Let’s get right to it… You’ve probably heard of the term garden folly but you’re not quite sure exactly what it is. To answer your curiosities, a garden folly is a structure built or added to gardens simply for aesthetic effect. Its name, a folly, is fitting because it doesn’t actually serve a purpose other than looking pretty. Regardless of their uselessness, though, these structures are stunning and give a very cultured feel to your outdoor respite.
According to Wikipedia, in the 18th century, English gardens and French landscape gardening featured follies such as mock Roman temples. Other 18th-century follies were versions of ruined abbeys, Chinese temples, Egyptian pyramid, or Tatar tents. Usually representing some sort of cultural or historical connection, a rustic garden folly, for example, would be a structure that looks like a mill or rural cottage.
These frivolously beautiful structures bring a whole new level of cadence to your garden, so we’ve rounded up some of our favourite garden follies around the world to show you how it’s done. From rustic to medieval to classic, here are gorgeous garden follies for your inspiration board (remember these urban gardening ideas?).
Garden Folly Inspiration from Around the World:
Talk about a journey into the rabbit hole. This vast inverted tower in Portugal dips an astonishing 88 feet into the earth and features passages that connect to other spots within the Quinta da Regaleira Estate. It’s called the Masonic Initiation Pit because it’s rumoured to have been the site of the group’s initiation rites.
A beautiful divider between the pool and the rest of the garden, this symmetrical wall brings elegance while providing privacy; a great addition to your own backyard!
These four blue pyramids stand on a lavender farm in Terrington, England, to commemorate the builder’s late wife who passed in 1993 as well as his two children and himself. Striking and gracefully poignant, the Yorkshire Lavender Farm Memorial Pyramids show that follies can take on many forms.
Made to look like ancient ruins, this grotto evokes emotion, romance, and intrigue with its various dated elements. Grottos were very popular in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The Painswick Rococo Garden nestled in the rolling hills of the Cotswolds (Gloucestershire) is ripe with unexpected follies and structures. This red folly has an East Asian feel with its pointed temples, contrasting the classical castles in the area.
The Dunmore Pineapple in Falkirk, Scotland, has an interesting backstory regarding the real intention of its construction circa 1777. It was either built as a joke or a birthday present—but it’s agreed amongst all sources that the family did use the structure to grow fruits.
The Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in Miami, Florida, looks like it was transplanted in the tropical metropolis straight from Spain’s storied streets. The vast gardens are peppered with eye-catching vistas, arches, and facades, making the trip through the gardens an adventure into what feels like another world.
Want to create your own garden folly at home? Our favourite lifestyle inspiration sites have plenty of how-tos, but it’s pretty simple if you want to DIY it. Basically, figure out what type you like (hidden treasures or obtrusive and eye-catching focal point), then choose a style like some of the ideas above. You can construct your own out of concrete, stone, or wood, or you can purchase premade follies from landscaping companies. Just remember that you want your structure to look at “real” as possible even though it was no viable purpose.
What kind of garden folly is your favourite? Join the conversation in Rozanne’s Inner Circle if you love learning more about gardening and landscaping.