• A Flea Market Garden: Art or junk?

    by  •  • Garden Art ideas, Garden Inspiration and ideas •  Comments


    The difference between ‘stuff’ and garden art

    Simply growing flowers and plants is not enough for a Flea Market gardener. If you have hung an old weathered sign in your garden or filled a galvanized bucket with petunias, you may be one! For some of us, we have an innate desire to grow plants in a variety of odd containers, in old tool boxes, in wire baskets and in wheelbarrows.

    Rusty 'Herbs' sign

    Rusty ‘Herbs’ sign

    We decorate bowling balls, collect old tools hung on a fence and have a strange affection for rust.  We are attracted like crows to anything blue and sparkly.   Glass plates, metal lids and trays are used to hold water in shady places in the garden.

    Some gardeners hang plants on their porches.  We do, too, but don’t stop at that!  We hang buckets, wind chimes made of old silverware, teacup bird feeders and rusty funnels.

    Marie Niemann's funnel full of flowers

    Marie Niemann’s funnel full of flowers

    We are in our element at junk shops and flea markets, yard sales and thrift stores and usually have a running list of wants and wishes. Old wooden patio furniture, small dressers, antique ironwork and china.  What’s on your list?

     Upcycled, Recycled & Junk Art

    So, is all this garden art or just junk?  We say both!  Something about the unexpected just appeals to us… We put a higher value on reusable treasures of old and re-purposing Flea Market finds is a challenge that brings us joy. Our parents and grandparents instilled in us a thrifty nature that can’t be cured and we will always ‘see’ possibilities in a myriad of miscellany.

    An Overview of The Barn yard

    An Overview of The Barn yard


    When to stop… reaching a balance

    The real trick is in knowing when enough is enough. Having a good eye for design can prevent this:

    Cathedral of junk Austin, TX

    Cathedral of junk Austin, TX


    More our style is this garden vignette:

    The cool blue-grey of the galvanized contrasts with the warm woods and greens

    The cool blue-grey of Di-Ellen Davenport’s galvanized watering cans contrasts with the warm woods and greens.

    Tips for good Flea Market garden design:

    1. Group like items for a cohesive look.
    2. Use different types of containers with the same color flowers to unify the design.
    3. Use only three items on any one surface to feature them and reduce clutter.
    4. Stick to an odd number of junkola elements, 3 or 5 or 7.
    5. Use tall elements at the back, short items in front.

    Starting from Scratch? See our Facebook album, Garden Vignettes for some good ideas.


    Luckily many of us are also creative and artistic, if not quirky and funky and have a natural sense of what to put where.  Here’s to junkola in the garden!

    Read more:

    Rustic Garden Projects

    Rustic Garden Projects: 28 Decorative Accents You Can Build

    Yard Art and Handmade Places

    Yard Art and Handmade Places: Extraordinary Expressions of Home

    Salvage Style for the Garden

    Salvage Style for Outdoor Living: Beautify Your Yard and Garden with Rescued and Recycled Materials


    You may also like these posts:

    15 essentials for Flea Market outings

    Thrift shop shopping…for the garden

    Laura’s antique ‘Little Shop’ garden

    Flea Market Gardener’s shopping list

    Shirley’s SHed ANtiques

    Junk garden shopping at The Barn

    A favorite junk store and my best day

    Tips from the workshop: Annie Grossart-Steen

    Garden junk hunting with The Farmer’s Daughter



    Share and Enjoy


    Sue Langley, a passionate gardener and photographer lives and gardens with her husband and Corgi, Maggie on 7 acres just south of Yosemite, Zone 7 at 3000 feet. She manages the Flea Market Gardening Facebook page and website.


    1. Sherry says:

      Just found you & am in L.O.V.E.!!!!
      My yard art is a very important part of my gardening plan.
      I’ve also have several Barn Quilts on our garden shed which adds lots of color all year long!
      Please check my website, wwwbarnquiltstore.com, to see the photos of my garden area.

      1. Sue Langley says:

        Oh, I’m so glad to hear from you, Sherry! We love junk in the garden…and barn quilts, too. Check out Meeting Nancy K Meyer,..just do a search and you’ll see hers. Cheers! ~~ Sue

    2. Myra Glandon says:

      Very cute article. I sometimes worry about going too far, either too junky, too funky, or just too cluttered, and I shy away from grouping items. But as I’ve been studying the garden vignettes album, and all the other albums, I realize that I need to develop my grouping skills in order to achieve the fabulous looks I keep admiring.

      I think a love of old things, a recycling spirit, and a desire or need to be thrifty drives most of us here at FMG. I’m just so glad to have met so many like minded people I can interact with.


      1. Sue Langley says:

        Ah, I wish for those grouping skills, too, and study the albums as well when I’m working on a project. People are so creative! And I do have my real junk areas,…out of sight! Sue

    3. Jeanne Sammons says:

      I have learned to do so much more with ‘container gardening’ here on FMGing! Always have loved pretty pots & terracotta & an old claw foot bathtub for many yrs … but now I have a cool ‘galvanized’ tipsy buckets & have tried some gardening in large washtubs! It is just so much fun! Thanks to all of you who share your pics & ideas & comments!

      1. Sue Langley says:

        Oh, my, have I learned a lot here, too, Jeanne,..we are lucky to have so many creative gardeners here… I’ve been inspired to do several projects and plan to do more this year! Fun!

    4. Cyndia says:

      Thank you, thank you, thank you! I am speaking to a garden club tomorrow about garden art, and found myself stuck halfway through my preparations, unsure about what direction I was taking. Thanks to your inspiration, I’ve found my voice. Junking is my life’s passion, so it’s only natural that I want to talk about creating art from junk.

      1. Sue Langley says:

        Speaking for a garden workshop or garden club meeting can be daunting,..I’m glad you found some solutions here. It’s a thoroughly fun page, so come to our Facebook page and share some photos with us…

    5. Susan Bauer says:

      While the Cathedral of Junk may be too much for some, I assume it’s meaningful to the artist him/herself. And others just may find inspiration in it. I say “Do what makes YOU happy.” And if others like it, consider it a bonus. If not, c’est la vie. That’s why there’s chocolate and vanilla. Long live diversity!

      1. Sue Langley says:

        You are so right! Artists of all kinds do their work and step back…it’s the only way to serenity…I like that,…chocolate and vanilla.. :-)

    6. I think the trick is to remember that you’re decorating a GARDEN. The plants–the organic elements–are the main event. The inorganic elements are the accessories. As long as the plants play the predominant role, you’ll have a beautiful composition.

      Great post. Love those photos!

      1. Sue Langley says:

        Thanks, Grace, that is a very good guideline,…We don’t particularly want to be junk collectors but make unique Flea Market finds the accents to show of our flowering plants.

    7. Suzie says:


      Look at Jane Taylor’s Cottage Garden Antiques in Gainesville, Ga. She has fabulous stuff made from anything and everything. She has been featured in Southern Living and you will LOVE her art. It fits right in with the things you like and the whimsy is great!