My name is Lisa Nunamaker Orgler and I love teaching garden design in a fun and simple way. Click here to learn more.

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DESIGN WITH ME - Pick a Theme

Over the next few weeks we'll be designing a theme garden together by following my five magical steps:

1. Pick a theme (we'll discuss this below!)

2. Brainstorm

3. Research

4. Translate ideas to physical form

5. Create the plan


What is a theme?  It's the idea that pulls all the elements of a garden together.

Before designing a garden I always encourage the selection of a theme.  Why?

  • To focus your design

  • To help in the selection of materials (plants, hardscapes, furniture, etc.)

  • To tell a story

Designing a garden is similar to writing a paper. Before you write it's important to choose a topic, then have the content support it. You can write about thousands of things, but the topic helps you focus. This is the same in garden design. There are thousands of ways to design your garden, but by narrowing in on a topic or theme, choices become a lot easier. Honestly, it's a lot more fun too and your creativity just spills over.

First let's look at some traditional themes:

Traditional themes are great, but I'd like to show you how to develop a garden around any theme. Our garden will focus on something nontraditional and out-of-the-ordinary. To help us get started I asked for your help on facebooktwitter, this blog and my newsletter to pick a theme. Wow, did I get some great ideas!

Here are some of them: shoes, fashion, heavy metal, pez, photographs, ceramics, music, video games, murder mystery books, jeans, wellies, Christian Louboutan red sole shoes, punk, jazz, Great Gatsby, Italy and quilts. Below are garden themes that can be created from some of these ideas.

The most fascinating themes have no relationship to gardening. When you combine gardening with an unrelated topic the design gets very interesting (I'm getting goosebumps just thinking about it!).

Now to pick a theme (drum roll please...). I'd like to choose something that seems far, far away from gardening (to show that this can indeed be accomplished), be a topic I'd like to learn more about, and finally something that will challenge me outside my illustrative comfort zone (opposite of cute and whimsical). The only logical choice is


I'm a little frightened, but excited to get started!

My eleven-year-old daughter would say to me at this, how are you going to create a heavy metal garden?  My reply..."not sure, I plan to follow the process to find out."  I typically don't have preconceived ideas, I just let the process inspire me.

Please stick with me!

 I'll need your help with the next three steps. It's time to BRAINSTORM now. What comes to mind when you think of heavy metal? Let me know in the comments below, on facebook or twitter.

For those saddened that I didn't pick your topic, no worries. I plan to design more gardens with you in the future and tap into a couple more of your fabulous ideas.

If you're interested in more articles like this one, plus would like to receive a free copy of my theme garden eBook, please sign up for email updates here.

DESIGN WITH ME - Brainstorming

Creating an Out-of-the-Ordinary Theme Garden