Yard art inspiration from Tampa Bay gardeners

koi pond with orange and white koi in foreground. waterfall splashing from front grill of a silver 1995 Buick CenturyHalf the fun of gardening is finding, or creating, yard art to complement all those plants, like this koi pond waterfall created from the front end of a 1995 Buick Century.

It was the vision of Maryhelen Zopfi of Lutz, and the workshop project of her handy husband, Simon. Earlier this month, Maryhelen imagined her swimming pool-turned-koi pond with a cool old car front replacing the wooden bridge and fountain that had been in the spot.

“I looked on the internet and found six car fronts at the junkyard. I knew this was the one I wanted because it had the Buick hood ornament,” she says.

old wooden door painted with with pumpkins painted to look like mural. top half o of door is window. yard art placed in gradeJanice “Pumpkin” Vogt of Seminole Heights found this old door in an alley in her neighborhood. She asked her friend and neighbor, artist Bean Spence, to paint it for her. She paid him in oatmeal cookies.

Yard art requires no water or fertilizer. Occasionally, pests find it, but when they chew it up,  we just toss it! There’s no pain in that; only comfort in knowing we’ve gotten the most use possible out of something that would’ve ended up in a landfill.

This is another from Janice, a birdhouse crafted by her husband. He made the roof from an old AC duct from their home.

white birdhouse with metal roof made from discarded AC duct, surrounded by fat pink bloomsAfter spending time with a 20-something friend and newlywed just starting her own garden,  I asked some Tampa Bay gardeners to share their favorite masterpieces to inspire her — and give me a column for the Tamapa Bay Times.

Of course, print is limited, so I couldn’t run all the wonderful photos, stories and tips gardeners shared. So here are a few more. I hope they’ll inspire you as they do me!

From Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, yard art created from actual plants! (Who’d a thunk?) Busch Gardens director of horticulture Joe Parr shared a parterre (I had to look that up — it’s a  low-growing, highly manicured planting design.)

This is just one that he and his staff created.

yellow and green swirls of marigolds and other plants parterre at busch gardens

bl Zagora Cafe Parterre detail“For our garden art at Busch Gardens, whether topiaries or parterres, we look for very compact and smaller plant varieties, especially annuals, that can be continuously sheared tightly and manicured on a regular basis,” Joe says.

“We pick annuals that exhibit excellent foliage and/or foliage color. Also it is very important that these plants contrast strongly to bring out patterns and details in the garden art that we are trying to create.”

Susan Gillespie of Riverview went another route with her blue bottle tree.

blue bottles turned upside down on a "tree" with numerous limbs“This started out as a project on branches of a lemon tree that didn’t make it. Then I saw a metal one made by a guy hawking his wares in Webster” flea market in Webster, Fla., Susan writes.

“Then the search was on, for a couple of years actually, for blue bottles. Some of my customers happily supplied me with their contributions to the cause, one party at a time. :) But the rest were from antique outings all over the place and part of the fun of putting it together.”

Bill Carr of Plant City notes that one person’s favorite art may not be another person’s (spouse!).

bl bill flamingo“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” writes Bill. “Here, in what I call my Heron Garden, is a plastic flamingo, which my wife hates and I think adds some whimsy. My wife visualizes it as fitting right in with the gardens around where we grew up that used old whitewashed tires and sinks for containers.”

And finally, one more from Maryhelen Zopfi’s garden: She put this fun face on a truncated tree limb that would have otherwise just looked very, very sad.

yard art on tree. Mask of man with big sunglasses, long mustache embed at athe end of a tree stump



Field trip! We’re off to a Water-Wise, dollar-smart garden

Last week, I wrote about Maryhelen Zopfi’s garden for the Tampa Bay Times. The North Tampa gardener recently won the 2012 Water-Wise Award for Hillsborough County — a testament to her creative efforts at conservation.

But her creativity and careful marshaling of resources transcend plant zen. Maryhelen “shops” curbside discards for shelves and other helpful garden hardscape. She turns her unused whatnots (including an in-ground swimming pool!) into yard art, and she hasn’t met a plant she can’t propagate — I think.

The Times was able to run just three photos with my column, so I promised to share more here. Seeing is inspiration!

Here’s a great idea for attractive hanging baskets with super drainage: enameled metal colanders. Maryhelen finds hers at thrift stores.

decorative metal enameled colander used as hanging baskets peace plants green foliage white bloom filtered light

All that Noritake china Maryhelen just had to have when she and Simon married 40 years ago has been gathering dust. So, when they replaced their aging gazebo a few months ago, she borrowed from her collection to create a candelabra.

china teacups and saucers used to create candelabra saucers turned upside down five teacups  decorative chandelier from recycled china

(Note: The saucers are turned upside-down so the decoration is visible to those seated below. Also, for the record, the old gazebo became a trellis and shelves.)

Maryhelen was surprised — and pleased — when a cardinal took up residence in one of the teacups.

female cardinal nesting in Noritake china teacup, part of a hand-crafted candelabra in an outdoor gazebo

In September, her husband spotted eggs. And then … baby cardinals!

newly hatched cardinals in a teacup nest, part of a hand-crafted candelabra

The baby birds have since flown off to their new lives, so now Maryhelen and Simon are empty-nesters — for the second time. Their yard, like mine, was all about the kids for years — turf, swingsets and (for Maryhelen and Simon) a swimming pool.

What can you do with a pool when you’re no longer hosting screaming kids at birthday parties?

in-ground swimming pool converted to koi pond. owner feeds koi cheerios from a bucket

Koi! They’re so much quieter. And a good pump and filtration system keeps this pond crystal clear. (Thank you, Simon!)

I absolutely love Maryhelen’s tool storage idea. It’s handy, waterproof, and keeps her pruners, trowels and other necessities just where she needs them. In the front yard, they’re in a traditional mailbox on a post in the center of the garden.

In the backyard, they’re kept in a convenient, wall-hung letter box.

black, wall-hung mailbox used for garden tools. pruners visible

Of course, hard-core recyclers don’t stick with just the man-made stuff. Maryhelen’s garden is full of plants from others’ gardens. Those of us who love pass-alongs appreciate not only the frugality of plant-sharing, but the memories they bring with them. When you get a cutting or seed from a friend or loved one, you always think of them when you see it.

These beautiful pinecone gingers are from Maryhelen’s dad’s garden.

bright red floresence of pinecone ginger in bloom

Her 4-o’clocks (“I call them 6 o’clocks!” Maryhelen says) came from a friend. These are shrubs that like filtered light and open their blooms at 4 o’ clock — or 6 o’clock!

fuchsia four-o'clock 4 o clock blooms open late in the afternoon. 2 open fuchsia blooms

Those of us who love low-maintenance plants are big fans of canna lilies. They do  have their downsides. Fading blooms will dangle forever, looking brown and bedraggled, until you snip them. And some, like India Shot, will take over if you don’t lay down the law.

Maryhelen reins in her canna in a beautifully artistic — and recycled — way.

canna lilies, no blooms, india shot, in claw-foot bathtub

Yes, that’s a claw-foot bathtub!

Finally, just to establish Maryhelen’s credentials — and perhaps entice you to shoot for your own Water-Wise Award — here’s Maryhelen with her custom-made steppingstone.

maryhelen zopfi holds hillsborough county 2012 water-wise award steppingstone mosaic