Kate Gould is an award-winning garden designer with over 20 years’ experience who regularly exhibits at The Chelsea Flower Show.

Recycle, renovate, renew – create something new out of something old this summer

Kate Gould provides tips for environmentally conscious gardeners to get energized and think outside the box when it comes to repurposing and recycling household items in their gardens.

We live in a world now where kettles, televisions and other electrical items are not built to last. Previous generations were used to fixing everything, the thought of discarding an appliance without investigating the possibility of repair was totally out of the question. Nowadays how quickly a new one can be delivered is generally the first thought when an appliance stops working.  Although these items can be recycled, to be able to recycle into an exterior scheme we have to think bigger.

The most obvious items to start with are those with a past life which will look good and withstand the elements outdoors. Stone, sculptural pieces (stone or metal) and wood make excellent choices for repurposing. They are great examples of what can be re-used successfully to form the backbone of a garden scheme but the items that are the most fun and create talking points are those that will require a little ‘out of the box’ thinking. You may also need the help of a skilled craftsman. Transforming ‘old junk’ into something with a second chance at life is exceptionally rewarding. Large cold water tanks make great planters, old stone horse troughs work well planted with alpines and, of course, there are always half beer barrels for planters or upturned as seating or tables. These though are relatively commonplace.

A few years ago at the Chelsea Flower Show we created a show garden called The Wasteland which transformed an imagined old water pumping station into a useable community space using the leftover infrastructure and items that might be found on a similar site. These items of ‘rubbish’ were those that we see discarded on a regular basis. They were lovingly transformed into interesting and attractive pieces that could have a viable new life in a garden.


  1. Supermarket shopping trolleys were cut and reformed into screening.
  2. Galvanised sheet steel was used as a vertical boundary treatment behind trees and evergreen shrubs.
  3. Old mattresses were stripped to reveal delicate filigree screening which can be used to train climbing plants such as sweet peas, runner beans and peas.
  4. A roll top bath was halved and turned into a comfortable garden seat.
  5. Washing machine drums were unrolled and flattened to form a large vertical water feature.

The garden was exceptionally well received at the show and was awarded a gold medal. Most visitors describing it as ‘pretty’ or ‘beautiful’ which just goes to prove that you are able to turn your old rubbish into something totally different and create a garden out of recycled items. With careful planting and a good layout you will be able to create an attractive space that people want to spend time in. You may just be contributing to less items at the landfill.

If you are considering renovating your garden and would like to seek the help of a designer then Kate Gould can be contacted at enquiries@kategouldgardens.comor alternatively +44 1923 839 733.