Get savvy with salvage

Salvaged or reclaimed materials add texture, interest and personality to your garden.

By Fiona Cumberpatch
An old chimney pot planted with trailing pelargoniums, or deep purple petunias tumbling out of a battered copper cooking pot are good examples of using reclaimed or upcycled items to create a characterful outside space. Incorporating old artefacts and ingeniously repurposing them prevents new gardens from looking bland, and will create quirky features and talking points in established plots.
Secondhand doesn’t necessarily mean cheap, though it’s still perfectly possible to spot a bargain at a car boot sale. Set your alarm and get there early, because anything old or antique is usually snapped up first. Antiques fairs are more expensive, but you’ll find a wide selection of gardenalia and you can barter. A specialist salvage yard will offer a huge choice, and items are generally sorted by type, such as reclaimed stone, paving slabs, edging etc. These reclamation yards factor in labour and transportation costs, so their prices might be a little higher.
EBay is still worth trying, though you need to add in the costs of a courier or self collection, as salvaged items are usually too heavy to post. For local bargains, head to selling site Gumtree (, or pop into your local auction house on viewing day. If you can’t attend the auction, leave a fixed bid (the highest amount you’re prepared to pay).
For savvy salvage, choose materials that won’t rot or rust. Galvanised steel animal troughs make long-lasting planters, while zinc dolly tubs and old baths are rust-resistant. Vintage ceramic sinks are virtually indestructible and copper pots gain an attractive verdigris patina as they age. Rubber tyres, free from many garages, make long-lasting planters that can be stacked for effect. Anything made from wood or iron will only last a couple of seasons outside at most.  
Where to hunt for gardenalia
1.     The Decorative Salvage and Vintage Fair (29-30 July), Knebworth House, Herts SG1 2AX.
2.     Gallops Architectural Salvage, Ty-r-ash, Brecon Rd, Crickhowell, Powys NP8 1SF.
3.     The Decorative Home and Salvage Show (4-6 August), Cheshire Showground, nr Knutsford WA16 0HJ.
4.     Toby’s Reclamation, Station Rd, Exminster EX6 8DZ.
5.     Steptoe’s Yard, Nether Warburton Farm, St Cyrus, Montrose, Scotland DD10 0AQ.

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