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Unlikely treasures: transform old objects and salvaged finds into a decorative garden display.


Gene Bush loves the empty bottles in his Indiana yard. Bruce Cottingham and his wife Connie adore the old lab equipment and obsolete chemical apparatus in their Georgia garden. In Wisconsin, Rene Schweitzer wouldn't dream of parting with the broken pottery and old baking pans that make her garden so special.

No, these folks don't live in junkyards-just the opposite. These gardeners know how to create an artful landscape with personality by uncovering the hidden potential of salvage materials, recycled items, unused objects around the home, and flea market finds. Take Schweitzer, who repurposes pottery and uses old baking pans bought from thrift stores as molds for making concrete stepping stones. She breaks up the pottery and arranges the pieces into interesting patterns, then presses the pieces into the stones before the concrete has dried. Bush's empty wine bottles are all cobalt blue, arranged as a colorful sculpture. "It takes dedication to drink that much wine each evening at the waterfall," he jokes.

Just about anything can be transformed into an eye-catching focal point, whimsical display, or creative piece of art. Use your imagination when looking at objects, and ideas will begin to flow. If you need a dose of inspiration, browse garden centers, craft fairs, display gardens, and public gardens.

Oregon resident Burl Mostul and his girlfriend found their inspiration after a visit to a botanical garden in Venezuela. Wanting to replicate the feel of ancient ruins that the garden suggested, the homeowner used an abundance of broken concrete to build an archway (opposite page, top right)-the focal point for their Mediterranean-style garden.

Thrift stores and yard sales usually unearth interesting finds. Garden writer and author Debra Lee Baldwin turns flea market purchases into colorful containers for housing an array of attractive succulents. However, a good place to start digging for architectural treasure is right at home with items you no longer use: the kids' red wagon, old toys, a broken bicycle, or a chrome headboard painted a bright red.

An outdated toy chest, discarded wooden tool caddy, or a long-forgotten bathtub can be brought back to life as a creative container. Even found objects-a rustic wash basin or worn wheelbarrow-can be recycled into intriguing planters.

Your yard can serve as a canvas of opportunity for staging items you collect as decorative outdoor displays. Use a wooden fence or a concrete or rock wall to showcase an art gallery of like items, such as a collection of insulators, picture frames, set of old scales, or ensemble of vintage tools. Maria Zampini loves the look of china plates sunk into the soil and used as a border. Old signage from her retail garden center in Ohio helps cover up any bare spots.

Bring new life to old metal items by turning them into a yard sculpture. In Arizona, Keith Ferguson welds found materials and salvaged pieces into one-of-a-kind artistic fences and portals to the garden. Want more privacy? Use old paneled wood doors as an outdoor divider, privacy screen, or undiscovered passageway to a hidden garden room.

With a little innovation, just about anything, including the kitchen sink, can be turned into a functional and distinctive piece of garden art.

Five Design Tips for Salvaged Art

1 Think in twos. Group larger garden art as pairs that serve as portals to another location, level, or garden room. For example, a pair of leaky birdbaths that contain colorful plants can frame a garden gain.

2 Create a focal point. Position a large salvaged sculpture piece, recycled art. or creative container to break up the space in the garden and draw attention, it can be a counterweight to a section of low vegetation, for example, or a destination marker at the end of a meandering path.

3 Cluster for impact, Large groupings of small-scale pieces or collections create a strong visual impression (see terra cotta pots, opposite page top left), while a mass of random objects scattered throughout the yard looks jumbled and chaotic.

4 Keep arrangements in balance. Utilize all levels of vertical space within your yard by displaying salvaged garden art at differing heights.

5 Less is more. To keep clutter under control and give your garden art a sense of purpose, be sure to link your castoff art objects by theme, style, or color.







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Author:Wetherbee, Kris
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2011
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