We're always trying to dream up new ideas for interesting and unique container gardens for our outdoor space and I think this one hits the mark. When we ran out of room in the garden itself, we decided to take our garden vertical - on the fence! It a great way to pack more beautiful plant material into a limited space (be sure to check out our other unique container garden Instructables linked at the end of this post).
If you're anything like us, you try to complete your inside renos during the winter months so you can enjoy the great outdoors once the good weather arrives. We just finished an accessible bathroom renovation for my Mom, so in this Instructable we're showing you how to turn an unwanted bathroom light fixture into a planter for the garden that mimics a vignette you'd typically find indoors. In an outdoor environment, I think it adds a lot of whimsy to joosh up our plain 'ol fence.
We had the perfect blank section of fencing at the entry to our backyard to experiment on but it needed more than just a planter to fill the space. When Hubs came home with another curbside find - a discarded mirror - it completed our vision perfectly!
Step 1: You Will Need:
I removed the glass shades from the light fixture and set them aside for an as-yet-to-be-determind future repurpose.
- Metal mirror frame and bathroom fixture (be on the lookout for curbside finds, upcycle your own or even find them at garage sales)
- GE Silicone II
- DAP Alex Plus
- JB WaterWeld
- Utility Knife
- Caulk Gun
- Disposable gloves
- Paper towels and water for cleanup
- Paint (we upcycled old paint and mixed our own colour)
- Mesh screening (for bottom of planters)
- Moisture control potting soil or supplement soil with water storing crystals
- Plastic planting containers (sized to fit your own fixture)
- Plant material (we used wave petunias)
- Paint sprayer or paint brush
- Stainless steel screws (2) in a size that fits the backplate of the light fixture.
If you're interested in how we did the mirror to complete our garden vignette, you'll find the link to the Instructable for that at the end of this post.
Step 2: Cut Away Wires on Light Fixture
I loosened the two knobs on the front so I could remove the back plate to reach the wiring. I used a wire cutter to snip and remove all the wiring.
I set the knobs aside in a plastic resealable bag so they wouldn't get lost. Funnily enough, although I didn't lose them, we did forgot to paint them when Hubs spray painted the light fixture and mirror!
Step 3: Mixing Your Own Paint Colour
This project wouldn't be a true trash to treasure if we didn't upcycle paint we already had, right? I mixed together leftover green and yellow paint (PPG Break-Through) in a plastic container to create a colour that's similar to one called Basil Green by Benjamin Moore. I simply experimented with different proportions of the two paints until I achieved an almost exact match! You just need to be sure that you mix enough to spray two coats for each piece you paint.
With the paint figured out, Hubs painted all the metal pieces (or so we thought) with a paint sprayer. When I went to reattach the backplate, I realized we forgot to spray paint those two little knobs that hold the backer plate bracket onto the fixture. I just popped them onto a pair of needle nosed pliers and quickly painted them with a little brush. As you can see in the 3rd picture, I protected the pliers with some green paint first in case of drips.
Once the knobs were dry, I reattached the metal backplate - twice. On my first try, I accidentally put it back together upside down (last picture). Luckily hubs noticed my mistake right away. The narrow end of the key slot should point upward so it grabs onto the screws it will eventually hang on!
The last picture shows the light fixture all painted - but there's more finessing to come!
Step 4: Measure and Pre-Drill Fence
At this point, we temporarily installed both the light fixture and mirror frame on the fence. We did that first because they were still light enough to maneuver. Hubs moved them around while I figured out exactly where each should be positioned on the fence. All I had to do was stand back and nod my head in approval. Then Hubs did the measuring, marking and predrilling.
Since the light fixture had that backplate with the keyhole slots, two stainless steel screws were perfect to hold the light fixture; it just slipped right over the screws. Easy peasy when the backplate is screwed on correctly!
Once we were happy with the placement of the light fixture and mirror, it was time for the final touches.
Step 5: Faux Candlesticks
There was one more important thing to do with the light fixture before I could call it done: seal the empty socket area to prevent water infiltration. I knew I’d find a use for these empty film canisters one day!
I removed the lids and placed the film canisters upside down over each socket. Then I sealed around them with JB WaterWeld which is a two-part epoxy. I cut a a few pieces from the tube into coin sized pieces. I kneaded each one rolling it into a rope which got wrapped around the gap between the canister and light socket.
It's difficult to get a smooth bead with epoxy alone so when it was dry, I taped the canister and metal below it, then added a final layer of caulk which I smoothed out with a finger dipped in water. I used a product called Alex Plus (which was the same caulking used to seal the front of the mirror).
Both the JB WaterWeld and caulk are impervious to water, so will seal each socket from filling up with rain – or when the plants are watered.
Step 6: Choosing a Planter
I found the perfect planters for the light fixture at a succulent sale long before I started the project. They were not only the right shape to replace the glass light shades, but on the bottom you can see that the drainage holes are NOT in the centre – they’re around the perimeter of the edge (see picture above). By directing water any from the metal, it would help prevent potential future rusting on the surface of the metal.
What wasn’t so perfect was that I had bought one size too small. The vendor selling these containers wasn’t going to be back in the city anytime soon, but had a farm an hour north of where we live. I was so obsessed with buying the bigger size that we trekked out to the farm without even knowing if the bigger size would be a good would fit - or if the larger containers were still available.
When we got there, at first the vendor’s husband told us they had run out. But then he called his who wife looked around and managed to find a few for me. Notwithstanding a beautiful drive in the countryside, I was happy the trip was productive! The shape of the container really helps convey the look of the original light fixture, which is what I was going for.
Step 7: Plant and Soil Choice
I chose purple wave petunias for the planter because I thought they’d look beautiful spilling over the mirror once they got established - and the colour would be a stunning compliment against the green paint.
The soil is important because wave petunias need a lot of water, so use a moisture control potting mix. You can also supplement soil you already have with water-holding crystals.
The containers we’re using are pretty small, so they’ll need constant watering. I don’t mind the upkeep, but I’m sure I’ll forget to water every once in a while. Moisture control potting soil will help tide the plants over on days I forgot to water!
Step 8: Planting
We cut some mesh for the bottom of each container (you could also use a weed control fabric). The mesh keeps the soil from running through the holes in the bottom with constant watering. The last thing you want is for your soil to end up on the metal - or depleted by the end of summer!
Step 9: Indoor Fixtures Outside in the Garden
The two repurposed pieces are finally ready to make their debut in our garden. We mounted the light fixture right above the mirror and then placed the wave petunias in their containers into each light sconce. The subtle transparency of the film canisters mimic the look of candle sticks.
Step 10: Other Unique Ideas for Container Gardening
Step 11: Vote for Us in the Garden Contest
At Birdz of a Feather, we're all about turning trash into treasure! I hope this Instructable inspires you to hold onto your old fixtures instead of throwing them away - or upcycle one you might find curbside!
If you're interested in learning about the best caulking for outdoor use, check out our Instructables post for the mirror that we paired with the light fixture planter.
We'd love your support in the Gardening Contest; if you were inspired by our bathroom light transformation into a planter, please send a vote our way! And don't forget to check out our other container gardening ideas above.