Creative Garden Art

Have you ever visited a garden filled with more than just trees and plants? Different types of garden art can add welcome interest to outdoor spaces along with a touch of whimsy.

It’s the unexpected element of encountering an unusual planter, wall hanging, or recycled items throughout the garden that can add a touch of whimsy that makes a garden unforgettable.

I was inspired by the creative uses of garden decor on a recent visit to Buffalo, and while the plants may be different than what I grow in my Arizona garden, the look can be easily replicated using desert-adapted plants.

Here is a look at my favorites.

Creative Garden Art

A small bistro table is all set for tea along with moss planters in the shape of a purse and high shoe.

Creative Garden Art

Got a dull expanse of wooden fence? Grab some chalk and draw some flowers – this would also work for a block wall fence too.

Creative Garden Art

Old glass dishes make beautiful flowers, don’t you think?

Creative Garden Art

Got an old portable fire pit? Dress it up by filling it with succulents.

Creative Garden Art

Creating artistic pieces from old silverware is quite popular and I quite like this dragonfly made out of butter knives.

Creative Garden Art

An old mirror not only makes a unique wall hanging, but it also reflects the beauty of the garden in front of it.

Creative Garden Art

Old garden benches paired with old watering cans add a new look to this corner of a garden.

Creative Garden Art

Transform an old tree stump by adding a plant on top and wooden planters below.

Creative Garden Art
Creative Garden Art
Creative Garden Art

‘Head’ planters are a trendy whimsical element, and I love the extra splash of color that these add.

Elephants food (Portulacaria afra) would make an excellent ‘hairstyle’ for a head planter.

Creative Garden Art

The elegant beauty of a rusted steel hummingbird.

Creative Garden Art

Faced with the view of an uninspiring blank wooden fence? Break up the monotony by adding planters across the base and through the middle.

Succulents would look great used this way through the middle with potted lantana at the base.

Creative Garden Art

An antique store kettle finds new life as a planter for purple alyssum.

Cool season annuals such as petunias or pansies would go nicely in here. Succulents are a good choice for a year-round planting.

Creative Garden Art

Metal wall hangings are a great way to decorate vertical spaces.

Creative Garden Art

Another stump makes a suitable resting spot for a couple of birdhouses and a colorful ladder.

Creative Garden Art

A simple, yet elegant way to display the blooms in your garden in small glass jars.

Lantana, roses, Texas sage or yellow bell blossoms would look lovely displayed like this for a party.

Are you feeling inspired? I certainly am. I invite you to stroll through an antique shop, a thrift store, or even the garage sale down the street. You never know what will catch your attention and be used to add artistic flair and whimsy to your garden.  

Unique Garden Art Out and About

Buffalo New York

I enjoy traveling – especially when I get to explore new places. Last month, I journeyed to Buffalo New York where I toured gardens, attended a writer’s workshop, and best of all, spent time with one of my favorite people.

Why Buffalo you may ask? Well, it turns out that this industrial city has beautiful green spaces, whimsical private gardens, as well as test gardens. Each August, the city hosts Garden Walk Buffalo where people from all over the U.S., Canada, and other countries descend to tour over 400 private gardens. I was in Buffalo for the Garden Communicator’s Annual Conference, which is held in a different city each year. Each year, I look forward to the conference where garden tours, educational sessions, and the tradeshow fills our days. It is also a very good time to reconnect with fellow writers.

Buffalo New York

I arrived in Buffalo a few days early to meet up with my BGF (Best Garden Friend), Andrea who flew all the way from Australia to attend. We met two years ago when we attended our first conference and bonded instantly. Throughout the year, we keep in touch via Facebook Messenger and look forward to spending a week together at the conference. 

Our agenda for the first day was to explore the downtown area down the street from our hotel. There were many older buildings, including our hotel, which had been beautifully refurbished, including the city hall and its art deco architecture.

The day was sunny, humid, and hot. Desert dwellers like me don’t deal very well with humidity, but that didn’t stop us from exploring.

banks of Lake Erie , Buffalo New York

We walked down to Canalside, which is along the banks of Lake Erie. As we explored the area, we walked through beautifully landscaped garden beds. The hosta and coleus were stunning with their contrasting colors.

pink flowering gaura ,Buffalo New York

While I may not be able to grow many of the plants we passed by, it doesn’t keep me from enjoying their beauty and getting inspired to create similar plantings using different plants that thrive where I live. However, there was ONE plant in this bed that currently grows in my garden – pink flowering gaura.

Buffalo New York ,Buffalo New York

As we continued walking along the water front, splashes of color caught my eye. 

Buffalo New York , Buffalo New York

We had stumbled upon a ‘pot of gold at the end of a rainbow’ or in other words, a test garden where the latest flowering annuals are being tested.

white and purple angelonia ,Buffalo New York

Large containers filled with ‘Supertunia’ petunias look as if they are on steroids. But, this type of flower is smaller than regular petunias and flower more abundantly as you can see. The tall spikes of white and purple angelonia add a lovely vertical accent.

White alyssum, black sweet potato vine, and gomphrena , Buffalo New York

White alyssum, black sweet potato vine, and gomphrena make a unique grouping that works. 

I was thrilled to note that many of the plants in the test garden would grow nicely in my desert garden – during the cool season.

pink gaura ,Buffalo New York

More pink gaura was to be seen, blooming in front of masses of Supertunia.

Buffalo New York

Lantana is a very familiar sight in arid gardens where it can survive outdoors throughout the year. However, in cold winter regions, it is treated as an annual.

Black-eyed Susan vines , Buffalo New York

Black-eyed Susan vines grew against a wooden fence surrounded by vibrant verbena and double petunias.

Buffalo New York

I love trellises made from natural materials on hand like this wood, likely fished out from the lake.

Salvia amistad.

Here is another plant that currently grows in my desert garden – Salvia amistad.

Million Bells (Calibrachoa)

Million Bells (Calibrachoa)

Garden Travels: Unexpected Garden Adventures With a Dear Friend

After the long trek from our hotel and exploring the test garden, Andrea and I were content after seeing such beautiful plants, but we were also hot, tired, and hungry.

Garden Travels: Unexpected Garden Adventures With a Dear Friend

Thankfully, we found this wonderful restaurant a couple of blocks away. The food and service were fabulous, so we came back again for dinner.

I invite you to visit Andrea’s blog where she writes about her adventures gardening in Perth, Australia. Please come back to join me for day two of our adventure where we discover another garden – this one filled with edible plants along with whimsical garden signs.

Book Review: Potted, DIY Stylish Garden Containers

Disclosure: This blog post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). Thanks for your support in this way.

Do you have a container, or two, filled with flowers or maybe a succulent? Chances are you do. Many of us settle for the bland shades of brown or beige when choosing pots and miss out on an excellent opportunity to add interest and color to our outdoor spaces.

I am a strong proponent ditching boring neutrals in favor of colorful pots with unique shapes and textures in my ongoing attempt to encourage people to think of plant containers as outdoor decor. As a result, I was thrilled with I was contacted by Annette Gutierrez, one of the authors of Potted: Make Your Own Stylish Garden Containers and asked to review her book.

Innertube from an old tire converted into a planter at the Tucson Botanical Garden.

Innertube from an old tire converted into a planter at the Tucson Botanical Garden.

Within the pages of Potted, Annette and her co-author, Mary Gray, inspire as they show the reader how to create unique and unusual containers that create instant interest.

During my garden travels, I seek everyday items that are reimagined and converted into unorthodox planters such as a recycled tire innertube. 

Book Review: Potted, DIY Stylish Garden Containers

Annette and Mary refer to themselves as decorators rather than gardeners and own a store in Los Angeles, aptly named Potted where they create innovative receptacles for plants using everyday items such as cinderblock, PVC pipe, and even old wood doors to name but a few. 

Book Review: Potted, DIY Stylish Garden Containers

If you have ever shopped for colorful or unique containers, you’ve undoubtedly experienced sticker shock at the high prices and settled for a boring, but sturdy terra-cotta pot. Over twenty container ideas await the reader, each of which, meet the following criteria:

  • It must be affordable
  • Materials must be easy to find
  • A good DIY project for the average person

I must admit that after finishing the book, I was looking at ordinary items like paint cans and plastic garbage pails in a different light – decorated and filled with plants.

I can hardly wait to get started! How about you?

Disclosure: I received a copy of ‘Potted’ free of charge for my honest review.

A Rusted Pick-Up, Trash Can Containers and a Kitchen Garden

Do you love hummingbirds?  Maybe a better question would be, who doesn’t?

Hummingbird feeding from an ocotillo flower

Hummingbird feeding from an ocotillo flower.

Attracting hummingbirds to your garden isn’t hard to do by simply adding flowering plants, rich in nectar that they are attracted to.

Female Anna's hummingbird at my feeder

Female Anna’s hummingbird at my feeder.

But, what if your garden space is small or non-existent?  Is a hanging a hummingbird feeder your only option?

 hummingbird garden

Well, I’m here to tell you that space needn’t keep you from having your own hummingbird garden – all you have to do is to downsize it creating one in a container.

If you have a small patio, stoop or even a balcony, you can create your own mini-hummingbird garden in a container.

hummingbird garden

For those of you who have think you have no space at all, look up!  

Hanging containers

Hanging containers or window boxes are a great option for those short on garden space.

Whether you have small garden space or simply want to increase the amount of hummingbirds visiting your existing garden – creating a mini-hummingbird garden in a container is a great way to do it.

Let’s get started.

Here are the elements of a hummingbird container garden:

hummingbird container garden

LOCATION:

hummingbird container garden

– Select a location that receives at least 6 hours of sun a day.

Group containers together for greater color impact, which increases the chances of hummingbird visits.  

– Place containers in areas where you can view the visiting hummingbirds such as an entry, near a window or a back patio.

– Make sure that the containers are visible and allow easy access for hummingbirds to fly in and out.

CONTAINERS:

hummingbird container garden

– The type of container isn’t important – but drainage is.  Make sure pots have holes for drainage.  

– Select colorful pots for a welcome splash of color (optional).

– Larger pots will stay moister longer, therefore needing to be water less frequently.

SOIL:

hummingbird container garden

– Use a planting mix (not potting soil), which is specially formulated for container plants since it holds onto just the right amount of moisture without becoming soggy like potting soil can.

hummingbird container garden
– For large containers, save money on expensive planting mix (soil) by filling the bottom third of the container with recycled plastic water bottles and/or milk jugs.
 
WHAT PLANT WHERE?
hummingbird garden

While hummingbirds don’t care how you arrange plants in your mini-hummingbird garden

– you can certainly arrange plants.

– Place the tallest plant in the center, surrounded with medium-sized filler plants interspersed with trailing ground covers. 

hummingbird container garden

This planter has the tallest plant (Salvia) located in the center with mid-sized purple coneflower  next to it with ‘Wave’ petunias spilling over the outside.  

Grab my FREE guide for Fuss-Free Plants that thrive in a hot, dry climate!

COLOR:

A hummingbird’s favorite color is red, although they will visit flowers of all colors as long as they are rich in nectar.

However, let’s explore color in regards to creating a beautiful container and figuring out what color combos look best.

color wheel

To this, we will need to visit our friend, the color wheel.

hummingbird garden

– To achieve a soft blending of colors, select plants with flower colors that are next to each other on the color wheel.

hummingbird garden

– For a striking contrast, pair flowers with colors that occur on opposite ends of the color wheel.

HUMMINGBIRD ATTRACTING PLANTS:

Salvia coccinea

Salvia coccinea

– Hummingbirds are drawn to flowers that have a tubular shape.

Hummingbird feeding from the yellow flower of aloe vera.

Hummingbird feeding from the yellow flower of aloe vera.

– The color red is their favorite, but as stated earlier, they will visit flowers of all colors.

Young hummingbird feeding from a lantana flower.

Young hummingbird feeding from a lantana flower.

– They tend to prefer flowers with little to no fragrance since their sense of smell is poor.

hummingbird container garden.

– Plants belonging to the Salvia genus are all very popular with hummingbirds and are a safe choice when creating a hummingbird container garden. 

Soap aloe flowers

Soap aloe flowers.

– Flowering succulents are also often visited by hummingbirds as well.

Rufous hummingbird feeding from the flower of a red hot poker plant

Rufous hummingbird feeding from the flower of a red hot poker plant.

– There are helpful online resources with lists of plants that attract hummingbirds.  Here are two helpful ones:

The Hummingbird Society’s Favorite Hummingbird Flowers

Top 10 Hummingbird Flowers and Plants from Birds & Blooms Magazine

– Other helpful resources are your local botanical garden, master gardener or nursery professional.

hummingbird attracting plants

Another bonus to planting hummingbird attracting plants is that many of the same flowers attract butterflies too.

CARE:

container plants

The key to maintaining healthy container plants lies in proper watering and fertilizing.

Let’s look at watering first:

– Water containers when the top 2 inches of soil are barely moist.  You can stick your finger into the soil to determine how dry the soil is.  

– Water until the water flows out the bottom of the container.

– The frequency of watering will vary seasonally.

Fertilizing is important for container plants – even plants that don’t normally require fertilizer when planted in the ground will need it if in a container.

– Fertilize with a slow-release fertilizer, which lasts 3 months.

The key to maintaining healthy container plants lies in proper watering and fertilizing.

Let’s look at watering first:

– Water containers when the top 2 inches of soil are barely moist.  You can stick your finger into the soil to determine how dry the soil is.  

– Water until the water flows out the bottom of the container.

– The frequency of watering will vary seasonally.

Fertilizing is important for container plants – even plants that don’t normally require fertilizer when planted in the ground will need it if in a container.

– Fertilize with a slow-release fertilizer, which lasts 3 months.

 container plants

Don’t be afraid to look outside the box when it comes to what can be used as a container.

 container plants

An old wheelbarrow makes a great container after a making a few holes in the bottom for drainage. *While marigolds don’t attract hummingbirds, there are a few dianthus in this planter that do.

Hummingbirds love water

Hummingbirds love water!

hummingbirds

Add a water feature in a container that will surely attract nearby hummingbirds.

hummingbirds

Add places for hummingbirds to perch nearby or within the container itself.  

This little black-chinned hummingbird was perfectly at home perching on a lady’s slipper (Pedilanthus macrocarpus) stem that was growing in a container.

You can always add a small, dead tree branch within the container itself for a convenient perching spot.

As you can see, the amount (or lack of) garden space doesn’t need to limit your ability to attract hummingbirds using beautiful, flowering plants.

****************************

I spoke about small space gardening at the Hummingbird Festival 2015, and it was an unforgettable experience, filled with educational talks, beautiful gardens and observing hummingbirds up close – I even got to hold one!  To read more about my adventures with hummingbirds, click here.

I hope that you are inspired to create your own mini-hummingbird habitat in a container.

**Do you have a favorite plant that attracts lots of hummingbirds?  Please share them in the comments section.

swimming pool

Have you ever encountered this landscaping challenge? This blank wall is rather boring, and the home behind it dominates the view. So what would you do to fix these problems?

I faced this dilemma last month at a client’s home. The pool was the main focal point of the landscape, and the dull wall wasn’t doing it any favors. In coming up with a solution, we had to select a plant that was relatively low-litter, due to the proximity to the pool and that looked attractive throughout the entire year because of the high-profile location.

evergreen shrub , Hop Bush (Dodonaea viscosa)

Hop Bush (Dodonaea viscosa)

I recommended adding three hop bush (Dodonaea viscosa). These are tall, evergreen shrubs that thrive in arid climates such as ours. 

swimming pool

One of the many things that I love about them is their versatility. They thrive in full sun and light shade, and can be allowed to grow up to 12 feet tall, or maintained at a lower height.

Hop bush , evergreen shrub

Hop bush can be allowed to grow to their natural shape…

evergreen shrub

…or pruned more formally.

evergreen shrub

For the area behind the pool, I recommend having it grow to its full height, which will help provide privacy while the attractive foliage will add a welcome screen of green throughout the year.

evergreen shrub

evergreen shrubs Hop bush flowers

Hop bush does produce light green, papery flowers in spring, but they aren’t particularly showy. So, we need to add a color element to the area behind the pool.

colored containers

One of my favorite ways to add color to any landscape is to incorporate brightly colored containers in shade of blue, purple, or orange. That way, whether plants are in bloom or not, there is always a bright splash of color.

colored containers

For this area, I recommended adding 3 blue pots, equally spaced.

Now it was time to decide what to plant in each pot. The client wanted a low-maintenance choice that wouldn’t require a lot of water.

Blue Elf'

Immediately, I remembered touring a landscape that had blue containers filled with ‘Blue Elf’ aloe. Even though the aloe had finished blooming for the year, their spiky blue-gray foliage added nice color contrast.

Aloe vera

This small aloe is one of my favorite succulents for several reasons. First, it begins to bloom in late winter, lasting into spring adding welcome color to cool-season landscapes. Hummingbirds can’t resist the flowers either.

Aloe vera

This aloe is best showcased when grouped together and thrives in full sun, unlike most aloe which prefer filtered shade. Finally, it is hardy to 15 degrees F. so cold winters seldom bother it.

colored containers

And so, here is the planting that I suggested to my client that will provide year round beauty and privacy.

*Do you have a favorite plant or group of plants that you like to use against bare walls?

Visit to a Client’s Desert Garden

Hummingbird Container Garden

Hummingbird Container Garden

Part 3 of the tour of my back garden looks at my favorite flowering shrubs, a hummingbird container garden, and a peek at a part of my garden that few people get to see.

I hope that you enjoyed the tour of my garden. Admittedly, it isn’t fancy, but neither am I. It reflects much about my personality – rather carefree, not fussy, and lover of color. My hope is that you will find some inspiration for your own outdoor space.

If you haven’t had a chance to view the other videos of my garden, here is Part 1 as well as Part 2

February is what I like to call a ‘bridge’ month.  In regards to work, it is a transition month for me.  It is the month between January, when work slows down as it’s cold with not much is growing and March, when the weather is delightfully warm and everybody seemingly wants to redo their landscape.  If I could choose the perfect month in terms of work load, it would be February.

Landscape Dilemma: Colorful Container Before and After Landscape

Landscape Dilemma ,Colorful Container Before and After Landscape

Last week, I was visiting one of my favorite clients whose landscape has been a work in progress.  The backyard was finished last year and now, it was time to pay attention to the front.  Of course, I took a few minutes to see how things were doing in the back and my attention was immediately drawn to this colorful container filled with colorful succulents.  The orange stems of ‘Sticks on Fire’ Euphorbia adds welcome color to the garden throughout the year while elephant’s food (Portulacaria afra) trails down the side of the pot.  

I am a strong proponent of using colorful pots filled with low-maintenance succulents in the garden.  Why mess with flowering annuals if you can enjoy vibrant color without the high maintenance?  

Full disclosure: I do have a couple of pots filled with petunias, but the vast majority are filled with succulents 😉

Landscape Dilemma: Colorful Container Before and After Landscape

Landscape Dilemma

One of the most rewarding parts of my job is assisting my clients with their landscape dilemma.  Often, the solution is much simpler than the client imagined.  Last fall, I visited this home which had a large, shallow depression that was filled with dying agave.  The interesting thing was that there was no obvious reason for its presence as no water drained into it.  It definitely wasn’t what the client wanted in this high-profile area.

Landscape Dilemma: Colorful Container Before and After Landscape

So what would be a good solution for this area?   The client wanted to plant a large saguaro cactus in this area, but didn’t want to add a lot of plants.  My recommendation was to get rid of the dying agave and turn the depression into an attractive feature of the garden. 

Landscape Dilemma: Colorful Container Before and After Landscape

This is what it looks like now.  Filling the area with rip-rap rock, adds both a texture and color contrasting element to the landscape. Well-placed boulders with a century plant (Agave americana), Mexican fence post (Stenocereus marginatus), and golden barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii) help to break up the large expanse of the shallow depression with their spiky and globular shapes.  Finally, a saguaro cactus was added, which stands sentinel over this renovated area.  

One would never imagine that this part of landcape hadn’t been planned this way when it was first planted years ago.

Valentine's Day

Lastly, February is all about Valentine’s Day.  I sent my granddaughter a care package filled with goodies for Valentine’s Day.  Dinosaur cards for her classmates, a little craft, a hanging mobile, stickers, and of course chocolates – all with a Valentine theme.  

For me, Valentine’s day comes with mostly great memories.  As a child, I looked forward to handing out Valentines to my classmates and getting them in return.  During teenage years, there was one particularly memorable one when I was 17 years old.  My boyfriend didn’t get me anything, however, another boy gave me a card and a flower, which was some consulation.  And to finish off that infamous Valentine’s Day, I came down the chicken pox that very day.  Guess who also got the chicken pox?  The boyfriend who forgot Valentine’s Day.  Now, I look forward spending the 14th with the main man in my life, who after 31 years, still makes me feel special.

*What do you do to celebrate Valentine’s Day?  

Cactus Flowers Color the Desert Landscape

Colorful containers at Civano Nursery, Tucson

Photo: Colorful containers at Civano Nursery, Tucson

Does your garden have a case of the ‘blahs’?

One of the most frequent desires for homeowners that I meet with is more colorful interest for their outdoor spaces.  One of the easiest ways to add a splash of color to the garden is introducing brightly colored pots.

Colorful containers at Civano Nursery, Tucson

Photo: Colorful containers at Civano Nursery, Tucson

There are some situations where adding color using flowering plants is difficult, particularly when there is a lot of shade as most plants won’t bloom in heavy shade. 

Colorful containers at Civano Nursery, Tucson

My favorite solution for that problem is to plant a shade-loving succulent in a colorful pot such as elephant’s food (Portulacaria afra).

Colorful containers at Civano Nursery, Tucson

Adding a color element to a shady entry is just one of the many ways to use vibrant pots to add colorful interest year round.  In my latest Houzz article, I share a number of ways how you can utilize pots as a decorative element to the garden.

Creative Container Gardening Tips

Did you know that one of the great things about living in the Southwest is the fact that we aren’t limited to just growing flowering annuals in our pots – succulents make great alternative container plants!

Last year, I replaced all of my flowering plants with succulents and I haven’t looked back.  They look great and take very minimal care, which fits into my busy life perfectly.

Recently, I visited the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix and saw some great examples of potted succulents, which I thought I’d share with you…

Succulents in pot, Victoria Agave 'Compacta'

Succulents in pot, Victoria Agave ‘Compacta’

Succulents in pot, Agave parryi 'truncata'

Succulents in pot, Agave parryi ‘truncata’

Succulents in pot, Mexican Fence Post (Pachycereus marginatus)

Succulents in pot, Mexican Fence Post (Pachycereus marginatus)

A trio of variegated agave

A trio of variegated agave

Succulents in pot, 'Blue Elf' Aloe

Succulents in pot, ‘Blue Elf’ Aloe

As you can see, there are so many options when you decide to use succulents in containers.

Whether you live near the Desert Botanical Garden or even if you don’t – you can visit your local botanical garden for some alternative ideas for filling your containers.

Growing succulents in pot is easy – the most important thing is that they are well-drained, so it’s important to use a planting mix specially formulated for succulents.

Do you have any succulents growing in pots?

This is my last post on unique containers.  To date, we have looked at containers on four, two and one wheels, one that fits on your feet as well as some ‘trashy’ ones as well.

Today, I’d like to show you two containers that you shouldn’t sit on.

Chair planter in Downtown Noblesville, Indiana.

Chair planter in Downtown Noblesville, Indiana.

I saw these two chair planters sitting in front of a gift shop in downtown Noblesville, Indiana.

The seat of these old chairs have been taken out and a planter, much like those you would use for hanging baskets were inserted into each empty seat.

This type of whimsical planting is fun and hopefully people won’t make the mistake of sitting them.

Note that in dry climates, like Arizona and other desert climates – you can do this in the cooler months of winter and spring, but not in the summer.  The roots would literally ‘cook’ in the hot temperatures.

I hope you have enjoyed seeing some of my favorite unique containers that I have encountered on my travels.

I have found a unique container of my own on a recent trip to Minnesota that I can’t wait to plant in fall once the temperatures cool.  I’ll be sure to share it with you!

Indiana, Illinois and Abe Lincoln