Adding Color to the Garden

For me, decorating the garden is just as enjoyable as planting and growing my favorite herbs and flowers.  I love to collect old containers or architectural bits, baskets, even tin washbasins to turn into small fountains and place them strategically where they add to the visual pleasure of me and my visitors.  Admittedly, too much of a good thing is as true here as elsewhere, but you can adopt the Japanese system of storing your treasures and bringing them out to admire one (or two or three) at a time.  Rotating keeps them fresh and lets you enjoy them more.

The more original the decoration the better: sometimes the sense of accomplishment from making an ornament yourself doubles the pleasure.  I’ve always been fascinated with the craft called pique assiette.  Inspired by the work of Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi, it uses pottery shards to create something extraordinary out of something very ordinary.  Popular early in the 20th century as an inexpensive, do-it-yourself  way to use bits of pottery, stones, or shells to create decorative pieces, interest in the craft suddenly soared in the latter part of the 1900’s and continues today.  The great thing about this technique is that it can be applied to just about anything and is relatively simple.   

Start with a small project like a birdhouse or a flower pot, move on to a table top, and when you’re more comfortable with the technique and really want to impress, consider a major project like a bench.  I was amazed and delighted by the colorful garden steps and pot that LInda Williams built in her garden, Marle Place, in Kent, England.  The vivid colors of the shards stood out against the greenery providing a focal point where there were few colorful flowers in the garden.  My next project is going to be covering a terra cotta ball that I’ll be able to set anywhere the garden needs some excitement.

To try your own project you’ll need a good supply of shards, stones, shells or whatever material you plan to use (easier if they’re all approximately the same size); a tile cutter; Thin-Coat, a quick-drying adhesive for tiles; a palette knife and several sizes of putty knives; grout; powdere
d acrylic color for the grout if desired; a damp sponge.

Begin by laying out your design on a piece of paper the same size as the object to be covered. If necessary, use the tile cutter to trim the shards to fit.  Next apply a layer of Thin-Coat to a small section of the object with the palette knife, then firmly press in the shards according to your design.  Continue until the entire piece is covered.  Allow to dry thoroughly. 

Mix the grout according to directions and color with the powdered acrylic if desired.  Using a putty knife, spread the grout over the entire object, working it between the pieces.  Wipe off excess grout with a damp sponge and set aside to dry thoroughly.  When dry, remove any remaining residue of grout with the damp sponge. 

Would love to see what you do.  Send me photos by email or post them on facebook.


Get in touch at emelietolley@aol.com

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© photos Chris Mead; drawings Don Wise, text Emelie Tolley


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