Whimsical Recycled Garden Art

See how one man transformed his backyard into an imaginative and colorful oasis with everyday, cheap plastic materials.

Catie Bielecki


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patio with plastic art
1/23
Do What is Fun

    One-of-a-kind garden art graces an untraditional backyard. Homeowner, Dave, who has a self-professed black thumb, turned to plastic cast-offs, such as Hula hoops, cheap toys, and pot scrubbers, to add color and life to the yard he shares with his wife and three children.

2/23
Giant Plastic Flowers

    In a space between a walkway and concrete wall, where flower beds would traditionally lie, 6-foot plastic flowers on neon tubing sprout from the ground. Multi-colored Hula hoops and a playful mulch of marbles and tumbled glass shards surround the base of each sprouting.

3/23
Glossy Blooms

    Mini mirrored disco balls create sparkly centers for the shiny red, yellow, and orange plastic petals.

4/23
An Inspiration

    Dave's creativity was sparked by his wife's enthusiasm for the whimsical works of Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi. After hearing of her experiences during a trip to Spain, Dave set out to create a mosaic pillar featuring his children's names.

5/23
Mistakes Happen

    Dave worked by moonlight, after his children were in bed, breaking up tile and positioning it on a leftover redwood pillar. He confessed that half the time, he'd later realize he'd laid the tile wrong side down because he couldn't see well in the dark.

6/23
Fanciful Mosaic Animals

    Dave also used his mosaic skills to make whimsical critters and creatures. This lizard-like sculpture is studded with green and silver glass marble tiles. Tiny blue beads surround his bulging red eyeballs and a plastic forked tongue hangs from his grinning mouth.

7/23
Vibrant Sculptures

    This serpent-esque creation is decorated with yellow tiles and grey and white pebbles and slithers along a short rock wall.

8/23
Use Inexpensive Objects

    Dave recommends experimentation. Because there is no set of rules or instructions, you can let your creativity guide you. Also, using cheap materials makes it much less heartbreaking when something doesn't turn out how you'd hoped.

9/23
Bits and Pieces

    Dave finds fun and quirky materials at dollar stores, toy sections of box stores, and through surprising sources, such as road maintenance suppliers. Because he doesn't have any formal art training, Dave finds it works best to let the materials inspire his work.

10/23
An Artist's Workshop

    Over time, Dave has created a colorful studio filled with items he's collected: colorful tubing, bits of cheap bits plastic and glass, marbles, sheets of plastic, and anything that Dave might one day reinvent or reuse in one of his creations.

11/23
Try, Try Again

    "This is all trial and error," Dave says. When melting plastics with a blowtorch didn't work, he turned to an atypical art tool: his barbeque. Some may have raised their eyebrows at his choice, but Dave was much happier with his results.

12/23
Ignore Disapproval

    Dave suggests letting criticism from others roll off your back. In the end, if you feel happy when you step into your backyard, that's what matters. "Believe me," Dave says, "no one has ever said to me, 'Could you come and do this in my yard?'"

13/23
Strength in Numbers

    A collection of orange, lime green, and blue foam noodles pop against a dull wooden fence. Grouping similar pieces together is the key to making a bold impact.

14/23
Plan It Out

    It's also smart to make garden art of various sizes and heights to create layers of visual depth and levels.

15/23
Integrate with the Environment

    There are a few places in Dave's backyard where plastic meets nature. Trees are surrounded by giant mounds of royal blue and green aquarium gravel. Black PVC tubing works as an untraditional border.

16/23
Fun Surprises

    Around a tree, grasses shoot from twisted blue, yellow, and lime green hoses topped with bright pot scrubbers.

17/23
Incorporate a Water Element

    A turquoise, blue, and yellow plastic flower fountain bubbles in one corner of the yard. Striped tubing forms a ring at the base of the design, surrounding a small pool of water.

18/23
Another Touch of Whimsy

    Inexpensive suction cup-studded balls, in pastel shades of pink, yellow, and green, dot the unique fountain.

19/23
Create a Peaceful Corner

    A mosaic circle around the base of a tree provides a cool and shady place to sit. Jagged white tiles surround cute and colorful flowers: teal with orange centers, red with purple centers, and green with yellow centers. A red and yellow border encircles the design.

20/23
Don't Forget Paint

    The bench surrounding a tree on the patio received a different treatment. Each wooden plank was painted alternating shades of jungle green, chartreuse, and yellow-green.

21/23
Unexpected Attention

    Overall, Dave is amused by the interest he's received for his unique garden art, "My wife is the one with the fine arts degree," he laughs, "She's the talented one. She's the one with the taste!"

22/23
A Modest Man

    Many marvel at Dave's imagination, originality, and resourcefulness, but, at the end of the day, he still refuses to call it art. "This is not art. This is just goofiness-- a great big, fun experiment."

23/23
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