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I went to Wollongong Botanical Gardens today. It was absolutely beautiful and I couldn’t stop smiling after walking through those big steel gates! I went for a ‘quick 30-minute walk’ for my daily exercise, and I ended up spending an entire afternoon there. Don’t you just love it when that happens? It was like finding a secret garden to explore, not knowing what was around the next corner. I miss my garden back home a lot and I got far too excited when I saw all the flowers blossoming and heard all the birds singing their songs.

Tucked away in one of the corners is a house dubbed the Discovery Centre. And next to this Discovery Centre is a beautiful garden full of things to discover. There are some gorgeous little upcycle garden DIY ideas there that I thought would be amazing to make for a garden or porch – keep an eye out for my free PDF below on how to build an insect hotel at home 🙂

Seriously, you can use things lying around your house, for free, and make some of these as a Saturday morning project (I totally would). I love gardens with interesting and quirky goodies to discover!

Upcycle garden ideas

The Discovery Centre at the Wollongong Botanical Gardens, New South Wales, Australia.

Here are 11 super-easy upcycle garden ideas to give your garden or porch that ‘wow’ factor:

1. Fancy a cup of tea?

Upcycle garden ideas from the Botanical Gardens

If you have a tea set that you no longer use, or teacups and a teapot that don’t match, then get them out into the sunshine. Put a little potting soil in them, then plant some succulents or small pot plants. Before you do that, drill a small hole in the bottom of each to let excess water out. How? This is the easiest way I’ve found to do it…

Stick thick masking tape over the area. Hold the cup firmly in one hand and use the other hand to push the drill bit firmly into the pot. Dig with the drill until the tip of the drill bit digs into the surface and gets a hold. Then apply medium pressure and speed until the bit makes a hole right through.

2. Have a bicycle collecting dust in the garage?

Upcycle garden ideas from the Botanical Gardens

Great. Wheel that bicycle outside and adorn it with potted plants on the back wheel and on the handlebars. Choose plants with colorful flowers or use hanging plants, to give it that shabby chic authentic look.

3. Got some old wooden chairs that no one sits on anymore?

Upcycle garden ideas from the Botanical Gardens

If no one else wants them, place the chairs around the garden as a prop for some pretty plants  in pots. I suggest adding a creeper to grow up the chairs, too.

4. Why stop at upcycling kitchen furniture?

Upcycle garden ideas from the Botanical Gardens

There are so many opportunities to upcycle furniture in the garden. Wood ages beautifully, as you can see from this children’s bed and pedestal garden decor above.

Leave the pedestal’s door and drawer open, planting plants right inside them. Then put interesting pots on top.

Thick ground cover does well in an old bed (without the mattress). Let the plants grow wildly, which leaves you with less maintenance to do and more time to find the gardener you haven’t seen in a while…

5. Still can’t find the gardener?

Upcycle garden ideas from the Botanical Gardens

Make sure you check the veggie patch! She might have fallen into a hole.

These quirky legs were made with two long wooden sticks, covered with an old pair of pants and a pair of gumboots (or wellies) stuck on top.

6. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Nope, it’s an air plant!

Upcycle garden ideas from the Botanical Gardens

Air plants are simply magnificent. They love hanging in a shady spot – no soil required. I had some at home that I spritzed with water once a week and they did well, but each type is different and you may need to soak them in water if there isn’t enough moisture in the air.

If you do buy air plants, ask how they should be cared for based on the type you buy and the climate you live in. You should be able to buy them from a garden nursery, but I see there are some other types of Air Plants on Amazon. If you don’t have one yet, then you should really give these pretty plants a try.

In the picture above the air plants were ‘planted’ in an old grate, which hung from one of the shady branches of a huge tree. This made for a beautiful effect as it swayed in the wind. I would add some small decorative bells or chimes for more effect.

I see I took a very short (literally 4 seconds!) video of it, but you can get a better idea of what they did with the grate and air plants below. Make sure you click on the square in the bottom-right corner to make the video full size, then press escape when you’re done watching it. Listen for the birds singing in the background – I might share a picture of one later 😉

If I go back to the Botanical Gardens I’ll definitely take a longer video.

7. Stack plants in rows above each other for a space-saving waterfall effect (and to keep the animals safe)

Upcycle wood pallet ideas for the garden

Looking for some good wood pallet ideas for garden decor? Your options never end! Here’s one for you…

Stand your wood pallet upright, as in the picture above. Seal the bottom of each row with a piece of wood. You can either rest the pallet against a fence or a wall, or you can add legs to stabilize it so it can stand on its own. Now plant succulents, berries, herbs, or decorative plants in the rows.

Have kids that want a safe place for their toy animals to live in the garden? Then take 3 or 4 pallets and make an enclosure for them. In South Africa we call this a ‘kraal’. Google can’t seem to tell me what anyone else might call it 🙂 But at least I took a picture of the kraal for you to see what I mean:

Upcycle garden ideas from the Botanical Gardens

Now the bulls can sleep safely next to the, um, lioness(??), all while waiting for the vacancies at the bird hotel on the right to be filled.

8. Birds need a home, too

Upcycle garden ideas from the Botanical Gardens

Okay, this one might not be completely free, unless you have some bird houses lying around. I just loved this bird hotel idea and had to share it with you. It’s still quite a simple DIY for you to do.

Create your own bird hotel with a pole, a painted sign (so the birds know where to go), a few bird houses and tea pots, and you’re ready to open for business.

9. What about insects?

Insects love living in their own hotel sanctuary – one full of logs and sticks and anything with holes in it.

According to the signboard nearby, the average backyard garden has about 2 000 insect species in it at any one time. Some may damage plants and vegetables, but most are beneficial and essential for cross-pollinating flowers, vegetables and fruit trees. Bees are great pollinators, but some experts think that beetles were actually the first pollinators. They pollinate 88% of ALL flowering plants, which is more than any other animal. Butterflies are also important as they can see the color red, which guides them to pollinate bright blooms. Insects are struggling because of pesticides, reduced habitats and climate change. Why not make a sheltered sanctuary for them?

They encourage pollination and reduce/eliminate the need to use pesticides in your garden. It’s a win-win!

The exact instructions from the Botanical Gardens on how to build an insect hotel are available in the PDF below – just click on the picture for an immediate download… 

How to build an insect hotel


10. Spongebob isn’t just for your TV screen

Upcycle garden ideas from the Botanical Gardens

Let Spongebob help you water and tend to your garden, seeing that the gardener is still recovering from her bad fall.

Stack 3 old tires on top of each other and give them a paint, Spongebob style. He will need arms if he’s going to help you with the gardening. Old pipes from the pool cleaner will do just fine. Give him a pair of gardening gloves to protect his hands (and hold them up), and some gardening tools. Next time you have pies for dinner, save the tinfoil containers for his eyes. And don’t forget to plant a good set of hair on top.

You could upcycle tires to create a variety of cartoon characters or create some of your own characters just for fun.


11. At the end of a long garden DIY day, take off your shoes and relax

Upcycle garden ideas from the Botanical Gardens

Take a good look at those shoes – have they seen better days? If so, then put them in the garden and plant something interesting in them before clocking off. Don’t forget to drill some holes in the soles for drainage – see how I made a rhyme there?

Perhaps it’s time to buy a new pair of shoes and some new mugs. Oh, and I promised a picture of a bird. I didn’t forget. This little guy was munching on the lawn and resting on the picnic tables, making a big noise with his buddies. The many cockatoos are wild and free here in Australia, and they are quite a sight to see! This one decided to show off for the camera…

Upcycle garden ideas from the Botanical Gardens


Now go get creative in the garden and let us know how it goes!