Make Your Own Garden Fancies

Wondering what to do with a cupboard full of once-loved dishware or tops from canisters and bowls long ago separated from their mates? Learn how to repurpose these treasures into whimsical garden art called garden fancies.

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    Netta Broughton and Judy Humphries show how to make Garden Fancies that bring new life to old dishes from your cupboards -- or fun, inexpensive pitchers, plates, and vases from flea markets and thrift stores. Follow these simple steps to select, seal, and stack pieces to create unique garden accents.

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    Gather Materials

    Begin by pulling an array of items from your cupboards, setting aside pieces that Netta and Judy made this garden fancy from finds at charitable organizations and secondhand stores. It's dinner-plate wide and about 20 inches high. Each piece is in scale with the other, making it stable. The complementary colors of orange and brown, with a mushroom motif, would provide a refreshing pop of color in a woodland garden.

    For this example, Netta and Judy used the following:
    • Bread plate
    • Pitcher
    • Mushroom-motif canister
    • Candleholder
    • Dinner plate
    • Level
    • Silicone glue (salant)
    • Sandpaper block
    • Cleaning supplies to remove dirt or glue from price stickers.

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    Prepare and Seal

    Clean each piece, removing grease and dirt, as well as any stickers or glue. Prior to sealing pieces together, stack them in the desired arrangement. Then seal the second piece to the bottom piece with silicone glue, ensuring the glue bead is continuous.

    Tip:
    Firing ceramic often leaves a rough edge at the bottom of the piece. Lightly sand this area to allow for better adhesion between pieces.

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    Seal and Stack

    Seal the glued piece to the center of its base piece, then repeat with other pieces, continuing to seal and stack each one.

    Tip:
    Carefully center each piece before stacking. If a piece is off-center, quickly remove it, clean off the glue, and try again.

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    Check the Level

    Using a level, check each piece as you stack. If a piece isn't level, slightly turn it to adjust. If left uncorrected, your garden fancy won't be plumb.

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    Place Your Fancy Outdoors

    Take your artwork to the garden to find the perfect home for it. To view more of Netta and Judy's garden fancies, check out the following slides. Also enjoy how their garden fancies complement the plants in Georgina and Denny Werner's Raleigh garden. Georgina is a horticulturist and a garden art enthusiast, while Denny is a plant breeder at North Carolina State University.

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    Fancy #2

    A bowl and large and small vases, each turned upside down, plus a couple of plates and a ceramic apple on top make a charming garden fancy. Measuring about 28 inches tall, the red-and-purple creation nestles next to summer wisteria (Millettia taiwaniana), a perennial in zones 7b and warmer, for an excellent pairing.

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    Fancy #3

    A primarily pale yellow-and-green garden fancy tucked in with an annual red-and-yellow lantana is a study in contrast. Made from plates, a lamp base, a candleholder, a bathroom glass, and a lid from a once-loved trinket box, the 23-inch-tall piece of art adds a soft touch to the garden scene.

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    Fancy #4

    Rich green tones draw the eye to this garden fancy. Cold-hardy 'Moonbeam' coreopsis and the 22-1/2-inch-tall garden art made with plates, a candlestick, a vase, a tea-light candleholder, and a little bird create a classy coupling.

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    Fancy #5

    Winkler's blanketflower, (Gaillardia aestivalis var. winkleri), stands proud next to a 33-inch-tall birdbath made from plates, a lamp base, a saucer, and a bird box -- a welcome sight for gardeners and birds alike.

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    Fancy #5

    Plates, a teapot, a vase, a fancy dish, and a floral perfume bottle stack up to create a garden fancy about 20 inches tall. A hydrangea, red fountaingrass, and pink petunia appear to be paying homage to this nifty design.

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    Fancy #6

    To keep water from entering this teapot, Netta and Judy glued white dressmaker pins into the spout. The pins also add a fanciful detail to the piece's overall design. For larger openings, let your creativity be your guide: Use marbles, ball bearings, or even round shank buttons with the back loop glued and inserted inside the opening, leaving only the ornamental side of the button showing.

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