Monday, 30 April 2012

How to Make a Personalized Garden Sign

Making a sign for your garden is a really neat way to make a unique statement in your garden -- even if you aren't any good at gardening. I've shared loads of ideas here to get your juices flowing, and some of them are even suitable for the kids so it keeps them busy too!

Why Not Carve Your Own Sign?
One method of making your own garden sign is to carve one from stone or wood.

For a beginner the best material to use for a wood sign would be oak, and for a stone sign, stick to inexpensive alabaster or soapstone. The method of carving needn't be as complicated as you think, if you follow a few simple steps:
  • Whether you want to carve into wood or stone you need to make sure it won't move as you are working, so clamp it securely.
  • Borrow, hire, or purchase second hand, rudimentary carving tools - a small size chisel, gouges, a mallet and large V tool.
  • Sketch out your design in pencil, using letter stencils if you wish.
  • Use the V tool to roughly take out as much of the marked out area as you can, starting from the centre and working outwards, staying within the outline.
  • Work vertically along the bottom of each letter using a chisel for the straight parts, and gouges for the curved sections.
  • Perfect the edges of the letters by cutting them with a sliding motion.
  • Smooth any rough edges with sandpaper.

Shaped Signs From Tin Cans

Make your own statement by creating a garden sign that truly integrates into the garden.

One way to do this is by creating a flower shaped sign from old tin cans to mingle with the real flowers in your garden. This is a great way to repurpose junk into garden art, not just a garden sign.

  • Wash out lots of drink cans, cut off the tops and bottoms, and make a cut down the side. Flatten out into a metal sheet.
  • Make a paper template of your chosen shape.
  • Lay the template onto the metal sheet and cut around it. Use more than one sheet, if you need to, by gluing several pieces together with a glue gun.
  • Paint with an enamel paint, leave the metal bare, or use the other side with the drinks logo on.
  • Paint on your sign's message.
  • Mount onto a wooden stake or metal rod, using wire and a glue gun.
  • Plant in amongst your plants, or into a plant pot of its own to make a real stand-out focal point.

Get the Kids Involved

Make a truly unique garden sign by getting the kids involved in its creation:
  • Reuse slate tiles as garden signs and let the children go crazy with chalk, changing it according to their mood.
  • Go the Fawlty Towers route, and create a sign with move-able letters. Magnetic letters can be purchased from toy stores, and a shaped piece of magnetic metal can be used as the base - not all metals are magnetic (aluminum, brass and copper won't work). Or buy the base from a toy store too - often the opposite side of a child's blackboard will be magnetic.
  • Raid your craft stash and make a unique sign using polymer clay. Letters and shapes can be cut out using cookie cutters, or get the kids to mould some flowers or animal shapes. Also try making letters from a "snake" of polymer clay. Adhere to a piece of wood, or fix onto the bottom of decking or raised plant beds.

Further Ideas
Find an alternative purpose for items, such as:
  • A large glass vase can be made into a garden sign easily, using glass paints to decorate and write on the message. Weigh it down with large pebbles placed inside and around the base. You could incorporate candles inside to make an illuminated sign for a magical nighttime glow.
  • Make a garden sign your very own, by using ready made wooden letters, bought from a craft store. Paint and customize them as you wish - add metal buttons or craft gems, or stick on cut out nature-shapes such as ladybirds. Stick into the ground mounted on stakes, fix to a fence or garden wall, or hang off trees and shrubs by wire or string.
The most important thing when making your own garden sign is that it fits in with the feel of the garden, and that it reflects the personality of the people that spend the most time there - enjoy creating!

Image credits:
headline image -
Stone sign -
Kids sign -

Friday, 20 April 2012

Six Ideas for Disguising Unattractive Fences

One of the most annoying things I find about gardening is that it can look shabby in no time at all. Take a look at some of these ideas for disguising fences in your garden and you'll improve your garden really simply -- especially great for those of us who like things in the garden to look pretty but lack much gardening know-how.

Where to Start?

Reed screening is a quick and effective option
The best landscaping methods for disguising fences largely depends on what kind of fence you are trying to disguise. Some ideas you might want to use, include:

  • Climbing plants
  • Ornamental grasses
  • Trellis
  • Reed screening
  • Painting a mural
  • Turn the area into a feeding area for wildlife - bird feeding station etc.
Obviously if you have a wire mesh fence that needs disguising, an open option like a trellis isn't going to help hugely, and painting a mural certainly wouldn't be viable.

If you are looking at disguising a wooden fence or cement block then most options are open to you, but extra consideration would need to be given to the type of plants you use, as they will have some of their sunlight blocked.

Clematis is a quick grower
Use Planting - The Best Climbing Plants & Ornamental Grasses

When disguising a fence, one of the easiest landscaping ideas to use, is using climbing plants. There are so many different kinds available, that you should be able to find a suitable option that is in keeping with the rest of your garden.

If you have a solid fence you will need to construct some kind of feature for them to climb on, such as trellis, a decorative obelisk, or just some bamboo canes. The disadvantage to this option is that you will need to wait for the plants to grow, before they totally disguise that unsightly fence. Some of the best climbing plants to use are:
  • Wisteria
  • Hydrangea
  • Clematis - a popular flowering vine plant.
  • Climbing rose
  • Jasmine
  • Ivy
  • Chilean Glory Flower Eccremocarpos scaber
  • Vines - Virginia Creeper, Boston Ivy
There are also shrubs you can use, that although aren't strictly climbing plants, can be trained to grow as such - Pyracantha varieties such as Firethorn are a good option to use.
There are also many ornamental grasses that you might want to consider, as these are extremely low maintenance, don't need any additional support, and survive year round.
  • Feather reedgrass - grows up to 6 feet, and grows in partial shade. A popular perennial grass.
  • Fountain grass - grows up to 5 feet and grows into a soft shape, offsetting the harsh fence behind.
  • Switchgrass - grows to 5 feet can handle shade, and is a happy home to wildlife.
  • Hardy Pampas grass - grows up to 12 feet tall - large white flumed flowers provide a good screen.

Trellis is easy to install and can
be used in a practical way too
Use Hardcore Elements - Screening & Trellis
It's surprising what a difference some trellis or reed screening can make to a garden. Not only is it a great idea for disguising a fence, it also adds texture and more visual appeal to your garden. In addition to this, the use of an item like a trellis also offers the option of using it for climbing plants, or hanging bird feeders from too.

The biggest advantage of this option is that the results are instant, and need not be complicated. For a trellis or screen with a difference, you could paint it in a suitable exterior paint, paint a mural onto it, or make your own garden sign, using the trellis to hang it from. The effects even when you keep the natural finish are still appealing, and in the case of using a reed screen, the color will alter with age, making it look more a part of your garden.

Murals are easier than you think
and are a low cost option
Alternative Ideas
If none of the more conventional landscaping ideas above, appeals to you for disguising an unsightly fence, then you may want to consider some alternative options.
  • Creating an outside mural on a fence isn't as difficult as you may think, though is strictly the domain of wood fences and cement blocks. Sketch out a natural picture of trees and birds, or something else in keeping with your surroundings, and paint with suitable exterior paints. For a more detailed guide, and some pictorial inspiration, see our article on garage door murals.
  • You could take advantage of the situation and create a wildlife environment, or bird garden in your backyard. You don't have to do anything fancy, even hanging halved coconuts, bird feeders and nesting boxes, and bunches of berries from a wire fence will transform it instantly. You can paint the nesting boxes, make an insect hotel, or even some small shelves for birds to rest and feed on, would make a difference.
Taking into account the fence type, and your environment, will mean that using one of our landscape ideas for disguising fence problems — like unsightly or unattractive fences — should be an easy operation.

Headline Image Credit -
Climbing clematis -
Trellis -