Turn ‘junk’ into garden whimsy

Janice Wells
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Whenever I go out of town, I invariably have computer problems. This would not even be an issue except that the only reason I ever go near a computer when I’m out of town is to write this column.

This morning, Sister-in-Law tried to get me set up on her laptop with Windows 8 and that was less than successful, due in part I assured her, to my electrical field, which has always caused perfectly well-behaved equipment to start doing strange things when I come near.

She eventually got me all set up on her desktop before we were going to depart for a little garden visiting. All was looking good.

Her car wouldn’t start. She insisted it wasn’t my electrical field but I’m not so sure.

So I sit here, waiting for Newman to come and rescue us, itching to get out into some gardens before the forecast thunderstorm hits. What are the odds, considering how the day is going so far?

Three hours later … our luck turned; no rain but mitts wouldn’t have gone astray. We visited gardens of pure whimsy in Happy Adventure and Cull’s Harbour and also saw some fabulous rhododendrons and azaleas. True to form, I can’t upload my pictures until I get home but S-i-L had her trusty notebook/camera along and those I can access now.

Whimsy can be a wonderful thing in a garden, as can any kind of architectural structure. The “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure” rule applies in gardens even more than in houses, because with a little creativity, something that really isn’t fit for the house anymore can be repurposed into an interesting garden feature.

Sometimes it’s as simple as sticking an old chair back down into the soil; sometimes more ingenuity and work is required, but you alway get the sense that it was a labour of love and you always know that you’ve seen something unique.

I’ve seen some sights in gardens that my grandfather would have described as wonderful strange. I remember some particular ones in Nova Scotia, P.E.I., Scotland and Austria, but there’s no doubt in my mind that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians can hold our own with anyone when it comes to ingenuity, repurposing and wonderful strange.

Of course, we never used to call anything repurposing. There was a time we didn’t even know the word recycling.

In rural areas generations ago things were reused out of necessity; new things and the money to buy them weren’t readily available. Of course nobody was particularly proud of this recycling back then because it implied you were a bit “poor off.” It was like wearing hand-me-down clothes; the well to do didn’t have to, and likewise, wouldn’t have been caught dead with “junk” in their gardens.

My mother was by necessity very careful with money but to think it might actually become stylish to use an old rotting dory as a landscape feature or a rusty headboard as a trellis would have been unbelievable to her.

She might possibly have gone for the headboard but first it would have had to be sanded and painted to within an inch of its life.

But here we are, in the age of proud repurposing and here I am, happily in the process of moving to Heart’s Content some things I’ve been saving for years, waiting for a garden for them to live in (things Newman considers old junk, but what does he know?) Not only that, after a few years of being on the yard sale wagon, I’m now out scouting again, for more useful garden treasures.

Last week Daughter No. 2 spent $10 on a lovely old galvanized coal bucket for her garden and I knew that at least some of my mothering lessons had taken firm hold.

To paraphrase an old country song, “I was repurposing when repurposing wasn’t cool.”

Proud of it, too.          


Janice Wells lives in St. John’s. Her latest book, “Newfoundland and Labrador Book of Musts,” was published in October 2010 by MacIntyre Purcell Publishing Inc. You can reach her at janicew@nf.sympatico.ca.

Organizations: MacIntyre Purcell Publishing

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Scotland, Austria

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Recent comments

  • Sue Langley
    June 30, 2013 - 09:37

    Great article! "Repurposing when repurposing wasn’t cool.” I'm proud of it, too! This is what we DO at Flea Market Gardening, our bust and very friendly Facebook page...Dozens of new garden ideas are posted there daily, all accomplished by the gardener him or herself, so we can ask questions and make comments. If you feel like this article 'resembles' you, please join us there. You'll have fun, too... Sue at FleaMarketGardening.org