While the chill of winter limits opportunities for gardening with plants and flowers, salvaged elements from tear-downs, salvage stores and antique dealers’ stashes can stand tall and give you something interesting to gaze at when everything is dormant.
Come spring, the plants and flowers can accompany statuary, unique benches, tables, gates, old doors, antiquated tools and found or salvaged architectural pieces.
“Right now people seem to be looking for wrought iron, trellis or arches, benches, iron or concrete,” says Heather Harper Hirosky, co-owner of Discount Home Warehouse in Dallas. “We have had customers use old wood windows to crest garden greenhouses, unique old arched doors to make a one-of-a-kind garden gate.
“There are so many things that will work in the yard or garden. Just think outside the box. I am big on using old bricks — the kind that have city names stamped on them. We built some into our outdoor kitchen backsplash that have DALLAS and ADA stamped on them from brickyards in those towns. Both towns have meaning to our family.”
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Harper Hirosky also likes to use old windows and mirrors in a garden or outdoor setting.
“I put a mirror in as a ‘garden window’ and it also looks great on a patio,” she says.
She likes to use old window frames as decorative items in the garden, too.
Discount Home Warehouse has an organized setup for salvage hunting. There’s a back courtyard full of garden iron, gates and garden statuary. The elements come from tear-downs and from all eras. The store has a plethora of architectural salvage in the giant warehouse with rooms that focus on antiques, art finds, and gift items (often made from salvaged elements).
Salvage finds rescued from demolition can be fun whether they are house parts or things left behind on a property slated to be torn down.
I found an old wooden bench that the salvage crews from Discount Home Salvage discovered on a porch of a razed house. It is perfect in a garden courtyard. I have to protect it from weather, but an occasional coat of Rain Guard from Home Depot helps to make the wood last even longer.
Harper Hirosky likes to see customers using salvaged fountains around a pond or pool area. They can bring a lot of character to an existing water feature.
It’s pure stress relief to walk the aisles and pathways in Discount Home Salvage. The stock is ever-changing, so you have to keep checking back.
Shopping antique malls
Antique malls have some salvage options, too. Montgomery Street Antique Mall in Fort Worth is a good place to find salvaged items for the garden. There are some impressive vintage iron garden arbors and gates there right now, as well as stained-glass pieces and dough bowls, which can be used in unique ways.
Dough bowls can stand upright and host succulent plants on a patio or in a courtyard. It’s OK if they are damaged a little, or cracked.
Montgomery Street Antique Mall also has a lot of wooden wine crates, unique tool trays and boxes made of wood or metal. These can be used as planters or garden utility and tool boxes.
I bought and spray-painted an old metal tote at an antique shop and filled it with garden tools to give as a gift. Wood or metal tool boxes also offer a great way to build a centerpiece for a table.
How to spot finds
Jan Orr-Harter, longtime collector, antiques dealer and director of the Fort Worth Show of Antiques & Art, says you have to look beyond the surface to find unique salvaged items for the garden.
“Ask to see the overflow yard. You really want to get into the yard and into the warehouses at places that sell salvage,” Orr-Harter says. “Sometimes the things you want are right under your nose. Look into the back alleys and side yard and even, sometimes, behind the store.”
Orr-Harter says, for example, that the Main Street Mercantile in Weatherford has a back door that leads to what used to be an old wagon yard. This area sometimes has some wonderful salvaged finds, she says.
She also likes to traipse through The Butler’s Antiques in Fort Worth.
“They have a side yard full of garden furniture,” she says.
A seasoned picker, Orr-Harter says Archie’s Gardenland in Fort Worth also has a “cracked and damaged yard.” The items are not all old and antique, but a lot of them have been sitting out there for a long time and might have good patinas, she says.
Orr-Harter says Fort Worth’s Old Home Supply is also a great place to start.
Some places are well organized and have salvage arranged in a retail-friendly configuration, while others have stacks of salvage dropped everywhere as demolition hauls and dumps happen. Both can be fun and create a thrill of the hunt, but for the more rugged locations, be careful as you shop.
You don’t have to wear rattlesnake guards while browsing, but if you are in an outdoor setting or old warehouse, always use caution when poking and prodding around. Sometimes critters take shelter in warehouses and surprise shoppers.
Wear gloves and be on the lookout for unknown situations. Word in salvage circles is that one customer at an area salvage yard took a bit of a beating when a pile of columns came rolling down on them unexpectedly.
Always look around, but ask for help in handling merchandise in rougher salvage yards.
All under one roof
Special antiques shows can bring together dealers who have an eye for finding treasures. In March, the annual Fort Worth Show of Antiques & Art will bring to town dealers from all over the nation. Having access to pickers who are looking far and wide is an advantage when you’re seeking special art pieces for the garden.
“The theme is art at this year’s show, so we are including yard art and we’re thinking about good yard art — not just something made out of barn wood or seasonal, but rather, things you’d live with for a long time,” Orr-Harter says.
Among the dealers at this year’s show will be Farm and Factory Interiors out of Midlothian, which offers galvanized metal items and artworks; Jan Gisler, who makes wind chimes out of metal, antique objects and hardware; the artists of Bungalow 29, who have made new furniture pieces from the oak wood of old pews from Fort Worth’s Broadway Baptist Church; and the popular Johnson City shop Echo, which sells outdoor items such as bird nests made from barbed wire and salvaged fire hydrants as a base for glass tables.
Even at home, look at old pieces and think of how they can be integrated into the garden. Often you have things in your own garage or shed to pull out and use in a new way. The beauty of using salvaged items is that they don’t have to be in perfect condition. So, very often, things that are headed to the dump can be saved and used in a different way in the garden.
I have a garden fountain that was at my grandmother’s home. It was broken and could never be repaired. Pieces were even missing. I’ve integrated plants and vines around it, so I can still remember this precious fountain from my past even though I’m using it in a new way.
And it means much more to me than any shiny new planter I could buy at a big-box store.
Where to go salvage-hunting
6700 Z Boaz Place, Fort Worth
The Butler’s Antiques
2221 Eighth Ave., Fort Worth
Discount Home Warehouse
1758 Empire Central, Dallas
3132 Handley Drive, Fort Worth
The Historic Camp Bowie Mercantile
7200 Camp Bowie Blvd., Fort Worth
Main Street Mercantile
203 N. Main St., Weatherford
Montgomery Street Antique Mall
2601 Montgomery St., Fort Worth
The Old Home Supply House
1801 College Ave., Fort Worth
Orr-Reed Wrecking Company
1903 Rock Island St., Dallas
Fort Worth Show of Antiques and Art
▪ March 5-7
▪ Will Rogers Memorial Center, Fort Worth
▪ 817-291-3952; www.fortworthshow.com