Rustic Garden Inspiration

Welcome Wildlife
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Gorgeous Gate

Gorgeous Gate

Giving cast-off items a new lease on life in your garden is a lot of fun. Here, a rusty formal metal gate gets a country makeover when it's hung between two reclaimed barn timbers and under an old saw.

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Country Kennel

Country Kennel

Instead of an unsightly chain-link kennel, why not enclose your pet with a handsome fence made from old lumber? In this garden, a low, rustic fence was created around an old brick patio to prevent the family's Labrador retriever from straying. Thick beds of daylilies add color and help discourage the dog from digging.

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Block a View


Turn a ho-hum garage or shed into a work of art by adding a collection of your favorite vintage items. Here, the back of a garage gets a face-lift with a pretty and practical potting bench, old garden tools, metal advertising signs, and pots of colorful flowers.

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Dining Outdoors -- Salvage Style

Dining Outdoors -- Salvage Style

You don't need expensive outdoor furniture to make a great impression. For example, this inviting set of table and chairs was rescued from a nearby street on "junk day." Instead of being hauled to the landfill, they were put to good use on a brick patio. A vintage crystal chandelier (look for them at a local antique stores) complements the chipped metal furniture.

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Pick a Palette

Pick a Palette, flowers

Keep color in mind as you add rustic elements to your garden. Beds and borders should look color coordinated, not a busy gumbo of competing elements. For example, this small garden has a lot going on visually, but it still pleases the eye because only blue-and-yellow-flowering spring bulbs and annuals were chosen.

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Go Galvanized


New or vintage galvanized tubs, troughs, or livestock feeders make wonderful planters that give any deck or patio an instant country look. Just be sure to drill holes in the bottom of your container before you plant to ensure good drainage. This tub becomes a miniature landscape with drifts of blue viola and large stones set around a dwarf hemlock.

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Branch Out

Branch Out

Twigs and branches from pliable species such as willow or birch can be woven into a wide variety of garden projects, giving them rustic appeal. Here, a sturdy arbor was created with weather-resistant cedar logs covered with a roof of bent willow twigs. Try it yourself!

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Have Some Fun

watering cans

When you're scouting flea markets and garage sales, keep an eye out for anything that might add a little fun your backyard. Here, for example, a collection of fanciful, children's watering cans makes a delightful addition to this backyard. It's also a reminder that clustering like objects together is an important aspect of good design.

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Make Your Own Antiques


Finding rustic architectural elements for your garden can sometimes be a challenge. For example, the owners of this garden could not find a vintage metal fence long enough for their border. So, they purchased this new metal fence and had the paint sandblasted off to create an instant antique. The ornamental pieces on the fence posts are actually trailer hitch balls that were also sandblasted.

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Pave Your Way


Give your garden a rustic look with old bricks or cobblestones. Often cheaper than new pavers, old brick comes with an instant patina of moss, lichens, chips, dents, and often manufacturer's marks. Here, a vintage brick garden path was given additional interest with a series of irregular flagstones.

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Give Old Tools New Life

garden tools

Vintage garden tools are a common, and inexpensive, garage-sale find. Don't pass by any that might be too rusty or broken for work in your garden. Instead, use them to decorate a shed or fence. Better yet, hang them on a wall and grow annual vines, such as morning glory or black-eyed Susan up their handles. Here, a collection of worn out rakes, shovels, and other tools are attached to a lattice screen that supports flowering vines in the summer.

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Take a Seat

Take a Seat

An icon of the American landscape, steel garden furniture has been popular since the 1950s. Available in a host of shapes and colors, metal chairs, benches, and gliders were an important element of porch and garden design. Today, these vintage pieces of furniture can be found at garage sales and flea markets, still retaining their beauty and practicality. Here, cushions added to a pair of red classic chairs make them even more comfortable.

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Recycle a Greenhouse


The old saying "one man's junk is another man's treasure" was never truer than when this colorful greenhouse/shed was constructed. Built almost entirely from castoff window sashes, doors, and lumber, the homeowners gave it a bright coat of paint to tie the project together. The finished project looks terrific and cost a fraction of what a new shed or greenhouse would cost.

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Plant Some Porcelain


Discarded sinks and leaky garden fountains can find a second life in your garden as attractive planters. And they add instant architectural interest. Most already have a drainage hole, so all you need to do is plant and water. In this garden, a rusted (and leaky) garden fountain is now awash in colorful succulents.

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Table Your Treasures

Table Your Treasures

Display your favorite garden treasures on a table that's as interesting as they are. Here, a beat-up butcher-block table coated in peeling silver paint provides sturdy and eye-catching support for a collection of porcelain planters packed with herbs and vegetables.

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Buckets of Bloom

Buckets of Bloom

One of the best ways to show off your favorite flowers is to plant them in galvanized pails of different colors. Old, galvanized pails and buckets are easy to come by at flea markets and are generally inexpensive. Punch a few drainage holes in the bottom of each pail and get planting. This trio of petunia-filled pails is stair-stepped on low stones to create a pleasing vignette.

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Welcome Wildlife

Welcome Wildlife

Colorful songbirds will flock to your garden when you add a rustic birdhouse to your garden. Hole-nesting species such as bluebirds and wrens actually prefer houses with a weathered patina as long as the house is structurally sound. Just be sure to erect vintage houses with an opening large enough for the birds you are trying to attract. Bluebirds, for example, need a hole 1.5 inches in diameter while wrens prefer an entrance 1.8 inches wide. Here, a vintage wren house sits atop a trellis covered in morning glories.

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