Part of a series: Living the Good Life with Chris Olsen
I own a cool store. And I offer many bright and shiny objects for sale, in addition to plants and gardening supplies. But I also think that everything in your landscape does not have to be bought new. While it may seem startling that I’d say such a thing, it really isn’t. After all, I’m in the landscape business, and what is a garden anyway? It’s a mass of energy, color, and growth that is always changing, evolving and, above all, renewing itself. Take that idea in stride and look at what you already have. You can redefine an area of your garden by recycling and reimagining something that is maybe stacked away and forgotten, and through repurposing, create a sense of wonder and newness. For example, I needed to define the end of the terrace and patio, but I wanted to create something of interest, so here’s what I did.
You’ll see two brick columns that also serve as fountains. Between them is a piece of wrought iron. The bricks—with that great dusty coating of residual concrete and mortar—are vintage and pulled from a stack left over from a renovation project. I didn’t just want to build another brick wall, but I needed a bit of definition and a border for that area of the garden and patio. Columns would serve the purpose nicely, with a bit of metal for fencing. That way, I wouldn’t have something that was dense or hulking. And, to make the columns truly functional, I left them hollow and installed a fountain system in each. Fountains are pretty easy to use and maintain—these are motorized—and you get that great sound of trickling water. The metal piece between? It’s a leftover from a carport, long gone.
The brick columns aren’t fussy or extravagant. I created a bit of decoration near the top to keep them from being too heavy looking, and it also serves to let air in, so the motor runs well. The spigots are plain copper, which will develop that lovely patina. Because they’re narrow, the columns don’t take advantage of their space, and I can plant right up next to them. I didn’t want anything that looked too groomed or fussy, and I used a combo of strong perennials for foundation, then lots of annual color for a bit of chaos.
In this shot, you can see that bit of iron, which functions as a trellis. The mandevillea pops on the black iron. You can also see the fountain catch basin here. I chose a Vietnamese rain jar glazed in a color that will match the verdigris of the copper fixture. The rusted iron discs behind the jar? Those are lotus, each dusted with a bit of that great oxidized color. You can purchase them at Botanica. If you don’t have a pond large enough for real lotus, then try these.
This photo captures it all: texture, garden bones, repurposed brick, great color, and punctuation with the iron lotus. You can almost hear that water cascading, can’t you? And the plants all seem to have raced as close as they can to be part of it all. Here’s your tip: You’ll want your water to run clear and never appear cloudy in your fountain, so use a couple of chlorine tablets weekly. Dispels algae, hard water build up, and mosquitoes.
You can find new uses for many old objects and architectural remnants. Don’t be afraid to mix them in with your plantings. It’s never just about the plants in your garden; it’s also about how you put everything together and create interesting spaces, maybe where nothing was before. Everything has its purpose, but you can often find more than one purpose for just about anything, so let your garden show how creative you are.
Enjoy every moment in the garden,
Chris H. Olsen