40 Gorgeous Garden Follies
These unique and unusual outbuildings add visual flair to landscapes.
©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited
This unusual garden folly entitled Pooh’s House by Home and Garden Design is actually a two-story structure with the top floor a children’s playhouse (note the main entrance by the dwarf Hinoiki cypress) and the bottom floor a storage area for pool equipment since the base aligns the edge of an outdoor pool.
A garden folly is usually considered a building or structure that is designed for decoration with no other purpose than to add a touch of whimsy or extravagance to the surrounding landscape. In Europe, follies tend to be towers, temples, rotundas, aviaries or fake ruins but in the U.S. they often serve as functional outbuildings as well as architectural accents in the garden. Here is an example of a folly in the Gothic style from Haddenstone that adorns a private estate in Northamptonshire, England.
Lattice and Bluestone
A folly constructed of stained grade B redwood with a painted finish features a roof with copper shingles (not visible here) and houses a bench swing. The structure by Greg Hebert Landscape Architect is a visual terminus on the garden axis with a pathway of bluestone pavers which lead to the main entrance and mailbox.
The Temple of Diana
This magnificent folly which once housed living accommodations but is now deserted is a familiar sight on the estate surrounding Highclere Castle in Hampshire, which is the setting for the popular TV series, Downton Abbey.
Built by former owner Robert Herbert in 1743, this pillared temple on the East Lawns of Highclere Castle provides a sweeping view of the estate and the main castle.
Built by the Earl of Carnarvon’s ancestors in 1743, this stunning folly on the grounds of Highclere Castle offers clear sightlines to the castle and surrounding estate, which is the setting for Downton Abbey.
Ancient walls from a previous palace owned by the Bishops of Winchester in the 12th century border Monk’s Garden, a spectacular display of yew topiary, climbing roses, pear trees and other landscape delights. This is part of the Highclere Castle estate, the setting for Downton Abbey. Fans of the series may be interested to know that two books, Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey and Lady Catherine and the Real Downton Abbey by Lady Carnarvon, can be purchased here.
Domain of the Roses
The Belvedere, an informal “summerhouse” on the grounds of the Sonnenberg Gardens in New York, is a decorative red-roof and white column structure that is often used for weddings and outdoor events. The best time to visit is when the rose garden is at its height with solid masses of red, pink and white blossoms creating an unforgettable color scheme.
Located at the north end of the rose garden at the Sonnenberg Historic State Park in New York, this landmark iron gazebo is both decorative and functional with an observation deck that offers views overlooking the flower beds and the Belvedere pavilion at the south end of the garden.
This intricately designed folly provides a visually striking accent in the Italian Garden on the grounds of the Sonnenberg Mansion in Canandaigua, New York. Created in 1903, this garden features four sunken beds in the shape of a modified fleur-de-lis which was typical of Victorian era landscaping.
The Conspicuous Obelisk
Handmade in reconstituted stone by a special process, this obelisk from Chilstone makes an intriguing visual addition to any garden and can be topped with a gilded ball for additional eye candy.
At the Garden's Edge
Creating a sense of mystery and wonder is this unique white folly by Art/Harrison Interiors which is actually a potting shed though you would never know it by the unconventional design.
Butterfly and Bird House
Garden folly suppliers such as Chapter House Design in the United Kingdom can help you realize your folly fantasy like this gothic creation which could function as a children’s playhouse.
Conjuring up images of Roman antiquity is this gothic grotto that was inspired by the works of Italian artist Giovanni Battista Piranesi and was first unveiled at the 2003 Chelsea Flower Show.
Arch of Awesomeness
Among the contemporary designers and craftsmen who are creating garden follies, Brampton Willows is quite unique for using the wood from willows as their base as in this imaginative garden entrance/archway.
For the Birds
A faux stone dovecote decorates the edge of a natural fish pond which is enhanced by the surrounding water lilies and boulders for stepping stones in this design by Greg Hebert Landscape Architect.
The beautifully manicured landscape on this private estate takes on added visual appeal with the addition of a balustraded temple with a dome ceiling from Haddonstone, which creates garden follies and other structures based on the timeless beauty of Greek and Roman architecture.
Mirage in the Deep Woods
Artist Simon Sinkinson, who lives in an area of southern England known as the New Forest, has been constructing intricately detailed, small scale structures for 35 years that he refers to as “Tiny Things.” But he also has created some amazing large scale follies such as this wondrous, whimsical creation which he calls “The Lantern.”
If you’re going to create a garden folly, why not have fun with it? This magical creation by artist Simon Sinkinson features a gnarly wood framed porch and thatched roof that could be something straight out of a fairy tale; the artist calls it “Elf Bower.”
An Artisan's Handiwork
A close-up detail of the spiny oak viewing platform that is one of the most appealing features of this garden folly created by English artist Simon Sinkinson.
Created by artist Simon Sinkinson, who usually specializes in tiny, beautifully rendered fairy houses, doors and other miniatures, The Giants’ Table is an example of his large scale work in the category of garden follies. A uniquely shaped thatched roof design is complimented by the picturesque snow and bird sentries and provides shelter for the massive banquet table beneath it.
Renowned for his delightful, small-scale creations he calls “Tiny Things” that resemble fairy houses and structures, artist Simon Sinkinson is also celebrated for his remarkable, large scale garden follies like this creation he calls “Typhoon Tower.”
No Gambling Allowed
Although the title suggests a gambling house, the casino at the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is a spectacular outdoor pavilion that serves no other purpose than to dazzle the senses in a landscape of wonders.
These magnificent arches at the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens work as both ornamental follies and entranceways into the grounds which are divided up into four major facades - north, south, east and west, all of which highlight specific attributes of the estate.
First unveiled at the 1990 Chelsea Flower Show is this lovely Venetian folly which has the classical proportions of a Serlian window and utilizes Tuscan columns.
Escape from Conventionality
If you’re looking for something completely different in the category of garden or potting sheds, you won’t find anything more imaginative than this fanciful design by Brampton Willows which functions as a garden folly or a functional structure.
Growing Old Gracefully
Chapter House Design's lovely reproduction of a folly in ruins uses brick, gothic arches and designs to create an atmospheric backdrop amid the lush greenery.
Similar to the sort of garden follies and ornamental structures you’d see at the great English gardens of William Kent and Capability Brown, this contemporary Doric Temple by Chilstone utilizes techniques and craftsmanship from the Victorian period to bring a sense of history and aesthetic beauty to any garden. You can also top it with either a weatherproof fiberglass dome or wrought iron filigree dome.
This charming architectural structure by Greg Hebert could function as a tool shed but it was actually designed as a doghouse by the owners of the property and resembles the owners’ home in design and materials (slate roof and tumbled Elk Mountain stone).
Ruins can often be picturesque and visually arresting like this folly in the snow, which was constructed to look like an antiquity and is situated in Westminster, Colorado. Design by Haddonstone.
Originally designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll, the gardens at Hestercombe, England feature a stone alcove and steps leading to the sunken garden, and is just one example of the symmetry, balance and proportion.
Cast limestone balustrade stairs led up to a water feature covered by a cast iron pond cover in this unforgettable garden entrance which sets a tone of extravagance and grandeur.
Garden follies are often inspired by Greek and Roman antiquities. This impressive reproduction by Haddonstone can be adapted as a portico.
For Your English Garden
Based on the work of great stone carvers and craftsmen from the Victorian era, this Chelsea garden house by Chilstone is composed of materials that encourage the growth of mosses and lichens on the surfaces, eventually giving it a lovely aged quality like the ancient follies you see in famous gardens and estates in England.
A reproduction of an ancient Roman antiquity in a light ocher shade by Haddonstone is complimented by Tuscan columns and a gazing pond which is divided by a paver walkway.
A reddish shingle roof and clay colored bricks make a useful garden shelter during rainy weather as well as an impressive covered walkway.
Not all garden follies are ruins or the creation of some architect from centuries past. This contemporary structure with the whimsical name of YeeSee is the creation of English artist Simon Sinkinson and provides a touch of rustic eccentricity to this backwoods pond.
A Touch of Copper
A distinctly original garden shed composed of wood from willow trees with a steel skeleton and topped with a copper roof defines this contemporary folly by Brampton Willows.
Green Space Showcase
Chelsea and Doric garden houses with architectural accents such as statues, faux ice sculptures, stone-like furniture and other visual attractions transform this green space into a favorite destination for any garden party. Design by Chilstone.
Decorative garden art or an organic outdoor living room? Who says it can’t be both? This soft focus beauty is the creation of master craftsmen at Brampton Willows.