Discover how to create gardens like this one at my lectures next week at the San Francisco Garden Show and later on at the Epcot International Garden and Flower Festival at Disneyworld, Florida. In this garden I used my old wood cook stove as a central table for this sideyard garden screened from neighbor’s RV with cheap reed fencing. Antique jars and bottles came from garage sales for no more than $1 each. I covered an old tin tea kettle with mosaic and added red glass shards to the heart. In the big pot are stems cut from palm leaves pruned from front yard trees. Though I did not design this composition, the beauty evolved out of necessity, proving this indeed is the mother of invention.
Rethink common home improvement store items into cheap but cool garden design ideas. Inspired by the glyphs on Mayan temples, I made cardboard templates to spray paint ancient symbols onto ordinary $2 stepping stones. It can be done in more potent colors with virtually any tribal design. The little towers are made out of square concrete slump blocks designed for constructing columns. We stacked them, pounded scrap pipe down opposing inner corners and deep into the soil to stabilize. The interior cell was packed with gravel for drainage. The top twelve inches was filled with potting soil to support the golden barrel cactus on top. Planting towers wit no concrete, no mortar.
When it comes to color in the garden, this is the year to go for it. Why are we so afraid of painting our world with the joyous colors of Latin America? Why don’t we learn from this Dutch outdoor fireplace that becomes remarkable with its cheap and effective color? Paint costs the same per gallon if it is brilliant coral as dull beige, yet we are afraid of experimenting with it. Just one colored garage wall or fence can work miracles on a space inside or out. If you have no money to remodel, make this your spring to overcome your fears and color your world with a dangerously powerful hue.
Grow a whole garden for under $10 if you rent or just want to make a big splash with a whole forest of sunflowers. These affordable, sustainable natives of the American Midwest grow fast from seed and give you maximum bang for your buck. The secret is that these plants bear small black seeds sold as wild bird food in that section of the garden center or store. Buy there and you save tons of money because each big bag contains thousands of seeds to plant all around the house. The result will astound you. These natives bear smaller flowers borne on large branching plants and the birds just LOVE them! Great for fresh cut flowers too. From these originals were bred the huge Mammoth sunflowers and the colorful florist types, their seed selling at top dollar.
Yes, the old idea of cutting car tires into planting pots isn’t new, and it’s an acquired taste for many. Even tacky sometimes. Wen I found this really well conceived tire fountain it was strangely appealing, made interesting by the way the minerals built up at each spill point around the top creating stripes. Found it a few years ago at the San Francisco Garden Show demonstration area that emphasized recycling before the big “green” revolution. Haven’t seen another one since. It’s a great idea for the do-it-your-selfer guy who loves to play with little pumps and car stuff, offering a fun joint venture between the automotive aficionado and the garden maker in the family.