Find your own recycled inspiration

[attach]5762[/attach]“You don’t have to spend a lot of money to make something beautiful,” says Sara Jameson, owner of Sweetpea’s on Roncesvalles Avenue.

When I spoke to her at last month’s Canada Blooms show, this young, up-and-coming florist, landscaper and graphic designer (how can all that talent be wrapped up in someone so unassuming?) had just won two awards for her cityscape garden, “Perfect Corner of Toronto”, which was centred around Roncesvalles neighbourhood icons such as bicycle stands, streetcar stop signs and construction cones.

For her landscape and floral designs, Jameson uses objects that she finds anywhere from garage sales to local salvage shops.

For example, when Granowska’s bakery closed up shop, she scooped up well-seasoned muffin tins and cake pans and decided to showcase them in iron-footed, glass-domed cake stands that were the highlight of one of her three exhibits at Canada Blooms.

Jameson is one of several young designers to breathe new life into salvaged and found objects. Landscape architect Victoria Taylor and Ecoman’s Jonas Spring collaborated on a horticultural installation at Canada Blooms using concrete rubble and lighting “fixtures” made from galvanized tin reclaimed from barns and other country outbuildings.

The light from these fixtures shoots out from holes made by honest-to-goodness shotgun blasts. As random as these blasts look, the placement of the fixtures among the concrete rubble is nothing but thoughtful.

Like all good art, it took lots of planning, experimentation and practice for Taylor and Spring to place each piece of broken concrete carefully, arrange each buckshot fixture and plant each clump of flowers to achieve a look of random abandonment for their “Concrete Blooms Bursts” installation.

[attach]5763[/attach]Ideas for reusing what’s at hand were also percolating in the mind of Robert Boltman of Bsq. Landscape Design Studio.

He found ways to rethink wooden pallets, fashioning them into vertical planters sprouting lettuce and other leafy greens as well as walkways and walls for a two-storey “Plug and Play” pallet garden, complete with penthouse patio.

All of these new ideas for reusing old stuff got me thinking about how to bring out the best in cast-off objects.

All last season I worried about how to hide the ramshackle wall of a neighbouring garage. Boltman’s pallet idea would be a brilliant solution. I could create a screen of pallets lashed together and painted to match the colour of the pergola and deck in my backyard.

The pallet screen would look like it’s always been there, and hey, I could plant it up with some ferns to accent the shady corner. And is there room for a rubble garden in our yards? If we can build trough gardens of hypertufa, we can create small berms of concrete bits and pieces and plant them up with succulents and cacti for a miniature desert landscape.

And as for those bashed and baffed construction cones that Jameson used in her Canada Blooms display garden, they would make terrific obelisks for climbing vines.

There’s plenty of potential in the ordinary objects all around us — all we need is a little imagination and a sense of adventure to transform them into uniquely personal garden elements.

Combing the streets for cast-offs, Lorraine Flanigan writes from her home in the South Eglinton neighbourhood of Toronto.