- Author: Kathleen Craig
Gardens and garden art are such a personal expression of creativity! One could argue that the plants themselves are works of art and why should we try to “guild the lily”, and others embrace the use of garden art wholeheartedly, to create a garden oasis of beauty and memories. Some of us aspire to all of the above! I am going to share some of our projects with you and give you some ideas for easy projects using inexpensive or found items to embellish your garden.
A few years ago the “repurposing” and “trash to treasure” trend became very popular as the DIY (Do It Yourself) crowd became active. Those of us who had always embraced antique and vintage items and used them in our home were glad to be on-trend. I want to share a few of the projects that have given us great satisfaction and enjoyment. Not only has hoarding old junk been productive, but we can claim to be environmentally friendly as we repurpose things that would surely have been sent to the landfill.
My favorite find and upcycled project is an old iron bed frame that my husband and grandson made into a garden bench. The piece cost $20 at a garage sale, and we spent a few bucks purchasing an 8 X 12 redwood board and some big lag bolts to fasten it to the bed legs. They cut the side rails short, attached the legs to the front of the board, and were finished in no time at all. The grandkids loved building things with Gramps and working in the garden with Grandma Kathy, so we cherish the memories of those fun times whenever we see the little bench that graces a corner of our garden. Over the years we added slate paving stones and creeping thyme (Thymus praecox) in on the ground in front of the bench to make it a more pleasant place in which to sit. It is a hardy groundcover but does attract bees, so allergies must be considered.
Our second favorite object is a potting shelf that was made from an old French door that came from my parents' neighbor's home. The door was replaced with a more substantial one, and it was going to be disposed of. I just couldn't say goodbye to that old door that I had slammed so many times while running in and out with my best friends next door. I designed the shelf/bench with found objects: we had an old Early American coffee table that had gotten singed in a fire that was made of solid maple, so that was just the right size for a work surface. Then we scrounged some tongue and groove boards to make upper and lower shelves for storage. One of the panes of glass was broken in this old door, so we covered that with chicken wire to give it a “farm” look, and to have a place to hang hooks for tools. The table legs were purchased new at the hardware store (they were unfinished newel posts) for around $20 each. We added a few more touches: decorative shelf brackets, varnished the raw wood pieces, and painted the rest of it white. Whenever I use the shelves to display plants, pots, or do actual re-potting of plants, it makes me happy to see that old door and coffee table being useful and pretty! It replaces a plastic outdoor storage cabinet that had no decorative appeal at all, and since plastic breaks down in the sunlight, wood was a better choice.
Other small projects we have enjoyed working on have been: mounting a birdhouse on an old turned stair post for visual interest, when our mirror ball column broke, I decided to sink the upper column into the soil and use the broken part to look like a ruin with flowers growing around it. I chose Heronsbill (Erodium corsicum) and Sky Blue Lobelia (Lobelia erinus) to enhance that little spot.
Another idea: We have an abundance of shells, so I made a shell mirror with the grandkids by gluing shells around the edges of an old mirror. The kids arranged the shells as they wanted them and I applied the stinky glue because they told me it causes cancer and their mom didn't allow them to use that kind of glue. Yes, the vapor is harmful. We were outside in the fresh air. (Nice to have such smart grandkids with good safety awareness!) Since hanging it on our fence a few visitors have commented on the whimsy of having what looks like a “portal” through the fence.
Another kid-friendly project was making stepping stone mosaics. It makes a great Mother's day project, and kids are so proud to create something that will be in the garden every time they visit. I purchased the kit at a local craft store, which included cement which had to be mixed with water, a mold for the stepping stone, some glass pebbles, and directions. We had a beautiful blue and white plate that had been my grandmother's but it had cracked, so we broke it into smaller pieces, bought a yellow/gold plate at a thrift store, smashed that, (Kids weren't involved in that part. I placed the plate in a heavy canvas bag and hit it with a hammer. I suggest wearing safety goggles and long sleeves for this activity) and placed the wet cement in the mold and pressed the pieces into it in a pleasing pattern. (The wet material is cement, the finished product is concrete). It solidified quickly and came out of the mold easily, and has graced our garden for years now. We made several more stepping stones with glass pebbles and stained glass pieces.
Whatever you do to decorate your garden, I hope these ideas have been interesting and inspiring, and that you will look at those found or saved objects with new eyes to create something intriguing for yourself or others.