Gothic or Goth gardens are grabbing folks’ attention. Once popular in Victorian times, these gardens have seen a revival in recent years.
Do you gravitate towards an eerie, antique atmosphere, love Mary Shelly and the Brontë sisters, and want to make a dramatic statement about your macabre tastes? A Gothic garden might be just the thing for you.
Keep reading, and we’ll tell you all about Gothic gardens and how to create your own!
What is a Gothic Garden?
Gothic gardens are centered around following the architectural style re-popularized in the late 1800s. These gardens were favored for their ability to spark thought and discussion surrounding themes of death and decay.
The goal was, and still is, to create a space that not only highlights dramatic arches and wrought iron but also to draw focus to the uncanny and macabre aspects of nature.
Pondering the concepts of growth and decay, as well as themes of life and death, embodies the nature of Gothic gardens.
Planning Your Layout and Theme
Whether you have a small or large space, these tips and ideas will help you create a genuinely unique Gothic garden.
1. Pick Your Flavor of Gothic Style
To start, find the Gothic garden style that best suits your taste. There is no wrong way to design your space. This process is all about expressing your unique personality.
A simple way to pick your style is to ask yourself what you gravitate toward. Do you love haunted mansions and horror stories or do you prefer the creeping mystery of a romantic Gothic tale like Jane Eyre?
Suppose you’ve fully embraced having a creepy, unsettling atmosphere. In that case, you might want to evoke images of all things dark and brooding, from black flowers and furniture, to skulls, gravestones, and gargoyles.
Or perhaps you are looking for a more classic, mysterious look. A secret garden that sparks whimsy slightly more than somber spookiness. Imagine Spanish moss dripping from tree branches and wrought iron benches behind a hidden doorway. Your very own Secret Garden, if you will.
Regardless of which direction you lean toward (or if it’s somewhere between whimsical and ominous), there are many ways to reach a stunning balance of elaborate Gothic design with dramatic modern elements.
Creating a moody space that is perfect for your tastes has never been easier than it is now with the revival of Gothic gardens.
2. Play With Shapes and Space
Gothic gardens shy away from straight lines and perfect order. They allow room for nature to take its course. Wandering paths and overgrown plants will enhance this disordered atmosphere.
Create dead ends and surprises around the corner, hidden elements that breed room for fascination and mystery. Curated chaos evokes sinister, haunting settings.
If you have a small space, consider using each element to the most dramatic effect. A fence or furniture can be painted black and adding an urn with dynamic plants can give you the visual excitement and drama of a larger garden.
3. Work With a Gothic Color Palette
Black, deep shades of purple and red are perfect choices for a Gothic garden, but don’t be afraid to think outside the box and add jewel tones or even ghostly white.
Think of moss covered stone, ornate bronze pieces, and dark earth for your plants to grow in.
4. Create Mystery With Shade
Ideally, lots of shade is best to create the perfect atmosphere. Tall, overgrown trees and hanging vines conjure an air of mystery and give the ideal environment for many of the plants one imagines for a Gothic garden.
If your space gets more sun than recommended, you can create ways of giving shade. Crawling vines can grow over an arbor or pergola and add to the moody aura.
What to Grow
Choosing the best plants for your Gothic garden is as simple as aiming for dramatic effect and the level of maintenance you’re most comfortable with.
One of the many beauties of this garden style is that disorder and a bit of decay are perfectly welcome as part of the aesthetic. Choosing to let the rosebushes go wild or neglecting to prune bushes, or deadhead your flowers will add to the style.
Even if you have a little bit of a black thumb, you can still have a gorgeous Gothic garden.
5. Choose Flowers for Effect
Nature is filled with surprising flowers fitting for a Gothic garden. Pick ones that pop visually and have intriguing names, too. Take the Brainiac Celosia, for example; they literally look just like brains.
Dark, brooding flowers like black poppies draw the eye and create room for conversation.
Sunflowers, like the Chocolate Cherry Sunflower, are easy to grow and can add to the dramatic vibe you’re crafting.
The Scarlet Plume Celosia’s fiery, feathery red blooms will pop against a broody backdrop.
6. Add Texture With Succulents
Succulents are hardy and easy to grow in many environments.
Dramatic, dangerous-looking spikes, spines, and swirls create dynamic movement in any space. Dark curling foliage from chocolate sedum has texture and the perfect coloration to add to any Gothic space.
An outright strange and eerie succulent that’s sure to fascinate are Lithops, also known as living stones.
Red Yucca changes color with the seasons, giving you something to look at and talk about year-round.
The Rat Tail Cactus likes lots of sun, so it’s perfect if you wonder what to do with the areas of your garden not in full shade.
7. Use Statement Plants
If you don’t have the space for large trees, an Arctic Fire Dogwood is a versatile choice with bright red visual interest year-round.
Black Dragon Coleus’s red and midnight purple puckered leaves are ideal for shaded ground cover.
8. Dark-Hued Edible Plants
There are myriad other delicious plants for you to discover that look and sound uncanny. Call it Gothic garden to table.
Tapping into herbalism is about as Gothic as it gets. Outside of traditional herbs we’ve all heard of, like sage and thyme, botanicals such as Motherwort and Horehound not only sound witchy, but also have powerful health benefits when harvested.
What would a Gothic garden be without pumpkins? Casperita Pumpkins (yes, little Casper pumpkins!) are a perfect, ghostly consumable to add to your garden. They can be used for decor during Halloween or even prepared similarly to acorn squash.
Embellish With Accents
Gothic gardens really begin to show their flair when accent pieces are added. Think pointed arches, moss or ivy-covered walls, stained glass, and gargoyles.
9. Garden Features With Arches
An arbor with vines creeping over it is a creative way to save space and include an arch.
You can even use a mirror to showcase arches, and it’s okay if the mirror gets murky; it’ll just add to the atmosphere.
10. Add Statuary
Yes, tombstones and skulls count.
This is the perfect opportunity to spook your guests, or yourself for that matter. Set your nerves on edge with the sensation of being watched by adding statues of gargoyles, ravens, or weeping angels in unexpected places.
If your personality leans toward a more classic atmosphere, then go for a cherub or fountain (or a cherub fountain).
If you want a magical vibe, add a dragon into the mix. All the better if it’s chipped or crumbling slightly to add to the visual dichotomy of growth and decay.
11. Furniture for Lingering a While
Furniture is both decorative and functional in a Gothic garden. Who doesn’t want to curl up in a black hanging swing with a blanket and their favorite Gothic novel?
Add a black bench set to rest your weary bones next to the spooky fire.
If you decide to tap into herbalism, make yourself an apothecary shelf. Crystals, candles, and eclectic jars of herbs you grew yourself will just add depth to the visual display, not to mention you’ll impress your friends and neighbors.
12. Mood Lighting
What’s more Gothic than candles? Let wax drip down their sides and onto the table, melting around jars of herbs and crystals.
This handmade tealight holder fits the aesthetic with its dramatic black spires, casting an eerie glow about your garden patio.
Not everything has to be black. Accenting with bronze lighting fixtures will draw the eye and create a visual counterbalance.
There’s an element of spooky mystery made by placing small lights along a winding pathway designed to lead your guests off into the darkness.
If you lean toward a more colorful scene, add green and orange lightbulbs or even backlights to make a theatrical backdrop.
Use Your Imagination
A somber sky is the limit on what you can do with a Gothic garden. Feel free to draw upon nature’s mysterious creativity to express your personality and cultivate your eerie imaginings.
Inspiration is everywhere. From scenes in iconic films like Dracula to deep within the pages of Gothic novels, both old and new—Mexican Gothic, anyone? Tap into all the spooky vibes to help you craft your personal haunted haven.
If you’re not looking to commit to a Gothic garden all year, check out this post on creating a Haunted Halloween Garden. It’s filled with fun ways to transform your garden just for the season!