Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Recycled, Reused, Repurposed – using old pipes in new ways

Walking slowly down the path becomes a trail of

Designers and homeowners are becoming increasingly aware of the value in using recycled materials for landscape design. Broken concrete becomes transformed into low walls and raised beds, old windows have long since been the material of choice for cold frames and metal is becoming popular both for both functional and artistic expression in the garden

I recently had the opportunity to visit the garden of Barbara Lycett, a talented landscape designer from Seattle.  Like many landscape professionals, her own garden is both a laboratory in which to experiment with new ideas for her clients as well as a showcase of her many talents from carving interesting nooks out of forgotten corners, designing exciting plant combinations and creating winding trails that take you on a fascinating garden journey. A stroll through her garden leaves you feeling as though you have been exploring both the forests and meadows of the Pacific Northwest.

The succulent leaves are a great contrast to the rough
weathered pipes.

One thing that struck me was her use throughout the garden of rusted metal pipes. A narrow raised border alongside a pathway was created using a series of cut lengths of 4” diameter pipe, each standing approximately 20” above the ground. These were filled with a gritty soil mixture topped with tiny pebbles and served as a line of miniature containers for choice succulents and treasures displayed by visiting children. The effect was of an orange caterpillar winding its way slowly through the garden!

Three larger pipe sections were used as bench supports. In this case the seat was a thick acrylic sheet embedded with reeds which allowed the pipes beneath to remain visible. Placed alongside one of several water features it seemed the perfect, if unexpected choice for such a location.

An intriguing bench  provides both art and function

Situated on a hillside a large number of steps are a necessity yet Barbara has used these to her advantage. Wide, shallow concrete steps, backfilled with smooth grey pebbles take you safely from one level to the next and the journey is made interesting by meadow style plantings on either side. Used as accents throughout are what at first appear to be stands of bamboo, yet upon closer investigation are in fact fashioned from narrow gauge pipes. No longer plumbing fixtures, these pipes now serve as artistic elements, providing height and texture amidst the soft billowing drifts of golden tickseed (Coreopsis), hardy geraniums and ornamental grasses, where their rich brown color enhances the warm sunset tones.

Golden tickseed and bronze sedges are
perfect partners to the rich metal bamboo
Landscaping can be costly with materials inevitably taking up a large portion of the budget. Barbara has inspired me with her innovative ideas to hunt around our own property, salvage yards and neighbors barns to see what I can find for free (or almost) to use in our own garden. As well as creating something unique I’ll be keeping a few more things out of  the landfill – and saving money to buy plants.

What ideas have you come up with for using old materials in new ways?

If you are interested in using recycled materials you might also enjoy these posts;

All designs by Barbara Lycett

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