Bits of broken glass, cast-off metal sheeting, cracked china cups, flea-market gelatin molds and rusty Bundt cake pans aren’t junk to Karin Overbeck. She sees them as potential works of art. A colorful mosaic wall, a whimsical sculpture, a decorative fence. Inevitably, the pieces meld with her sprawling Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, garden.
More than a decade ago, Karin and her late husband, Mike, began transforming their rocky, wooded property into an elaborate, art-filled garden. The 2 acres feature winding paths, a courtyard, a rock garden, a vegetable garden and flowerbeds overflowing with spires of blue delphiniums, pinwheels of purple clematis and swaths of bright red lilies. A repurposed 1905 schoolhouse on the property serves as the home and workshop.
After her husband passed away, Karin continued to create intricate mosaics inspired by the colors, shapes and textures in her garden. Crafting those pieces became a form of therapy, and her garden and art evolved together.
Karin, the ultimate recycler, regularly combs flea markets and garage sales for materials to turn into art.
After decades as a self-taught stained-glass artist, she found herself with enough extra glass to start yet another art form. “I hate to throw anything away. I had so much leftover glass—that’s how the mosaics started.” She liked how the first pieces looked, and soon, the walls, rocks, stepping-stones and seemingly every other hard surface in her garden became a palette.
Here, colorful decorative mosaic panels cover Karin’s plain vinyl-sided garage, behind toad lilies (Tricyrtis hirta) and hydrangeas.
A lattice-framed porch looks out into the garden, where fencing repeats the lattice look.
As with her art, Karin jumped into gardening with far more enthusiasm than knowledge. But she eventually worked at a nursery part-time and signed up for Master Gardener courses (offered by state university extension programs), gaining a thorough knowledge of perennials, annuals, trees and shrubs—and what species do best in her climate. Now her garden features such signature items as low-maintenance perennial borders full of the flat heads of yellow yarrow, frothy bands of white daisies and frilly tops of red monarda.
Karin goes for any plant “that’s hardy and that I don’t have to water,” she says. One of her favorites: white yucca, because it thrives on neglect. That gives her more time to focus on the colorful sculptures, eclectic artwork and brilliant recastings in an imaginative garden where lost things find new meaning.
Tile-covered artwork replaced a rotting pine window box. No watering required!
A crouching boxwood hedge delineates two seating areas in the courtyard. Karin connected the courtyard to her 1905 schoolhouse home by incorporating arches and the same building materials, such as stone and brick.
Karin purchased rusted iron wagon wheels for $10 each and had them welded together to make a fence that fronts three triangular flowerbeds. The fence ends with a rusted iron column topped with a crystal chandelier that she snagged for $1.
Glass, tiles and china plate pieces decorate this concrete piece, which Karin uses to hold water for butterflies.
The handle of a broken mug fits around a piece of kindling to form a plant marker. A garden marker pen makes lasting labels.
A low-maintenance flowerbed offers changing color all summer with yarrow (Achillea millefolium), Shasta daisies (Chrysanthemum maximum) and Asiatic lilies (Lilium spp.).
A series of colorful butterfly mosaics transforms the side of the garage into an enchanting backdrop. A multicolor piecemeal pedestal stands amid flowering perennials such as Heliopsis and ornamental grasses.
Limestone walls with lattice insets mimic the schoolhouse walls.
A pyramid of bowling balls came from the local alley—50 balls for $20.
Climbing perennial Clematis ‘Jackmanii’ offers purple pinwheel flowers.
A mosaic tower, created for a traveling art exhibit in Door County, features words of hope.
Yellow privet (Ligustrum ovalifolium) and waving Heliopsis helianthoides add sunny hues to the garden.
Concrete plant markers and stepping-stones (made in old frying pans) stop weeds in the veggie garden.
Flea-market molds threaded on a grounded post create a totem pole.
Mosaic faces keep “evil spirits” from dampening the magical mood.
Want to experience this inspiring garden in person? Karin offers garden tours by appointment, as well as mosaic art classes and workshops. For information, visit karinoverbeck.com .
Interested in making your own mosaic art? See our slideshow on how to create mosaic garden art.