Trash to Treasure:
Breathing New Life Into Your Garden Critters

I've been collecting treasures from thrift stores and garage sales for about 25 years. I've always been told that one man's trash is another man's treasure. I'm a firm believer in that philosophy!

Here in Southeast Texas, our winters consist of just a couple of freezing days, so most of my garden treasures stay outside because there are so many of them and I'm just too lazy to bring them in.

Over the years, some of them started looking rather "ratty". The paint was peeling or the critter had faded from too much sun. So recently, I decided to bring them back to life. How, you say? Well, I used spray paint to make them beautiful once again. They've all got a new lease on life!

2007 Dancer

I've been using Rustoleum's Hammered Metal paints for a couple of years on various things, like old planters, whether plastic, metal or terra cotta, and plant stands. I'm rather partial to the copper, bronze, black and gold colors.

I bought this beautiful dancer in 2007 at an estate sale for $15.00. She was the first of my garden art to receive the Hammered Metal paint. I used black to restore her beauty.

Bird CageI recently painted a waybigo bird cage that I had found on the side of the road. It went from a rusty looking white monstrosity, that sat off to the side for 6 months with me trying to decide what to do with it, to a beautiful yard sculpture that I will park a nice Duranta tree in. It took me 2 days to paint the whole thing inside and out, but I was so pleased with the results that it was well worth the time I spent doing it. My index finger was numb for days afterward! I used bronze, copper and gold on this cage.

I went to buy more of this Hammered Metal paint recently to finish painting the bird cage. Originally it came in a regular spray push button paint can. The paint was to be used on metal. I'm here to tell you I've used it on just about any surface imaginable. Rustoleum has changed their packaging and now the paint comes in a trigger type sprayer and it says it's for all kinds of materials. The price went up by $2 per can so I bought as much as I could. Came out with $75 less in my pocket. I use this stuff on everything and really like the way it covers and protects. The colors are so rich and elegant. After I finished painting that bird cage, I thought to myself, Why not paint some of the garden critters that don't look so hot any more.

Cheesy Frog turned beautifulThis fun project of breathing new life into my garden critters all started with a recent purchase, which after I got it home, looked rather "cheesy" afterall. It was a huge plastic frog in blaring green that I'd purchased at Goodwill for 49 cents. It has a mechanism in it that when you walk past it, lets out a cute "Ribbit". When I got it, I thought it would be cute for the grand babies to walk past. I couldn't wait to see their expressions as the frog "ribbited" when they walked past. The only problem was, when I placed it in my yard, it stood out like a sore thumb. So I got out my cans of spray paint and covered that rascal up.
He went from being "cheesy" to being beautiful!
Lined up Critters

One thing led to another, and the next thing I knew, all of my "ratty" looking critters and statues were in line to be painted!

All of this painting this has caused me to have a whole new appreciation for the things I already have. NOT that it's going to stop me from looking for more treasures though. :-) There have been many a treasure I passed up because it looked like it was beyond repair. Now I know better.

Painted Garden Art This is the first batch of critters to get painted.

Turtle Planter Stand

This resin turtle stand was so faded and chipped.
No one would ever know he wasn't always this pretty.

Bird Bath Bowl

This $5 garage sale bird bath is also made of resin. It was always so moldy looking. I bleached it and coated it with paint and it will be used for many years to come.

Diana's Frog Sprinkler

My oldest sister, Diana had this concrete frog sprinkler in her yard. The poor thing had been dropped and was never going to squirt water again. This new coat of paint has made him beautiful again. Diana, no longer with us, would be so proud to see him today.

More Painted Garden Art

Here is the second batch of critters painted the same day.

Here are some things to think about when you get ready to do your painting. Obvious to some folks, but I'm gonna say 'em anyway. This is the voice of experience speaking here.

Choose a non windy day. I've gotten impatient and painted in the wind and had so much overspray from the paint in my nostrils when I got done that I was scraping it out with Q-tips for days!

Wear old clothes and old shoes.

Wear old gardening or laytex gloves when you paint. No matter how neat you think you are, this paint is awful to get out from under your fingernails and off of your hands.

Cover your eyeglasses with plastic if you wear them.

If you have long hair, pull it into a pony tail/braid and/or wear a hat. A hat might be a good idea even if your hair isn't long.

Wash the item you plan to paint really well. (Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. Those times I didn't, I see more imperfections in the paintjob afterwards and wish I had.) Let it dry completely before you begin to paint.

Put newspaper or plastic under the object you are painting. I happen to have 2 homemade hideous tables that just happen look better when I get finished painting. I don't worry about them, but I do worry about my grass with big objects.

Try and avoid painting in the hot sun. Your body and skin will thank you and the paint will dry more evenly when it's not in the sun.

Shake that can vigorously for several minutes before you use it. The paint will be mixed better and spray more evenly.

When you are finished painting for the day, turn the can upside down and give it one last spray until only air comes back out. This cleans out the nozzle so it will be working properly the next time you use it.


I'm partial to the several colored look. To get that look, start with your darkest color and paint a fairly heavy coat. Give it a few minutes to "set". Then gently spray in a sweeping motion the rest of your colors until you get to the lightest one. Use a light hand. You can always add more, but it's hard to take it away. Your paint will last longer and go further with a light hand also.

Here are some before and after shots of garden treasures I've painted this year.

Angel Plant Stand
Bird Bath
This angel stand and birdbath look so much better now that they coordinate together.
I love the rich elegance of the combination of metal colors.
My "new" treasures don't detract from the beauty of my garden with bold brash colors.
2008 DancerSunbathing Frog
The dancer and the sunbathing frog have both got a classy look to them now.

Eagle Plant Stand Turtle Fountain Sprinkler

This paint peeling eagle stand and non working fountain sprinkler
were destined for the garbage can until they got a new lease on life.


I will warn you folks about this... Once you begin using paint on your critters, every thing in your yard is fair game for paint. You'll have a line out the back yard to the street if you're not careful.

You don't have to paint your entire collection of garden art in one day. You can spread out the fun over several days. And that IS the key, to have FUN while you're doing it. Get creative with your painting. I'm here to tell you... It's a blast!