Found Objects & Gardens
Gather found objects, add infinite imagination and create whimsical gardens like none other. That is the premise that inspires Jason Reeves, horticulturist and research associate at the University of Tennessee in Jackson, where he strives to get people outdoors and into the garden.
“I was a collector as a child — things like shells, bottles, stamps — and I guess I never outgrew that,” Reeves said. Now, as an adult, his passion for finding and displaying like objects in unusual ways intrigues thousands to visit U.T./Jackson’s research gardens every July during the community Field Day. Reeves’ quirky Field Day themes, which typically vary year to year, might motivate Richmonders to create their own one-of-a-kind garden vignettes.
Glass bottles: Empty bottles, multicolored and multisized, can be creatively displayed on garden walls or spread across the landscape on decorative “bottle trees.” The bottles come alive with color as the sun illumines them during the day or when spotlighted at night. Just be sure to properly clean and carefully mount the bottles to avoid pests and accidental breakage.
Neckties: The “All Tied Up into Gardening” theme scatters recycled neckties throughout the landscape in innovative ways, such as on bamboo supports, tied to fences or woven among arbor lattices. Old neckties are super easy to find and install, plus fun to watch as they flutter in the breeze. The gaudier, brighter and more unusual the neckties, perhaps the better! They provide garden color and interest, as well as fodder for conversation.
Mailboxes: Miscellaneous mailboxes, scattered around the garden, can be customized with plantings and props to demonstrate such interests as fishing, farming or travel. The list of plants, posted inside the mailbox, subtly educates those who pass by.
Indoor rooms outdoors: Antique cookstoves, pots and pans and other household items can be displayed together as themed “garden rooms.” Reclaimed kitchen sinks and bathtubs can double as interesting plant containers, and recycled furniture and other decoratives can be added according to versatility and availability. Plant selection offers another avenue for creativity. The result is a fascinating garden that gives interior objects a unique exterior flair.
Bicycles: Bikes can be mounted high on assorted structures, as if flying, and then planted with vines. Leftover wheels from bicycles can be attached to poles and then festooned with colorful, flowering vines that accentuate the spokes.
Ideas like these “get people excited so they’ll support local nurseries and businesses,” Reeves said. “It also makes their own landscape more attractive … adds enjoyment to their lives … and reflects your personality.”
As for being a little different than the formal gardens typically found in Richmond? Reeves offered this advice: “Just don’t worry about what the neighbors think.”
Editor’s Note: This article first published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.