Designing with Antiques and Recyclables in the Gardens

29 Feb


Here in Greensboro, NC we have many antique shops, thrift stores and salvage yards to satisfy our hunger for eclectic art to be placed within our gardens. Let your imagination run wild.

Have you ever thought about incorporating flea market finds and antique treasures into your garden? If you have a unique and eclectic design style, your home is most likely already filled with artifacts and treasures that at one time spoke to you and said, “Please take me home”. When making these purchases try to think of how they will function in your garden. Can you utilize the piece as a fountain head, focal point, or part of a garden wall or roof? Here are some suggestions on how to artfully incorporate your finds within your garden.


Incorporate your treasures with flowering plants, evergreens, brick and even wood to increase the authenticity of the entire landscape and avoid a disjointed cluttered look. If antique items are the focal point of your garden, other elements can be used to complement them. Typically, antiques placed and used indoors do not stand by themselves, but are often adorned with natural elements like moss or dried flower arrangements.


The objective of using antiques is for your visitors to be in awe of your garden because of your creativity and cleverness in turning various items into an entire landscape composition. You can take different purchased antiques and create a unified design while incorporating plants and other materials which represents your garden as a whole. There should always be an element that harmonizes the entire room. Unifying elements in your home are your paint color, the moss strategically placed around several of your accessories, or the copper hardware throughout the room.

In your garden elements can be the rust color brick, the cappuccino stain of your woodwork, or simply the use of pine needle mulch throughout your garden. Try to repeat and/or continue some of your special elements, creating a harmonious landscape. You could plant the same type of annuals in close proximity to your treasures.

Two popular design styles we will discuss are “Old World Charm” and “Shabby Chic”.

Using the same principals as interior design, you can create these looks for you exterior landscape.

Some ideas for creating the Shabby Chic garden are:

      • Use antique door knobs as finials on fence posts, pergolas, or as a water hose guide

      • Find patterned dinner plates with chips and cracks at yard sales or thrift stores and break into large pieces and reassemble them into mortar to create stepping stones

      • Use smaller dinner plate pieces to create a mosaic on tabletops, clay pots or even an outdoor fireplace

      • Use a whiskey barrel as a tabletop base, to store a water hose or even a seat with custom cushions

      • The barrel can also be used as a self-contained fountain by placing a pump in the center, or to use as a planter and drill holes in the sides for your cascading plants

      • Take a vintage tea cart, wheel barrel or wagon and place colorful annuals in them

      • Showcase your treasure by placing it in the center of a large pot and plant annuals that cascade. You could then position the pot on a pedestal and direct night lighting to illuminate

      • Hang antique serving spoons from a recycled towel rack and use instead of trowels for your smaller gardening projects

    European countries are known for their abundance of hardscape materials like cobblestone and brick. These beautiful, quaint cityscapes are used in today’s gardens

Some ideas to create Old World ambiance are:

      • Adhere antique hardware to brick or stone walls to hang art or other antiques. For example, a piece of wrought iron fence can be positioned on a wall for an espaliered plant

      • Flank an entryway, frame a view or construct a pergola using salvaged columns

      • Set the columns as a base for your favorite climbing vines. Wrap and staple wire around the column and place an antique birdhouse on top as the finial

      • Use a wrought iron fence to create a courtyard separated by brick or stone columns. Shrubs can also be used


      • If you only have one piece of fencing, have it mortared into a brick or stone seating wall. Plant twining vines along the backside

      • Construct walkways, paths or fountains from salvaged brick. Plant creeping sedum or creeping thyme in between them to create a more aged feeling

To give any garden style a bit of romance, pick up an old wheel or metal lampshade skeleton to construct a chandelier. Use small chain or wire to hang the glassware, pieces of wind chimes or beads. Drape pearl necklaces or grapevines the hide any wire. Hang your creation over a tree limb or attach to a pergola.


I hope these ideas give you a new perspective when shopping for these unique treasures. When your house has reached its capacity for showcasing your finds, move them outside for all to enjoy.

If you have treasures you would like to clear out, just give me a holler and I will find a place for it.

Happy Planting!

The Geeky Gardner

Diana Gardner-Williams


Posted by on February 29, 2008 in Greensboro Gardens, Landscape Design Ideas


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4 responses to “Designing with Antiques and Recyclables in the Gardens

  1. redpearl

    March 2, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    I love this post! One of my more recent addictions is browsing through antique malls and flea markets. I’m always bringing home some treasure or other to incorporate in my home decor in some way. We will be doing some landscaping this spring so I’ll be on the hunt for some interesting and whimsical items to put in my gardens!

  2. susie foster

    August 14, 2008 at 1:01 am

    You have wonderful gardens. You should come by our shop. We have great outdoor items for the garden. Check out our web site. Susie

  3. K. Duran

    August 1, 2010 at 5:15 am

    Any idea from what this garden/water hose guide might be made? (see link below)

    Thanks for reply and assistance!

    • Diana Gardner-Williams

      August 4, 2010 at 1:45 pm

      It looks like a vase, a lamp finial and possibly a tea cup, smaller vase, or jar


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