6 Unforgettable ’90s Movie Gardens to Add a Dose of Nostalgia to Your Outdoor Space

published Jul 3, 2024
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movie gardens of the 90s
Credit: Photos: Right –THE SECRET GARDEN, Kate Maberly, 1993 credit: Warner Brothers/courtesy Everett Collection; Left – PRACTICAL MAGIC, Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman, 1998 credit: Warner Bros./courtesy Everett Collection; Shutterstock; Design: Apartment Therapy

We all have those comfort movies we return to time and time again. For me, a ’90s movie — especially one with a whimsical garden or memorable outdoors scene — instantly transports me to times when worries felt far away, and anything was possible. Maybe it was the soft-focus lenses of the era that made everything look gauzy and a little cottagecore, but scenes like the one featuring Miss Honey’s cottage in Matilda instantly give me a warm, fuzzy feeling and a desire to recreate a little of that magic in my own space. 

From the sparkling terrace where dreams really do come true in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella, to a place where you can harness your powers, like the greenhouse in Practical Magic, these six ’90s movies are filled with so much garden and outdoor space inspiration.

For anyone looking to create that same nostalgic sense of enchantment and wonder, here are a few outdoor styling tips inspired by your favorite films. 

Credit: Warner Brothers/courtesy Everett Collection

The Classic English Estate: The Secret Garden (1993)

The promise of a fantastic display of florals is right in the name of this early ’90s classic about a young girl who is sent to live with her uncle in an English mansion. Mary Lennox unlocks a walled garden that had been out of sight for a decade, and it’s filled with so many colorful blooms, from pink roses to blue cornflowers. The lush space even helps Mary reintroduce her cousin to the outdoors and allows him to act like a kid again. While there are admittedly darker plot points throughout the film, the garden is Mary’s escape, and it’s a beautiful one.

To emulate the look of this early 1900s English garden, bring in plenty of roses and vines. More is more when it comes to Secret Garden vibes. 

The Kitschy Yard: Harriet the Spy (1996)

Glass bottle windchimes! Hub cap tambourines! Kaleidoscopes! The wind chime garden in Nickelodeon’s Harriet the Spy was the stuff of every kid’s wildest imagination. Most of the plants in this scene are trees and shrubs, but it still gives a sense of outdoor adventure. In the scene, the kids blow bubbles with an old potato masher, create garland out of neckties, and run around to the soundtrack of windchimes.

If there’s one takeaway from this scene, it’s that anything can be given new life as decor — so hit up your local thrift store, hunt for some funky lawn ornaments, and inject some personality into your outdoor space for the ultimate serotonin boost. 

The Cottage Escape: Matilda (1996)

We only see glimpses of Miss Honey’s Garden throughout Matilda, but I know I can’t be the only one who still dreams of visiting (or living in!) Miss Honey’s cottage one day. She was the original cottagecore influencer far before the TikTok boom of 2020, as she rented a tiny backyard cottage from a rhubarb farmer for just $50 a month and transformed it into a magical oasis by covering it in hundreds of wildflowers and honeysuckle.

Wildflower lawns are having a moment in yardscaping right now and are a low-maintenance way to recreate the same whimsical feel. Cottagecore is also known for embracing a simpler, more homespun way of life, so it’s no surprise that Miss Honey’s wonky wooden fence and upcycled planters add to the garden’s charm. Take this as a gentle reminder to add a bit of personality and have fun with your own yard decor without the pressure of achieving Pinterest perfection. 

The Romantic Terrace: Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella (1997)

The moonlit glow of Prince Christopher Rupert’s castle garden in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella is for every fairytale-lover and true romantic. Aside from Cinderella’s ball gown, the main showstopper in this scene is a dual-swan fountain with water spouts that form the shape of a heart. The couple dances outside until the clock strikes midnight along stone pathways outlined by gorgeous raised flower beds.

Even if living in a castle feels “Impossible” (we dare you not to sing it!), you can recreate the magic of a fairytale garden by incorporating concrete planters and urns, colorful flowers, and, of course, a set of string lights so you can dance the night away. 

The Rustic California Ranch: The Parent Trap (1998)

It’s hard to say which Lindsay Lohan had the sweeter deal in The Parent Trap, but as far as ’90s movie landscapes go, Nick Parker’s Spanish-style ranch on a California vineyard takes a top spot. From the vineyard views while horseback riding to the home itself, you know this is a Nancy Meyers production. The ivy-covered estate plays off the ornate wrought iron fixtures, and on the back terrace, you have classic terracotta columns and tiles adorned with rich, green plants and flowers.

Even if you don’t foresee yourself acquiring a Napa Valley estate in the near future, earthy-colored rattan furniture combined with oversized terracotta pots is an easy way to achieve this look.

Credit: Warner Bros./courtesy Everett Collection

The Ultimate Greenhouse: Practical Magic (1998)

Few movie homes are as memorable as the coastal Victorian in Practical Magic — from the quintessential wrap-around porch to the cascading staircases — but it’s the stunning conservatory off the kitchen that really cast a spell over me. We’re first introduced to this space as a young witch, Sally, creates a potion for a true love that she thinks couldn’t ever possibly exist — pulling herbs from atop rows of weathered apothecary drawers while the glass chandelier casts a warm glow.

But you don’t need your own glass greenhouse to recreate the magic of an indoor/outdoor herb garden. Any vintage or architectural salvage wood tabletop would suffice as a workspace, while prisms and mirrors bounce and reflect light similarly to the way the glass light fixture does, and for way less money. 

Turn your outdoor space into a summer oasis with decorating hacks, no-fail lawn and garden tips, and more with Yard Therapy. This content is presented by The Home Depot; it was created independently by our editorial team.