A DIY Garden Project from Orphaned Materials

Posted by on Oct 09, 2012

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Allan Mandell, Allan Mandell, Lorene Edwards Forkner


Garden projects can be as economical as they are chic, especially when you're crafting with innovative garden expert and home decor designer Lorene Edwards Forkner, author of "Handmade Garden Projects: Step-by-Step Instructions for Creative Garden Features, Containers, Lighting & More." Not every crafter, though, feels comfortable diving into a pile of aluminum flashing and unwanted timbers. With insight and warmth, Lorene shares how to source unexpected garden decor materials, how she comes up with her unique designs and even what happens when a garden project ends up looking as pretty as Mud Season mud pie.

garden project made from aluminum flashing
Yard work and gardening has become serious work. Any advice for bringing play back to making a garden project?

Get in touch with your inner kid; we used to call it “playing outside.” It’s so sad to see gardening becoming a competitive (and costly) pastime. It doesn’t have to be. And while no one has figured out a way to eliminate the labor — digging, raking and even mowing can be infused with fun. I have a project in my book with instruction on how to tattoo your lawn with field marking paint, or channel your inner groundskeeper and mow a design into turf.

Where do you source most of your materials when making a garden project?

I start with what I’ve got on hand. Of course, I’m an inveterate collector and try and never pass up a good garage sale (hint: the good stuff is always in the garage!). That said, most of my projects either stem from an immediate need, like staking the beans, or a fantasy about an environment I’d like to create, like a romantic evening in the garden lit by lanterns (or fireflies).
When (or if) you have garden project-fail, how do you overcome that mess-up?

I’m so glad you bring up the notion of failure - or, as I like to characterize it, not-yet-achieved results. Not every project is a success. I’ve had plenty go sideways; those usually end up back in the basement to be parted out for the next round of making. But I always learn something and because my supplies are usually hardware store basics or previously castoff bits I don’t have a huge financial investment to protect. The garden is resilient, as gardeners we need to be too.

How would you decorate a small apartment patio, using garden projects?

Containers are the perfect medium for small space gardens. Your choice of what you plant in can set the vibe for anything from rustic mountain top (homemade stone-like troughs) to chic urban agriculture (you’ll get a big bang for your container buck with galvanized farm troughs). Just about anything is possible in containers: climbing vines on a bamboo trellis; fruit, herbs and vegetables for the table; flowers for bouquets and fragrance; even a miniature formal knot garden!
garden project made from river rocks and wire
Describe your creative process. For example, you see an unwanted pile of home supply. What happens next?

Just like I’m always looking for “good stuff,” I’m also always scouting ideas while I’m visiting other gardens. I’m endlessly fascinated by the aisles of a hardware store. From galvanized fittings to copper termite barriers — there’s so much good stuff there! Magazines, blogs, online photo-sharing sites and hopefully books like mine are a rich source of inspiration. Remember, you don’t always have to follow directions exactly — put your mark on a project and make it uniquely yours.

Any favorite trends in the garden project world? Any you'd rather not see?

I read a great line the other day referring to “new wave” junk referring to materials that aren’t necessarily vintage or antique, but repurposed and upcycled industrial bits and pieces; the flotsam and jetsam of our modern age. And if it keeps debris out of landfills, all the better. That being said, I have a hard time with plastic stuff which over time degrades and shatters when exposed to outdoor light. But maybe that’s a good idea I just haven’t had yet; I’d love to think up something to make out of all those single-use water bottles.

Image credits (from top): Allan Mandell, Lorene Edwards Forkner, Allan Mandell, Allan Mandell and Allen Mandell

Do you have a question for Lorene about what to do with unwanted lumber or a scrap of flashing? For this week, Lorene is taking questions from CraftFoxes users. You can ask them here in the comments or via Facebook or Twitter. If you have a question about a specific item, you can email us an image at info@craftfoxes.com.

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