For many gardeners, the use of salvaged objects as garden art has evolved into a passionate hunt for jewels in the junk pile. Thrifty and creative souls can transform nearly any discarded and unwanted items into unique and eye-catching works of art. An old tire can turn into a fun planter, flattened bottle caps can decorate a birdhouse – the possibilities are endless.

Bedsprings and Chevy Grill

Rusty bedsprings serve as bookends for a great old Chevy grill. Low voltage lights glow from the headlights.

Photo Credit: Janet Rademacher

Fan flowers

This giant-sized bouquet of flowers fashioned from old fans was created by artist Jennie Curé.

Photo Credit: Janet Rademacher

So where can you find the good stuff? Here are a few suggestions:

Friends are Forever: Friends are the best source of great junk. Once they know you’ll welcome anything, they’ll drop off old metal radiators, tractor seats, bedsprings, headboards and goodness knows what else.

Wildcat Dump Sites: You can probably think of a spot in your local woods or nearby desert where people have created an impromptu dump site. Be on the lookout for anything rusty and intriguing. Old bedsprings, for example, as well as sofa and chair springs, are easy to find and make great trellises. (And they’re free!)

Second-Hand and Antique Stores: Not into dump-diving? For the more squeamish, clean stores that carry antiques and other old items can be a great source of cool garden art, too. (They’re more expensive, but cool nonetheless!)

Finding great junk is relativity easy. The biggest challenge is to properly incorporate it into the garden so it looks tasteful instead of tacky. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when finding a home for your fabulous junk/artwork:

Out of Sight: A good rule of thumb is to put your “stranger” pieces in the back yard rather than in the front, so the neighbors won’t be offended. (This just keeps peace in the neighborhood.)

Less is More: A few really unique junk treasures are better than a yard full of stuff. Be selective and don’t go overboard.

Camouflage is Cool: Always use lots of plants to soften and partially hide your found objects. This creates mystery and intrigue in the garden. A bunch of rusty stuff scattered around a barren lot is not cool – or attractive.

Collecting unique, vintage, offbeat, chipped and battered treasures – and using them around your garden – is a fun hobby that gives a garden character. Anyone can buy a mass-produced garden trinket. Skip the obvious choices, hunt for daring and different objets d’art, and snuggle them in among your plants!

Junk Jewels Montage 1

  1. A makeshift desert shooting range yielded perforated treasures that double as light fixtures. “El Bandito” completes the scene.
  2. Pay homage to Hispanic barrio gardens with a shrine converted from a cast iron bathtub. Shards of decorative tile liven up the inside.
  3. An unknown artist fashioned this eye-catching birdhouse covered with smashed bottle caps.
  4. Tucson artist Ned Eagen creates whimsical creatures from salvaged metal objects.

Photo Credit: Janet Rademacher

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