When it comes to making the garden stylish, some seem to have more of a creative touch than others. They just seem to have that knack of making the gardens in their yard stand out so you can’t help saying to yourself “a master gardener lives here”. With me at least, I can also feel a bit jealous about the difference between their creative garden and my attempts at it. If you, like myself, are just one of the more ordinary folk who loves gardening but struggles a bit to get that classy look, all is not lost! We can learn from the gardening style overachievers to create our own unique garden space. What is good about it is that it doesn’t even have to cost a fortune to achieve it. A creative and ‘reuse’ approach can get you a long way. Regardless if you have a small space or acres of room for your endeavor, with a little effort you can create something unique to you. If you like a good hardcover book with tons of fantastic photos to learn new things in-depth and get inspired, you can’t go past the classic Creative Gardening book from Reader’s Digest. But in the mean-time here are 12 creative ideas to get you started.
Old Nic Nacs and Implements
OK, we’re not talking about that shovel you left out in the garden last week and haven’t put away yet – or maybe we are! It could be that your creative side is trying to reveal itself through the subtle art of forgetfulness.
No, but seriously, you can collect up those old garden implements and some odd bod containers like wooden boxes and metal tubs, and use then to create that old-fashioned look. Plant some herbs and flowers in old pots and pans – anything that looks a bit dilapidated and ‘lived-in’, to see them transformed into shabby garden chic. Just make sure that you can fit enough soil in each container to properly support the needs of the plants you use though.
Also, make sure they get enough water. Remember, plant roots need water and air. Plants living in small containers need a little extra care because the small about of soil they’re in can mean they have less of a buffer against heat, cold and loss of moisture – moisture being the most common issue. I like to try and make my plant containers, however small, have a small reservoir of water in them as a buffer – so don’t make a hole in the bottom of the container but instead, make the hole about 1 inch up the side. Use another smaller upside-down container with some holes in so the top of it sits a bit higher than the hole you make in the main container. Now once you put the soil in and plant your plant, it allows air to be available for plant roots, even if the water is up to the height of the hole. It also provides a buffer of water in the bottom in case you forget to water it for a couple of days. It’s no good having a lovely unique container display with dead plants in it!
As long as you take proper care of the technical details, the effect can be quite beautiful. And because no one has the same collection of old implements, your styling efforts will be a unique one-off affair. Go wild, mix it up, have fun.
Old weather beaten wheelbarrows that are way past their use-by-date for the purpose they were first created, can have a long and leisurely retirement in pride of place in the yard – actually several ‘prides-of-places’, because its mobile! This is perfect for flowers or herbs – or even leafy greens. Move them around to follow the sun or to give them some extra shade on a really hot day. Because of their size, they hold a good amount of soil which provides more stability for the plants. Make sure there are some drainage holes so your plants don’t drown – either natural through long use, or ones you put in it. If the tray is still watertight, make the holes slightly up the side (about an inch) so it can act as a bit of a reservoir if you forget to water for a day or two. If it naturally drains, just be a little more careful in keeping the water up to the plants on a regular basis. Bottom line is, if you don’t facilitate drainage, you’ll drown the plants the first time you have a big downpour.
If you need privacy, and you love veges, then the simple solution is to combine both into a Privacy screen. You can plant some trailing or climbing plants like cucumber or beans against a trellis and there you have it. If you want to plant a perennial climber that produces a ton of fruit, as long as you live in a tropical or subtropical region, you might like to try planting a Chayote (we call them Choko in Australia and New Zealand).
Another similar option is to plant a passionfruit vine as a privacy screen. There are some varieties that do well in colder climates so it is important to choose carefully depending on where you live. They also have the most amazing flowers.
Another way to grow productive veges and provide privacy and/or sun screening is to grow a vertical garden. I do this every year on our back deck simply by stacking cheap $1 plastic buckets in a zigzag pattern down dog chains suspended from above. You can get a bit more classy and do the same with Terracotta pots as well. Once my cheap plastic buckets start falling apart, I’ll convert all of it over to the Terracotta version, but I’m a waste-not-want-not kind of guy so it will probably be a few more seasons before the cheapies are all gone. You do have to get involved with a bit of drip watering technology to make this work – but it’s well worth the effort for a great outcome. Its also nice to mix in some flowers amongst the vegetables – especially if they’re edible ones like pansies.
Rock Garden Succulents
If you’re in a climate that has really hot summers you may want to consider having an area of the garden set aside as a collection of rocks and succulents. Just plant some succulents such as mother and chicks in between your rocks for a great effect. This is a good approach for the parts of your garden where temperatures get high and flowers and vegetables tend to suffer from the heat. It’s great because it delivers on the quirky and fun side of things while solving a management problem for those more difficult areas. It also takes a lot less maintenance – just periodically water the area if you have low rainfall and you’re good to go.
Old pallets have a lot of great uses. You can put dirt in between the slats and use them flat or stand them up vertically. Ideal for vegetable gardens, flower gardens or a mixture of both.
You can also adjust these and use them as your “hedge” or privacy screen. Stack them on top of each other vertically or horizontally to adjust the height.
It’s amazing how some bright paint on old tires completely transforms them from industrial grunge to quaint and interesting, Once you’ve given them the bright paint treatment, they are great for putting some herbs and/or flowers in. Make sure they are in an area that will get watered regularly becasue being raised, the water will drain through very quickly. Also, make sure you throw in a small palmful of slow-release fertilizer once every 6 months or so to keep them thriving. You could also get more creative by making a “wishing well” with old Tires. Stack three tires together and paint them to look like bricks or even all one color. Fill with potting soil and add in some herbs or greens.
Old Tree Stumps
Do you have an old tree stump in your yard that is standing out like a sore thumb? If you do, don’t worry, you can use this to create a feature in your vegetable garden. Set a large pot on top of it with herbs in it or maybe a chilly plant. I like to use something with some color as well as being edible – such as pansies or nasturtiums, that way you get a lovely display on the tree stump and some great color in your salads as well.
You can then put more flower pots around the base of it in graduating sizes and work your way out. You could also put some rocks up against the stump and add in some flowers too.
Base Of A Tree
Not much grows around the base of a lot of species of trees. Even grass has a hard time thriving because of the competition for light and nutrients due to the roots. There are some easy things you can do. One approach I take is to place wood chips around the base of the tree (making sure to clear away the wood chip from the immediate contact with the tree trunk so it doesn’t rot), and then place some pots or tires on the woodchip around the tree with a mixture of herbs and flowers in them. You can also collect up some bricks or rocks and make a perimeter around the tree, fill it with soil and plant directly into the soil. The downside to this is that you will need to keep an eye on the nutrition of the plants because some species of trees have surface-feeding roots that will quickly steal all the nutrients from the newly added soil – just watch it and add some slow-release fertilizer periodically to manage it.
Stack them about six inches to 12 inches high and put potting soil in the circle at the base of the tree. Plant some pretty flowers in the soil or set some flower pots in there around them.
You can place a window box on the actual window sill, or attach it to the wall immediately below the window. The window acts as perfect framing for the display just below it. If you plant it out with herbs and/or flowers, you get a stunning display inside (through the glass) or outside in the garden.
If you really want to get radical, how about replacing some parts of your lawn with herbs? You can get grass/chamomile mixtures or my favorite, a creeping thyme (Thymus praecox) lawn – sometimes called ‘Mother of Thyme’. I’m going to convert some of our back lawn to thyme this year. And why not, it’s attractive with its little purple flowers, smells fantastic when you walk on it, is drought-resistant, you can even lightly mow it if you want. Believe it or not, it also stands up very well to general foot traffic – including kid traffic! The down-side is that it is a bit pricey compared to regular lawns so it works well to replace grass in little nooks and crannies around the yard. You need to use the creeping varieties of tyme such as red creeping thyme, elfin thyme or wooly thyme.
Get Extra Creative And Whimsical
You can turn old tires into Minions, paint rocks as bugs or other creatures. Just let the child out in yourself.
Get the kids involved. They love to participate in a garden project, especially if there is a quirky twist to it.
These ideas should get your creative gardening juices going and help get you started to design a unique and one of a kind garden. If you want to consider a bigger upgrade to the look and feel of your garden, you could try something like this, that gives you literally thousands of ideas and actual designs for a landscaping upgrade to your little piece of home paradise that would cost you lots from professional landscape designers otherwise. Happy gardening.