By Christina VanGinkel
I have seen flowers planted in and on various objects in gardens and yards in a variety of ways, some that I shake my head at and wonder why I did not think to carry out such a creative design element in my own garden, and others that just make me shake my head! Recycled items used in unique ways are usually fun to incorporate into a garden space, especially if you are searching for a way to bring some whimsy into the space in a fun and economical way. Some work better than others, but all are at least worthy of considering. Ok, maybe the one I would pass on, but read on for some ideas to jumpstart your own.
One recyclable that always makes me wonder what they were thinking of is actually one that my own mother in law has in her yard, and that is an old toilet filled with flowers. I am a huge fan of recycling, I really am, but a toilet and flowers just do not provide an image that I can in any way find beauty in. However, I have seen quite a few old claw footed tubs, some rusting nearly away, others as glossy as they day they were new, filled to overflowing with flowers of all sorts, and they always make me smile.
Another creative recycling idea that I do like, and that shows off a bit of fun at the same time, is an old wheelbarrow tipped on its side, with flowers seeming to grow from the wheelbarrow of spilled dirt. Quite a few yards in the rural area that I live in, sport this, and I smile each time I see them. Other variations include a tipped bucket, a child's wagon, or a watering can. Each offers a difference in size, but all offers the same little bit of whimsy that is so welcome in most any garden. Annuals grow best in a display such as these, as the display piece itself can be packed away for the winter months to preserve it for future summers.
An old stump could also become a planter. The insides often start to rot away, leaving a perfect container like effect, yet in a stump that unless you are willing to pay hundreds of dollars to come and have removed, is probably not going anywhere for a long time to come. Therefore, the idea to fill it with flowers is as good a way to incorporate the otherwise unsightly feature into your yard or garden space as anything I could think of. I also saw one yard that had three trees that had been close together, which had been removed, but the stumps had been left inordinately high. I later saw that the homeowner had turned the three stumps into feeding platforms for the birds and squirrels! What a great idea and use for three otherwise dead trees.
Old wooden wheels have been decorating yards and garden for many years and they continue to be popular. Climbing plants can use their surface to cling to and grow up on. With this in mind, when I saw an old, abandoned gate, one quite figural in design, from a home long since deteriorated, I realized that it would make an ideal design element in a garden. It could be simply propped up, or even 'hung' between two trees to form a fun spot for sweet peas or some other floral climber to scale. Other recyclables that might be used in a similar manner could include an old wooden or metal framed chair, or a wooden ladder.
By incorporating whimsical recycled items into your garden, you are accomplishing two things at once. You are finding a use for an item that would otherwise most likely end up at the landfill, and you are almost assuredly bringing a smile to whoever is lucky enough to enjoy a glimpse of your garden. The next time you are heading to the trash or recycle bin with something, you might want to reconsider if that is where it belongs, or if it could be used in your garden to help you create a display that will bring a surprising element of fun to all who enter.