. My surprise lilies are blooming right now but for some reason only a few pop up every year. The foliage goes away and then the pink flowers appear. My hurricane lilies barely make it to flower due to them being another favorite of the Lubbers. They chew the stems as they pop out of the ground and the flowers never have a chance. SO frustrating.

    I'm dreaming of a water feature for my garden... that would really round things out for me.
    Great post and so perfectly descriptive!

  13. You should try the orchid Laelia anceps on your trees if you haven't. I had one on a live oak that got no protection this winter and it showed absolutely no damage, it is drought hardy too! BTW I'm in Ocala and it got cold enough to fry all of my queen and canary island date palms so this gives an idea of how much cold these can take!


  14. I'm a little behind on responding to comments so please forgive me if I miss a few.

    Flowerlady: Thanks for the contribution! It might be hot and humid outside, but doesn't the garden look magical in a downpour? I love to enjoy the garden in the rain... I guess at that point it really is a "rainforest"!

    Laura: I'm with you on making it a place for the kids to play! I guess thats the inspiration behind this idea.

    Floridagirl: Definitely lots of broms, orchids, treeferns and moss covered rocks!

    Kimberly: I think that there's a consensus among the visitors that epiphytes are key! I briefly mentioned them, but perhaps I needed to focus on them more!

    NanaK: Just hoping to provide some inspiration! There are so many themes to attempt, but so little space... I just feel that I needed to fill a niche in the dialogue when it comes to what is perceived as an enchanted garden.

    James: Fragrant flowers were definitely missed here! Maybe I need to revisit this post later with all the great suggestions.

    Meems: I hate those lubbers. I've read that they're super nutritious, so maybe they can be handpicked and added to the compost pile! BTW, a water feature would be the most awesome focal point!

    Krishna: I'm so excited to hear about your success with Laelia Anceps! I had heard from others that it "might" be okay, but its really nice to know that you've had success. I think that Ocala is a fairly comparable climate to inland Jacksonville... I often use gardener's experiences there as a "measuring stick" of sorts. I'm definitely going to look for one now!


Please feel free to share your questions, ideas and suggestions!