Super Mario Theme Garden

I'm working on a project. I'm designing 100 theme gardens, ranging from a "Mediterranean Coast Garden", to a "Florist's Garden", "Volcano Garden", and even a "Jurassic Garden"! Kicking off my insane undertaking, I present the Mario Garden. Inspired by the simple forms and pixels of a video game's graphics, this garden would have everything from carnivorous plants, to plumbing, mushrooms, coins, and stars.

Here are the elements of a geeky old school video game garden!

This is a garden after all, so let's start with the plants! They would ideally have a tight and simple form, to help support the concept of being inside a cartoony video game.

The groundcover would be a simple bed of liriope, mondograss, or juniper. Save yourself a lot of unnecessary work by avoiding groundcovers that require any pruning.

Use tall columnar trees in the backdrop to both reinforce the simple cartoony look and to serve as a screen. You wouldn't want to ruin the illusion, and neighbors might get a little confused by your attempts to regain your childhood. If a therapist calls you up, this is perfectly normal for a theme gardener. Just hang up.

For the shrubs, use those with tight and rounded forms such as boxwood, schillings dwarf holly, or japanese holly. You could even get really tight with the clipping, and sculpt little 'eyes' here and there!

I highly recommend Chinese Hardy Banana, or Musella Lasiocarpa for it's large foliage but more importantly, for the big yellow 'star' of a inflorescence that appears on leafless stalks for as long as three months! You'd feel 'invincible' after seeing that bloom! (Corny joke!)

I chose bricks for the architectural elements for their charm, and durability, but mostly for their iconic use in the first level of Super Mario Bros. One of the most rewarding things to do in the world of Mario was busting open those brick boxes! It was great after-school stress relief. Painting the boxes orange or red with question marks would be essential to creating a convincing 'Mario' look. Just, um... don't try to bust them open, okay?

If you're going for a pixelated look, square concrete pavers seem to really fit the bill nicely! Setting the pavers throughout the low growing groundcover as a blocky meandering path is a fun way to add interest to an otherwise boring mass of green. If the garden is to be used by children or clumsy adults who like to play pretend, rubber pavers made of recycled tires would help prevent nicks and scratches.

DIY 1-Up Mushroom!
There are plenty of options for making your own power up garden ornaments, but this one is pretty affordable and could be made by reusing what might otherwise be thrown out.  Though this demo used a flowerpot and a wastebasket, you could really use anything from buckets, to stacked tires or round pavers, and even stools! To make this project really fun, try adding wheels to the bottom of the shroom for hours of entertainment... for the kids, of course.

DIY Spinning Coins
This could be accomplished by simply outfitting a weather-vane with a gold painted disk, and the goal is to have the coins at eye level. If you don't have a weather-vane, sink a capped off pvc pipe into the ground, or attach to a wall. Then paint a disk shaped object gold (frisbee, plastic plate, vinyl record, wooden disk, etc.) and affix to a rod or dowel that's a few feet taller than the sunken pvc pipe. Insert the outfitted rod into the pipe, and watch as the breeze sends your coin spinning!

DIY Chompy Plant
This is only one way to accomplish the 'carnivorous plant in the pipe' bit, and it could even be done on a smaller scale by using pvc pipes to make a little tabletop centerpiece full of venus flytrap plants! Another neat trick would be to plant pitcher plants inside the big pipe so that when a visitor gazes inside, she'll be greeted by a battalion of hungry pitcher plants!

Disclaimer: The intent of this article is to serve as ridiculously outlandish inspiration, and I have not done this myself. Use common sense. Don't throw hammers at each other, bash your heads into bricks, or eat questionable mushrooms. Also, touching the star shaped inflorescence of the Musella Lasiocarpa will NOT make you invincible, so don't get carried away. Anyways, if you have the resources or determination to use some of these ideas, have fun and share your results! The sky is the limit!


  1. OMG, this is hilarious. Plus, I'm like batshit (oops, I mean GUANO!) jealous of your drawing skillz!

  2. Very creative; I need to get back to my theme garden design project, which I started in 2003!!

  3. Thanks Monica!
    Teehee... guano! I was originally more of the artist type, but gardening ended up becoming the main creative outlet. I'll be completing many more drawings of theme gardens in the months to come though... next up is the jurassic garden! Thanks for making me smile!

  4. Desert Dweller:
    What theme garden are you working on? I'd love to see!

  5. This is really cool! you have inspired me to do my own themed gardens

  6. fer:
    Thanks! I figured I'd make the first theme garden a doozy... something no one would ever think to do! I'll have plenty of more realistic gardens too.

  7. Hi Steve...100 themed gardens - WOW - Aren't you an ambitious guy. You nailed your Mario garden...looks great, as do the DIY projects. I can't wait to see the remaining 99.

  8. Thanks Susan!
    I'm thinking of something along the lines of a book at some point. It would be fun to feature real theme gardens from botanical gardens, zoos, theme parks and backyards! I'll be going to the theme parks in Orlando in May, so I'll be sure to pick up some inspiration!

  9. This garden is such a fun idea. You actually make it work in the real world. Your book of theme gardens is a great project. Can't wait to see more!

  10. Thanks NanaK! This was one of the most 'unrealistic' theme gardens I've had planned, but I think it could actually work in real life. It would actually be a pretty relaxing place!

  11. This is all sorts of awesome. I will show it to my son and maybe, just maybe, he'll finally take an interest in gardening with me. Super creative and good luck with the big 100.

  12. Thank you... ONG (I like the abbreviation.) Glad your son might take an interest! I guess that's the point of the eventual book, to show that there is a garden for EVERYONE and that anybody could find satisfaction in gardening!

  13. Your commentary and description, as well as your posts while putting all this together was well worth the cost of admission! Thanks, Steve!

  14. Oh my gosh, you are amazing!!! My grandson is watching Mario videos these days and he would absolutely LOVE a garden space like this!!! I think I would too! Maybe I will just simply make some of those blocks with quewstion marks and the mushrooms! Adorable to boot! I can hardly wait to see your other 99 gardens!

  15. Beyond outstanding! This NEEDS to be done to some public park somewhere. The kids who grew up on nes are now having kids and the timing couldn't be better!

  16. Thank you so much guys! It's such a huge leap of faith for me to believe that my ideas could have wings, so the encouragement is like red bull for me! Without the awful taste.

  17. I read about a development somewhere (I think California) which was Nintendo themed. You should go be their garden designer!

  18. With a low wall you could release a couple tortoises- just make sure no one hops on them and tries to kick the shell.

  19. Mike:
    Too funny! I actually considered putting pet tortoises in this, or at least faux shells painted red and green. I would kind of worry about the hopping and kicking thing though... I'd have to keep an eye out for plumbers!

  20. This is a great idea! As an art student (NOT a gardener) I can see so many different possibilities... This would actually be great as a terrarium (I think.) Either very, very small (think Nintendo DS XL screen size) or rather large (TV screen-sized,) it could certainly be doable. Especially with tortoises/turtles.


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