Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Last year I had the pleasure of meeting Lorene Edwards Forkner. It was on the occasion of the Seattle Garden Bloggers' Spring Fling and we were to visit Lorene's own garden. We were going to get to see first hand many of the garden projects that were to appear in her soon to be published book Handmade Garden Projects. Published by Timberpress.

I love to visit gardens but most of all beyond the plantings my eyes are always drawn to the structure and other garden ornamentation. All gardens need a little personal embellishment; something that stamps the garden with the owners personality.
If your garden is missing a little bit of pizzaz then here is a book packed with ideas to add that special something to your garden. As Lorene shows us, you may have to look no further than your garage, the local hardware store or flea market.

Photo  by Allan Mandell, Handmade Garden Projects
Do you recognize those inserts in the paving? The horseshoe of course but the circles are cast iron stove grates. Any small cast iron objects could be used to add interest to the paving.

Photo by Allan Mandell, Handmade Garden Projects

There are ideas for seating like this semi-circle of stone filled gabion benches.

Photo by Allan Mandell, Handmade Garden Projects
This is one of my favorite projects. A grouping of hypertufa troughs. These ones are planted with succulents but look equally at home with alpine plantings or bonsai. I know this is a worthwhile project because I have done this one myself. I adore these rectangular troughs but for now I happened to have an old plastic planter. I first oiled the inside with motor oil to make for easy removal. The rest was easy. Make up the mix, plaster it around the inside pushing two corks into the bottom for drainage. Leave for a few days to set, unmold and brush with a wire brush to roughen up the surface. Imagine how proud you would be to show visitors your hand made planters. Small or large this is one project we can all do.

The book is packed with ideas for paving, garden edging, water features, planters lighting and more. Many using found or inexpensive materials. 
Here, in Lorene's own words are the answers to a few questions I asked her about the process of Handmade Garden Projects.

What do you consider was the first step that set you on the road to creating
garden art?

 I'm not sure I set out to create "art".  My background is in fine art, and I'm afraid I used to approach Art from a traditional studio-based viewpoint. I simply loved to garden and poured my heart and soul into the practice. Very quickly I started making gardening decisions with the same eye I used to use in my studio work: color, form, texture, dividing up
space.  I was fascinated by the garden's introduction of time and space into my tidy "art" mindset; gardening became more art-like although closer to dance than painting.  Like choreography with bugs!  All this to say I think about the various "projects" in my garden in terms of how they relate to the entire space rather than as a decorative layer added on top of the plants.

Do you have a favorite project? If so what is it and from where did the
inspiration come?

 I am especially fond of the galvanized wire plant supports. Ironically, that was a tough project to describe and photograph... but there's something so magical how a few simply twists with a pair of pliers can turn a humble roll of wire fencing into a beautiful focal point in the garden. My friends Kathy Fries and Alejandro Gamundi generously taught me the simple steps and soon I was spinning all sorts of wire structures just for the pleasure of watching the wire grid twist and turn into a delicate and seemingly complicated pattern.  This project has garnered the most attention from readers as well and I've done several workshops and demos; it's WAY easier to show the process than to write out the steps!

Can a garden have too many handmade projects? Do you think it is necessary
to keep a balance between plants and art?

 AB.SO.LUTELY!!!!  My poor garden - or as I came to call it "Project Land"~  Too many projects, however wonderful and creative, generate a frenetic energy that turns the garden restless.  Writing and shooting a book about Handmade Garden Projects is in fact very hard on your real garden:-) This summer's project is a backyard do-over in an attempt to simplify and "quiet" the space back to its usual dull roar.  A massive building project next door is "providing" the motivation and opportunity to rethink the tiny landscape.  I'm thinking a combination gabion fence and living hedge, a huge galvanized sliding barn door style gate and a couple of sculptural earth mounds planted in ornamental grasses to capture the wind. It's a process and a journey and one I love to explore.

Read what other gardeners have to say about this book( in green) and the  chance to win your own copy.


  1. There is great satisfaction in being able to say "I made that!" when asked by visitors about something unique in the garden. Plus it's fun! :-)

  2. Thanks for sharing. This looks like a great book. I found two old horseshoes on the property and was wondering what to do with them, now I know!

  3. I just returned this book to the library yesterday!

  4. Sounds like a good source for inspiration. I enjoy making things for my garden and am always on the hunt for more ideas!

  5. Thanks for your kind words about Handmade Garden Projects. Wow... found horseshoes are extra lucky!!!