Why do we throw so much out when we just need to tap into our creative thinking and we can make some bespoke items for the garden? I really enjoy upcycling, recycling and reusing and I think it is something that we can do more of in our gardens. Now I’ll admit that this style isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I’m a fan of it.
I have spent many hours planning, creating and constructing new items for my garden from materials that were destined for landfill. I’ve literally saved things as they were on their way to the big hole in the ground and upcycled or repurposed them into interesting pieces for my garden. Some items I’ve simply reused like an old cement mixer as a pot plant and this excellent slide that sits on my embankment nestled amongst the plants, which is enjoyed by the children as well as some of the adults!
I have an appreciation for older materials and just like “older” members of our society these materials still have much to offer. And in a similar way, if you make the effort and spend the time you can be rewarded with some real gems. Sometimes I come across items that I can almost hear them calling out to be re-purposed into something special. When I came across an old balustrade and front gate I was just a little excited and I had to make something for my garden with it. I was inspired by someone else’s creative use of an old wire screen and I wanted to do something similar with these pieces. I will be forever thankful for the generosity of that person gifting me those great pieces that I feel have so much character!
I also enjoy making things that look older than they actually are because to me this adds character to a garden and gives it a more established appearance. I enjoy the rustic look of weathered timber with its aged and textured appearance. So I was happy to get my hands on some old un-painted hardwood timber palings from a fencing contractor friend that would have otherwise gone to landfill. After being unceremoniously dropped off the sides of the truck I got to work pulling it all apart and sorting the timber into two piles – the good and the soon to be firewood!
Palings can be reused in many interesting ways and I’ve used them effectively in my garden for different screens, feature panels and frames providing a consistency with materials throughout the garden. I’ve used them like weatherboards to make a dividing screen between the vegetable patch and the lower fireplace entertaining area. The advantage of using un-painted clean palings meant that both sides could be features. For another project I used them to create a focal point screen at the end of a boardwalk.
They also look effective when stacked on top of each other. In this area I used them to make the bottom part of a semi-enclosed screen to provide privacy for a small sitting area.
Old palings have a tendency to split as a result of weathering which wasn’t good for the longer lengths required for my screens but this gave me the opportunity to salvage the left over smaller lengths to make some picture frames from both the palings and the thicker lengths of timber.
When some items appear to come to the end of their effective use all is not lost. Some of my projects like the feature screens are about practical reuse of materials, however some are more decorative. For examples when one of my wine barrels rotted the metal rings were still perfect so I made an interesting artistic sphere.
Keeping with the sphere theme I joined two wire hanging baskets to create a hanging sphere to feature a pot of succulents in a different way.
Galvanised iron sheets that were sitting on a rubbish pile of a neighbourhood builder were perfect for repurposing. So after chatting with the builder to check if I could have them they were soon bundled up and thrown into the back of my trusty chariot and soon became cladding for my new treated pine retaining wall. The wall looks like its been there for ages and I love it!
Now it’s not all about fabricated materials. I also like being creative with natural materials. Grape vine prunings, fallen sticks and dry ornamental grasses are great materials to reuse. I have reused grape vine canes to make vine spheres that I have hanging in the garden and also inside the house and it was actually quite therapeutic sitting down to weave these together.
With a large spotted gum in my garden I tend to have a regular supply of small branches dropping into my garden. So rather than just using them to start my fire I’ve had some fun making a bird nest and used my dry ornamental grass prunings to line the nest for the large ceramic eggs I bought from a talented potter friend of mine.
Even the roots of pot-bound plants make great nests too! Anyone who has re-potted an Agave attenuata will know they have vigorous intertwined roots. Having come out of a rounded pot they were the perfect shape and size for a nest and trust me they take years to break down!
So next time you’re about to throw something into the rubbish bin stop and think whether with a bit of creativity it can be reused or repurposed into something bespoke for your garden.
[You can read more about Steven’s own upcycled garden in this story by the Herald Sun Home]