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Transform Junk Into Jewels for the Garden

Find out how to add a little bling-bling to your garden without going broke.

A little imagination and a pile of discarded objects can breathe originality and, if you want, even a little wackiness into the garden.

At left, do you see an old construction pipe and fountain parts, or a post-modern Asian temple? Artist David McCrory has been turning junk into jewels for years, and the result has elevated his garden into a genuine work of art.

Figure B

One trick many gardeners use is recycling a broken pot. "You can get away with having a container in the landscape like this by cutting the bottom off so that you can have good drainage and the roots can actually grow into the ground," says David. "And plants end up healthier and easier to grow, and they're much more sustainable."

Figure C

First, he puts the container on its side to determine where he will cut the pot. Then, he marks where to cut with chalk.

Figure D

Using a diamond blade saw, he runs water over the surface of the pot while he cuts to keep debris and dust to a minimum. One pot with one cut equals two pieces and dozens of possibilities.

Figure F

David even uses a bottomless pot to hide a low-voltage electrical transformer. With the addition of potting soil and an eye-catching selection of plants, the electrical transformer virtually disappears. "Even though it's still in the picture, it's in the background, and we have something that is much more beautiful capturing our eye," he says.

Figure G

A pile of discarded materials — what David calls his "inspiration pile" — offers tons of garden decoration potential. Old stove parts are great and can become something as unusual as a steel flower.

Figure H

Old farming elements transform into great natural sculptures. Even a dead tree finds new life in his garden.

Figure J

Since his property was an apple orchard 80 years ago, fallen trees aren't uncommon. He sees a fallen tree as a sculpture. His restoration-garden philosophy for such pieces is simply, move it or lose it. The tree serves as both a habitat for different kinds of plants, and a unique view of a tree. The stump is already home to native plants and mosses that grow and change with the seasons. His goal is to enhance the natural beauty with some drought-tolerate succulents. He doesn't need much more soil than what has clung to the tree's base. A few well-placed plants rejuvenate this tree, and that's the idea behind a restoration garden.

Figure K

One more area where McCrory has restored, renewed and reused materials to enhance the garden is the focal point — an old industrial pipe made into a fountain by an artist.

Figure L

Keep in mind that it's probably not a project for folks without extensive blowtorch experience. But why shell out the money for mulch when the area surrounding the piece can be covered in abalone shells collected from the nearby coast? It's beauty and the beast, yen and yang, and trash and treasure all rolled into one beautiful garden setting.

"It definitely gives a personal sense to the garden," says McCrory. "We get to express ourselves through things that we like."

Your yard might not lend itself well to an inspiration pile like McCrory's, but try to set aside an area in the garage or somewhere to put those items that you just can't toss. Then when a creative spurt hits, head to the pile and see if you can create a restoration garden of your own.

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