Found Garden Art: Dishes can become daffodils

— Photo from Denise Maurer

Two moons: Lamp globes illuminated by Christmas lights create a magical nighttime garden.

Master Gardener Denise Maurer turns found items into garden art, and teaches others to do the same.

“I teach people how to look at objects in a different way — how to use them in specific areas,” she said.

Maurer owns Denise Maurer Interiors in Troy, an interior design company with the motto “Just Imagine Extraordinary.” She describes herself as an interior decorator with a passion for family, gardening, and living the good life. She uses her Master Gardener status well as she teaches classes through Cornell Cooperative Extension that involve art and creativity.

Maurer teaches a variety of methods to create art in the garden, including building garden totems, artful entrances, mosaic spheres, and vertical structures made from sticks and stones to draw the eye.

“You can use your art to create a map of your garden,” Maurer said, “using two objects to define an entrance.”

Art can be placed beyond the garden path to lead a visitor through the space, she said. Or, she said, art can be placed nearby to bring a focus up close.

Maurer likes to create garden totems, like totem poles, that use a lot of different glass pieces, she said, which vary according to how colors and textures are put together.

“You can do totems with ceramic pieces, such as china sets that are no longer useful,” she said.

Old china can also be made into garden flowers. A plate and a sugar bowl can become a daffodil, she said, or a fluted candy dish can be mounted on top of a garden-art flower.

Maurer used natural elements like sticks and stones and stacks them into animals or other sculpted shapes. On a simpler level, she uses old branches, painted, and sets them up in a vertical orientation, she said.

“You could cluster sticks into the ground. Paint them bright colors, add dots, or twist rope around them for another element,” she said.

Maurer also likes to use outdated tools, painting the handles with vivid colors.


— Photo from Denise Maurer
“Inspiration can come from anything when you keep an open mind and get into your inner child,” says Denise Maurer. Here a bottle tree looks splendid with a climbing vine. “I also want to point out that blogs, Pinterest and YouTube all have ideas to share and often with tutorials” she said.


In her classes, she teaches techniques for creating garden spheres out of old bowling balls. The large spheres can be covered in pennies or old, unwanted jewelry. Ceramics can also be used to cover the balls as a mosaic, she said.

On a larger scale, garden art with found objects can include the mundane, like hula hoops or old bicycle wheels. Using three sizes of wheels, Maurer will spray paint them different colors.

“Elevate them on wood, so it’s another sculpture,” she said.

Her Pinterest pages, under the name Denise Maurer Interiors, are full of ideas for garden art, do-it-yourself garden art, and fairy gardens, she said. She shares her love of gardening and art in her classes, and includes concepts from many themes, she said.

“The opportunity to reuse things is such a learning point for people — it’s educational, artistic, and useful,” she said.

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