By Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
If you are like most gardeners, you probably don't think of your garden as an outdoor living space or extension of the home outdoors. Yet this is what I learned in landscape courses that you should do. In her book Decorating Your Garden, author and designer Tessa Evelegh, shows us how to do this through photos and step-by-step instructions.
The author describes a number of garden projects you can make for your garden, whether during the slower winter months, or for a summer break from the usual garden chores. Consider making garden items for gifts for the holidays or for any special day.
Here's an easy and attractive project. Why not make your own stepping stones of mosaics of tiles or stones for the "floor" of your garden. For these you'll need some wood to build a one-foot square frame (such as one-inch by three-inch pine), or other shape or size for your stepping stones.
Once you have made one or more of these frames, assemble colored or rounded river stones, colorful mosaics, even rounded glass marbles or beads, and lay these out in a pattern. You can make geometric shapes, flowers, a sailboat, or anything else you fancy. Place the frame on plastic, fill with cement, then transfer the stones or other materials onto the cement in the same pattern. Press in and allow to dry.
Another "floor" or ground treatment for the garden might include an alpine wheel. Lay out bricks in the shape of a wheel and its spokes. Then place pebbles between the brick dividers, and plant with small alpine plants. Even old floor grates and road drain covers can be laid in a pattern, or used for stepping pavers. Plant small plants, such as creeping thyme, between the metal grates.
Do you have any old hubcaps kicking around? Recycle these for an interesting edge for a gravel path. Large seashells from a trip to a beach or shell shop can be used to line walkways as edgers. Using tube or other adhesive, adhere shells to pots, raised beds, trough planters, or window boxes to match your walkway.
Similar to the paving mosaics, you can make pictures to hang on a garden wall. You also might consider hanging old pots and pans, grapevine wreaths, or even wicker baskets. Look for these items at antique shops. You can hang them empty, or plant with flowers. Craft shows and shops, even flower shows, have dealers that make unusual and creative hanging planters from twigs and vines.
At garden centers and stores you may find wall masks or faces of pottery. Give these a novel look by first painting with acrylic primer. Next sponge on some acrylic glaze, tinted with an umber brown. Finally, sponge on some acrylic glaze mixed with white tinted with a yellow ochre. You can spatter the mask by flicking an artist's brush with more of the umber brown over the mask or face. Then finish with varnish.
Making or painting garden furniture can be another fun project. For furniture that is made of wooden slats, such as a chair, consider painting each slat in a pattern. Perhaps every third slat could be bright orange with the ones between bright pink? Or choose your own favorite colors.
Cool blues and greens with less contrast create a soothing look. Use warm colors like reds and oranges with lots of contrast for excitement. Paint a similar pattern on pots to match.
Do you have an old wicker chair that needs updating? Paint it a single color, varnish, and add to the garden as art rather than function.
You could cover an old wooden chair with a mosaic of tiles. Visit a craft or tile shop for the adhesive. Cut old or chipped china, either of your own or from garage sales, into various small shapes using tile nippers. Old, small wooden tables can be similarly covered.
Compliment these pieces with garden accessories. For instance, if you have blue and white tile pieces on furniture, pavers, or a wall mosaic, consider a blue gazing globe, a blue and white ceramic pot, even a blue and white bowl with or without flowers. Add some blue lavender or blue and white ageratum along a walk, then plant blue perennials such as bell flowers behind them, and you have created a blue theme garden.
The possibilities are endless. Just keep an eye out for recycled materials wherever you go. Then visit a local craft shop for the supplies you need to start creating garden gifts and accessories to make your garden unique.