Aging things to make them look old can give your garden an antique and timeless look that many gardeners crave. Here are some things to try, aging metal terracotta, brick, copper, even fabric!
How to age materials in the garden
Depending on what kind of garden or yard you have, sometimes it’s fun to make new clay, stone, or concrete containers look old, like they’ve been in the garden for ages. These techniques work really well,…and they’re fun! Try this with “urn shaped” containers, which because of their classic shape can look like they have sat for eons.
Of course, concrete and terracotta pots will age into beautifully into works of art after years of sitting in your garden, but why wait that long? These aging and antiquing techniques are fast, easy, and inexpensive to do.
Creating mossy patinas on garden containers
Terracotta, stone and hypertufa containers and sculptures all lend themselves nicely to having moss grown on them, giving each one an antique look. Just leaving the container outdoors on the wet ground under some leaves will achieve an old look within weeks. Decomposing leaves give off low concentrations of acid which is why they can etch glass bottles if left outside.
Get plain yogurt or sour milk and sprinkle in some moss spores. You can buy these at a garden store or collect moss from your garden or neighborhood. Look in shady woodsy spots. Chop the moss finely and stir lightly with a spoon. Then, use a brush to apply this mixture to your terracotta pots. Cover with a clear plastic bag and let them sit outside in the shade for about 10 days and you should see beautiful moss beginning to grow on your terracotta pots.
Someone here asked about how to age terracotta pots. Of, course they age on their own over the years, but here’s what I did two years ago o these. I painted them each in three different colors of ‘oopsie’ paint from Home Depot. I was dismayed at first to see them chip right away, but now I like the look more and more.
Preserving Rust on garden metal cans
Sometimes you have a rusty container or wheelbarrow that you want to keep at just the right stage of rust ‘patina.’ Penetrol, a product normally used as a paint additive to improve flow and adhesion, also seals and stops rust. It can be used alone as a base coat on bare metal and will fix the rust while preserving the appearance. The finish will be darker than dry rust but similar to rust sprayed with water or oil and can be top coated with a polyurethane for a more durable finish.
Aging copper garden pots
Copper pots and even pennies can be aged and used in the garden for an ancient and antique look.
Marie Niemann says “Here’s my penny bowling ball I made last year.. I sped up the aging process by spraying with a mixture of hydrogen peroxide, vinegar and a little salt. And of course Mother Nature helped too!” This is Marie’s formula for aging metal. She says, “I used a cup of hydrogen peroxide and 1 cup of white vinegar and two tablespoons of salt and put it in a spray bottle. I’ve also used straight vinegar before with salt to get similar results but the hydrogen peroxide seems to really speed it up! This can be used on anything you want to create an aged patina, copper, brass, galvanized or steel.”
Aging galvanized metal for the garden
Try ammonia and salt with a bit of soap for a mild etch. Try caustic cleaners like Drano or bathroom cleaners like Lysol toilet cleaner next. Paint the acid on in an outdoor location and wear rubber gloves and eye protection when using any of these caustic solutions.
Cindy Barton created this project, below, from an old vent she aged. She says, “This was an aluminum house vent that we didn’t use in our potting shed. I saw the potential of a vertical garden between those slots. Since this was a used house vent it had black netting on the back to prevent critters from getting into the house. I added landscape fabric on top of the netting to make sure the dirt stays in. Then I bent the individual slats to make a larger pocket to plant in. Stuff it with dirt leaving some space to tuck the succulents in. Then top it off with more dirt. Pack the dirt in tightly and water well. Oh my husband sprayed it with muriatic acid to age it before I decided to plant in it.”
Barbra Pomeroy says, “With SOME of the newer shiny metal post, you can rub a sanding pad over them, then rub a cut apple on them & they will ‘age’ within a few hours.”
Aging fabric to use in the garden
Annie Steen ages fabric and flags with wood stain. Just look how it blends well with her own little tricycle from her childhood. Annie uses stain to age many of the materials she uses in her workshop creating primitive art pieces.
Creating age with paint and stains
Wood stain is a fabulously easy way to add some character and antiqued look to new terracotta pots. I like to use either gel wood stain or liquid wood stain. A darker color like a plantation walnut is perfect for this project. Simply dip an old t-shirt or sponge into the wood stain. Or use house paint for terracotta like these below.
Two layers of paint were applied over the years and allowed to weather and crack on this wheely bin that belonged to my grandfather. You can get the same effect now, by painting on one layer of paint, then applying a thin or thick layer of waterproof Elmer’s glue. Paint another layer of paint on and watch it crack.
Supplies Needed for Crackle Finish:
- First, a base coat latex or acrylic paint, then
- Elmer’s Carpenter’s Wood Glue and finally
- A top coat latex or acrylic paint
With mossy green paint, you can also add a “patina” or even a “faux moss” look to a terracotta container that will give it its own special beauty, and a sense of timelessness. I hope you try some of these fun methods to age up your containers… start now, and you’ll enjoy their vintage charm this spring and for many years afterward. Make some history in your garden.