Recycle Matchstick Blinds to Save Energy


Here’s a cheap and easy way to turn a hot window into a beautiful energy-saving composition. Small budget gardeners would make one of these out of broken matchstick blinds that may have been formerly used indoors. You may only use it for one season so trade rope or wire for the pricey cables. The sticks add beautiful shadow patterns to cool the surface of a west facing window that may grow very hot during summer afternoons. Cool the glass and you cool the room too. Also love the hanging bundles of lavender drying underneath. This came from the sustainable garden at Epcot with a marvelously Mediterranean feel.


They’re featuring small budget garden ideas at highbrow Keukenhoff, the Royal Dutch Park of Holland. This old glass chandelier was the center of a recycled demonstration garden for a small urban space. It sparkled in the light and held a collection of yellow tulips in small green plastic pots. Note how they’ve set it upon a staff anchored in concrete, so you don’t need an overhead to hang it. Check out the attics and basements, barns and lofts for old treasures like this to make new gardens sparkle for free. And if you find one for pennies at a yard sale, snatch ‘er up because salvage is now European high style!


Words of wisdom from a German garden are a perfect small budget gardener’s idea. It may be a phrase of that nation’s most famous philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, beautifully printed on this simple arbor post. The idea is both elegant and affordable, offering meaning to the garden whether you are a fan of Jesus or the Dali Lama, Bob Dylan or Rachael Carson. Whatever your approach, words in gardens are remembered into adulthood by our children who see them every day. They are also a good way to remind ourselves to slow down enough to stop and smell the flowers.

Easter Table Top Plant Decoration


While speaking at Disneyworld Florida, at the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival last week, the stage decorations included this fun idea for low cost table decor. They used the silicone cupcake liners to hold a collection of small succulent plants inside a glass cake cover. Silicone won’t disintegrate like paper liners and adds festive color to a table setting. It became an instant terrarium, and when Easter Sunday is over the succulents can go into lovely little pots on porch, patio, windowsill or even fire escape! Thank you Debbie and Ken at Disney for such a great idea.

Secrets of a Small Budget Gardener


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.

Modern Mayan Garden On A Budget


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.

Paint Your Garden This Spring


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.

Recycled Tire Fountain


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.

Make A Garden Shrine


Creating a shrine in the home garden is a beautiful way to express your spirituality. No matter your faith, the shrine makes a focal point that’s unique to your own sense of the sacred. This age old practice dates back to the recognition of earthen deities believed to exist within the spirits of the vegetation. In Catholic countries the Christian imagery was adopted and in these cultures they are a staple of even the most modest home. Shrines are an ancient idea for recycling found materials in a whole new way.