The trick to making someone else’s trash look great in your garden

Garden art runs the gamut from cement nymphs and corten cutouts to high-end sculpture. A clever sub-genre is that of found object art – junk in other words. The trick to turning trash into treasure in the garden is ensuring it’s a harmonious fit with what’s around it.

Victorian-based garden designer Kylie Rose Blake makes magic with vintage stuff and her little wooden cottage and its gardens make a canvas for her witty collections. On one exterior wall is an arrangement of old pump-action fly spray cans in faded colours that complement their developing rust. Around the corner there’s a trio of round mirrors with embossed swans gliding across their slightly foxed surfaces. Look closer and it’s not a couple of swans but a whole bevy, with swan pots and vases, and even a tin with ‘Swan’ on the label, serving as a planter for a begonia.

Kylie Blake uses pieces she’s found to fit seamlessly into her garden.

There’s more to make you smile out in the garden. A cactus garden is planted into abandoned bathware and the wire of the guinea fowl enclosure is adorned with copper jelly moulds. Even Blake’s Hills Hoist attains a sculptural presence when painted black and given an appropriate setting.

She says one of the keys to being a successful collector is having enough storage space where pieces can wait for the missing link that will convert them from waste to wanted.

Not a problem where Blake lives in rural Scarsdale, outside Ballarat in Central Victoria. The location holds the other key to Blake’s success in making found objects into garden art. Her humble farmhouse, crushed granite paths, corrugated iron fencing and sheds are in perfect harmony with her collections, and with the wider landscape.

Peter Shaw’s garden on the Great Ocean Road.

For landscaper Peter Shaw, whose garden is along Victoria’s Great Ocean Road, the appeal of garden art, particularly ephemeral found objects, is the thrill of novelty. He says sculpture offers gardeners an interaction with an established garden that just can’t take any more planting. Consequently, Shaw has a constantly evolving collection of things on the front gate posts, and bits and pieces through the garden that are neither permanent nor precious, yet completely in keeping with the colours and the feel of the garden.

A bundle of pale orange balls he discovered at the local tip have become totems. There are arrangements of wood, and cairns of slate, a teapot on the trellis that’s just the right colour, and a hanging mobile of sea-smoothed beer bottle glass. These art interventions are almost hidden, disguised by the strength of the garden itself.

Peter Shaw’s garden features decorations hidden in among the plants.

Visitors might not even notice a wire female figure twisting around the branch of a tree and extending an arm toward the garden. She is actually the structural skeleton of a concrete sculpture of a swimmer that formerly swam above a pool in the garden of one of Shaw’s clients. They wanted her gone, so Shaw took her home, and now, rid of her concrete clothing, she has found her perfect home swimming through his tree. She might be the spirit of the garden, or at least the muse of found object garden art.

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