Garden Art Anyone Can Create | Midwest Living

Garden Art Anyone Can Create

Create instant interest in your yard with garden art made from recycled or inexpensive materials.

Mix in small art

Highlight small garden art pieces—homemade, recycled or purchased—by setting them in a container. This galvanized tub contains two sculptures, petunias and other plants in a graceful arrangement.

Scour for salvage

Enliven a landscape with recycled materials. Check garden centers, salvage shops—even garbage bins and construction sites. Use materials just as you find them, or give them a fresh coat of paint so they stand out in the garden.

Reuse an old chair

A coat of paint turns an old chair into a colorful perch for a flower container.

Fill a wagon

This old wagon adorns the backyard of Jill Dubbeldee Kuhn and Tom Kuhn, who live with their three children west of St. Cloud, Minnesota. "We try to make our gardens inviting, filled with whimsy and historical stuff," says Jill, a regional artist and book illustrator.

Make a statement

Creative placement transforms almost any salvaged material garden art. Jill painted an old door robin's egg blue and stood it in a bed of blue bellflowers, pink phlox, purple Russian sage, orange Oriental lilies and yellow black-eyed Susans. "I like the symbolism of windows and doors, seeing through to the other side," Jill says.

Collect inspiration

To inspire your garden art, collect images you like from magazines, newspapers or greeting cards. "A theme might come through," Jill says. "Maybe you create a cat garden with cattails and a cat sculpture and things dear to your heart." Jill's favorite idea-starters: farm equipment, children's shoes and boots, bikes and wagons.

Headboard gate

An antique wood headboard, trimmed to fit, becomes a gate between the front and back yards.

Add some whimsy

You'll garner grins from both kids and adults by adding whimsical elements. In this Lincoln, Nebraska, garden an imp nestles in the crook of a tree above a grapevine wreath nest of plastic dinosaur eggs.

Simple sculpture

Nestle vintage newels throughout flowerbeds for vertical accents to balance a horizontal landscape.

Play with your art

A checkerboard painted on an old stump sits ready for action next to twig chairs.

Point the way

A painted column gives height to an old weather vane. A hole drilled in the column secures the rod.

Decorated door

Recycle an old ceiling tin by cutting an initial from it. Half-depth columns frame an M on this toolshed door.

Paint scenes

A whimsical fairy painting in blues and purples on a garden shed forms a pretty backdrop to the many colors of lilies in a Janesville, Wisconsin, garden.

Make a mosaic

Mosaic pots, stepping-stones, benches and other projects are easier to create than you may think (click below for our how-to slideshow). Tile and pebble embellishments sparkle in shallow birdbaths. Match the grout to the color of the bowl to show off your mosaic work.

Learn how to create mosaic garden art.

Birdhouse decor

A collection of old birdhouses and a vintage shutter dress up the side of a shed.

Use nature

Go to nature for simple (and super low-cost) ideas. Sticks and stones become unusual garden posts at a farmyard in west-central Wisconsin. Bundle sticks to create a decorative post, top it with a flat rock and place a round rock on top of that.

Hang it up

Just as you arrange garden plants to grow at different heights, you'll want garden art to appear at different levels, too. Try placing something high, such as in the trees, at eye level and down low item to await discovery. In this garden, an old birdcage stand elevates a hanging plant. Even simpler: Hang a painted birdhouse from the stand.

Creative salvage

Found items and decorative planters dress up the wall of an old building at Northwind Perennial Farm in Burlington, Wisconsin. You can adapt the same idea for a garage, shed, or other wall at your home. 

Coordinate your art

Try using the shape and design of your garden art to accent plants. In this South Haven, Michigan, garden, the fanciful, delicate curls of an old iron chair look just right with the profusion of tiny white flowers from sweet autumn clematis and alyssum.

Create a scene

Make an eye-catching vignette just by turning a pot on its side. This Troy, Kansas, garden features 'Sikes Dwarf' oakleaf hydrangea at left, 'Glauca Globosa' Colorado spruce behind the pot, 'Blue Spruce' sedum inside the pot and spiky Hakonechloa macra 'All Gold' in front.

Line up collections

One small item may not catch your eye, but a collection of them can be striking. Here, children's antique watering cans provide a colorful display on a ledge in an herb garden in Troy, Kansas.

Birdbath planter

Damaged and broken items may no longer be useful for their original purpose, but they make great art. A damaged birdbath becomes a succulent garden. Add a base of soilless potting mix, plant with succulents and finish with a mulch of Spanish moss. Decorate with your choice of accessories, such as this candy dish planter, compass and spoon.

Step it up

Turn a short stepladder into a focal point with a coat of bright paint, then decorate the steps with your favorite potted combinations. Look for old ladders at garage and estate sales, thrift stores and flea markets.

Decorate your garage

Don't overlook buildings bordering the yard in your decorating plans. At this Suffield, Ohio, home, vintage watering cans, garden tools, sap buckets and terra-cotta pots dress up the side of a garage covered in Virginia creeper.

Paint a welcome

Personal touches can make a big difference. A simple hand-painted sign welcomes visitors to this St. Cloud, Minnesota, garden.

More garden project ideas

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