Go outside and get to work on these gorgeous garden structures that you can enjoy all season long.
How to make a hanging plant display
A vibrant jungle thrives on this San Francisco wall, designed by Flora Grubb Gardens (415/626-7256) using Woolly Pockets.
Made from recycled plastic bottles, the pockets are filled with soil, planted, and hung. Greenery keeps hydrated and water doesn’t leak because the pockets are lined with moisture barriers―they can be used indoors too.
Info: From $49 for the Wally One (24 in. long, 15 in. high); from $125 for the Wally Three (68 in. long, 15 in. high). Available in San Francisco and online from Flora Grubb Gardens (info above), at Pigment in San Diego (619/501-6318), and at Digs in Portland (503/460-3447).
Plant your own:
1. Hang Woolly Pocket by its grommets, then fill it two-thirds with spongy, fast-draining soil and add 4- to 6-inch plants.
2. Use aeoniums, geraniums, bromeliads, and Sprenger asparagus ferns for their low-maintenance; quicker-growing geraniums and asparagus ferns will need to be repotted eventually.
3. Watering needs depend on the plant; see instructions at woollypocket.com.
Outdoor chandelier made of branches
If your gardening to-do list includes pruning deciduousshrubs and trees, consider recycling some of the clippings to make a natural chandelier like the one pictured here. Gather plenty of long, pliable branches from plants with soft wood, such as wisteria, stone fruit trees, or elderberry (pictured). Then bend them to form a hoop, fasten them together with floral wire, and festoon them with string lights.
You can hang the chandelier right away, or allow it to dry completely before adding the lights; drying before hanging cuts the weight in half. We stored our hoop on top of a garden shed for three months before debuting it in the garden.
- From your garden: Pliable branches (we used 40), each about 1⁄2-inch thick and 4 to 5 feet long.
- From a crafts store: Heavy gauge floral wire and globe lights
- From a hardware store: Nylon rope, S-hook, cable ties, and extension cord.
- Bend a bunch of six or so branches to form a large hoop (ours is 5-feet across); fasten them together with heavy-gauge floral wire.
- Working clock-wise around the hoop, continue adding more branches about every 2 feet, securing the cut ends to the base with floral wire.
To keep it horizontally balanced, attach three pieces of the rope, each about 4 feet long, at evenly-spaced points around the hoop, then gather them in the middle, around an S-hook. Wrap two strands of globe lights around the chandelier, securing them with cable ties. Plug the light strands into an extension cord attached to a tree branch or garden pergola.
Ultimate DIY raised bed
A raised bed—essentially a large planting box—is the ultimate problem solver: It offers perfect drainage, protection from pests, and easy access to crops. And it’s just the thing to turn your backyard into the farm of your dreams. Follow our directions, and you’ll be able to build the 4- by 8-foot bed pictured here as a weekend project.
Los Gatos, CA-based landscape designer Leslie McKenna doesn’t like to waste much. Case in point: these birch branches turned vases, which she created from a felled tree on a recent job site. To make your own, drill a hole in a birch log with a 1-inch auger, then tuck in an array of succulents. The shallow-rooted plants don’t mind snuggling closely, and they need watering only once a week. Remember, many succulents are happy in a little bit of shade and will stay happier for longer with dappled sunlight. We keep a stash of succulents on hand in the Test Garden to be party ready at a moment’s notice!
Make your own backyard tipi
With some basic, straight sewing, you can make this tipi in about 8 hours. You’ll need:
- Five 10-foot bamboo poles (2 inch diameter; we used Tonkin species from Cali Bamboo: $8 each with minimum order of 10)
- 3 yards of 3/8-inch sisal rope
- 15 yards of weather-resistant fabric like Sunbrella: We used 11 yards of Spectrum Daffodil #48024 for the exterior; 1½ yards (optional) of Caroline Seabreeze #5644 for the inside front flaps; and 2½ yards of Spectrum Graphite #48030 for the liner under the mattress
- Sewing machine
On a flat surface in your yard, measure out a rectangle that’s 81 inches by 59 inches. Place 4 bamboo poles upright, 1 at each corner of this rectangle. Place pole 5 between 2 back poles for stability. Tether the 5 poles with the sisal rope.