The first yellow of the season appeared to me this morning on the Cornelian Cherry tree outside the dining room window. Or maybe it was there yesterday and I failed to notice. No matter; it is a yellow I’ve waited months to see and I’m thrilled. Heading around the corner I see the pink blush on my neighbor’s cherry tree. Spring beckons.

On Sunday afternoon last I finished the pruning. The reason I start with pruning every year–in addition to wanting to do it before all the leaves set out–is because it is the garden work warm-up; I am pruning mostly from a standing position so I begin to get used to the physical activities of the garden before all the bending, kneeling and advanced yoga postures I sometimes find myself in while trying to grab weeds or cut out suckers sprouting in difficult to reach places. Then, finding myself more limber, I move on to cutting back last season’s perennials and grasses and then removing the chickweed. This year I will have some large shrubs removed that I threatened to take out last year and didn’t; I gave these shrubs one more year to impress me and they didn’t. Fair to say that I should not have planted those junipers anyway; they were fine when they were on the small side but they are out of scale and I itch within a few feet of them. The crew can’t arrive fast enough to strike these from the garden set.

Mother called it the “Delta.”

Deltas, as we know them, are the places at the mouth of a river where alluvial deposits collect. All the “good stuff” gathered along the way and brought to the end. Ripe for collecting. Mother was a frequent shopper at these “deltas:” their real names are “Goodwill,” “Salvation Army,” and “flea markets.” Martha would call them “tag sales” and “antique stores.” I prefer Delta because I have a familial bias. Over years and years Mother collected gorgeous vintage linens, tarnished silver that just needed her touch and some polish, garden decorations including the beautiful concrete containers in the photo above. She had the eye for up-cycling before the word even came to be used. Discards brought to light and renewed, re-purposed. Given another chance.

Isn’t Spring a great time to consider this? The earth is ready to burst forth into bloom and green again. Old made new. Folks–maybe even you–are cleaning out closets, basements and sheds as part of Spring Cleaning. When it comes to up-cycling for the garden, or re-purposing, here are some ideas:
1. An organization called “free cycle:” their website is “It’s about keeping good stuff out of landfills,”  according to their website. I’ve known clients to find beautiful old stones and brick for terraces and walls, trellises and old pots–free for the asking and pick-up. Craigslist is another choice–might or might not be free;
2. The “Deltas:” Last summer I scored an Italian clay planter shaped like a bowl for $3.99, a pair of work pants for $2.99–worth the trip for sure;
3. Pay attention. While out on the dog walk, I saw a cedar window box at the curbside for trash. Perfect condition. It has become a planter for succulents on the terrace, saved from the landfill;
4. My friend Ed bought his home from a couple of gardens who left in the a cast iron wall fountain. He “re-gifted” it to me and it is now mounted on the fencepost as a planter for shade annuals. (Photo below.)

Gardeners are generally a thrifty bunch–or maybe I should say we seek “high value” and see creative potential everywhere. This said, the designer in me has a few words of caution:
1. If you don’t LOVE LOVE LOVE it, don’t take it for any price; it’s just not worth having things about that don’t give you joy. This is not high value in the garden or anywhere else in your home or in your life;
2. Moments. There are only so many “moments’ one can have in the garden. Consider it like the Academy Awards: Best Actor and also Best Supporting Actor, then Best Score, Best Set, etc.. Not everything is supposed to be a star and all parts add up to the success of the movie. Same is true with all art forms including the garden. Too many stars create conflict. Be mindful of this when it comes to plants and ornaments in the garden to avoid the garden becoming tchotchke- land and a spot on “Garden Crimes Investigator.”

Do you have a favorite time you’ve up-cycled in the garden? Post about it below. Or share a picture on the Facebook Page–button below.

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