Make your garden your own by upcycling

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

When you're looking to add to your new garden to make it uniquely yours, it needn't be expensive. More and more people are upcycling old items to revitalise their gardens and to give worn objects a new purpose.

What is upcycling? Simply put, it's a mixture of art and recycling. You can take a broken or unused product like a bath tub and use it for a completely different purpose such as a raised plant bed or a water feature. Upcycling has a positive impact on the environment, as you're re-purposing items which would normally go to the landfill.

Your creativity is what's going to make your garden stand out, and upcycling is a great way of making your garden a talking point.

There's more to personalising your garden than just upcycling - we've put together some suggestions for other aspects of your garden you can look at, from your plant beds through to lighting ideas. Also, if you want your garden to be an awesome stop-over for hedgehogs, bees and birds, check out our guide to creating a nature-friendly garden.

Adding flowers to your flower bed
Cosmos flower 

Ideas for your plant beds
If you're looking to add a few plants to your garden, our handy plant finder should help. It'll help you narrow down the plants that would work best in your garden, depending on elements such as soil type, the amount of sunlight and the pH of the earth.

If you have just moved into your new home or want to add colour to your garden quickly, then showy annuals such as cosmos are a good choice. There are many varieties offering single, complex and pom-pom flowers in dwarf and standard forms in a multitude of colours that like full or partial shade typically. They are easy to grow from seed on the windowsill before planting out, and flower repeatedly when you cut them to bring indoors.

The flowers sold by garden centres for hanging baskets such as lobelia, busy lizzies, begonias and pansies grow quickly and can fill a new container with colour within a few weeks. You might like to add a trailing ivy to provide interest in the winter and plant bulbs in November to give colour in the spring too.

The main types of plant beds are:
1.  In-ground
2.  Raised
3.  Hanging or vertical

New flowerbeds created in your garden can be made more interesting by embedding broken pots, discarded wicker baskets, watering cans, large hollow logs or even ruined boots for plants to grow through.

Use a recycled bike as a planter
Recycled bike 

Raised beds (often called planters) are a great way of letting your creative juices flow. Our favourite upcycled planters are a wheelbarrow planter, an amazing boat planter and this lovely new use for an abandoned bicycle!

If you don't happen to have any suitable to hand, a visit to your local car boot sale should yield some cheap items you can use to create a beautiful feature in your garden.

If you'd like to create vertical interest you could fix a trellis to a wall but you will have to wait for your climbing plants to grow. In the meantime, you could try creating quirky hanging baskets planted in unusual containers such as waste paper baskets suspended from hooks or perhaps broken garden forks fixed to the wall.

You could use pallets to hold layers of planting. Loosely staple oblong sheets of thick black plastic to each pair of horizontal planks, fill each layer with compost, plant with trailing annuals and lean against a sunny wall to create an instant focal point.

There's also the option of using plant pots created from tin baths, metal buckets or even metal toys like this toy truck planter. As long as you make drainage holes in the bottom of the container you can plant them up as normal and create a lovely display that will improve with age. Groups of odd numbers of different sized objects can create a lovely display of standard and training annuals or perennials.


Water fountain made of recycled bottles
Bottle water foundation. Photo by Funky Junk Interiors 

Ideas for central features
Water features - These are a little trickier and you will need to add a simple pump. If you plan to create a mini-pond with water plants, then a pump will be essential to keep the pond healthy. Again, a tin bath or metal water tank is perfect for a small pond. Consider concealing the  water pipes in more inventive methods such as through a watering can or even bottles positioned to pour water back into the mini pond. This will create a focal point in the garden while the sound of running water is also restful.

Fire pits - Extend your late summer evenings in the garden with a firepit on your patio. Keep with the upcycling theme and use an old washing machine drum. It will look great with legs added, or it could be supported on bricks.

Garden furniture - Comes in all types, materials, colours and styles but if you want to create something a little different without spending a fortune, using natural resources or recycling old furniture could be the answer.

Large logs are a lovely option that will age well and create a natural centre piece to your garden all year round. Large cut logs about three feet high can serve as great seats and all you need to do is add colourful cushions.

If you can get hold of wooden chairs, painting them with weatherproof paint can provide fun for the family while everyone paints their own chair, and creates a colourful backdrop to outside entertaining later. Just add cushions, a folding table, a colourful table cloth, glasses, plates and cutlery, and you have the basics for a lovely alfresco meal.


The finishing touch
The right lighting enhances long summer evenings in the garden and can be created using empty and clean jam jars or bottles and tea lights resting on a shallow bed of sand. Coloured glass works particularly well as mood lighting and the jars are gorgeous features hanging from trees or garden stakes.

If you are entertaining during the day, create colourful paper pompoms from tissue or wrapping paper and string them together to decorate your garden. Take a look at this great video which explains how to do this: 
 



Children will love to have a go! Making them from different coloured paper in different sizes strung under your garden parasol or from stakes positioned around the garden makes a beautiful display for any special occasion.

Whatever you do to personalise your garden, it need not be expensive and it can be just as much fun creating your garden as enjoying it!