Recycled glass landscape rocks

If you are looking for a unique way of upping the aesthetics of your landscape, have you considered using recycled glass mulch as an alternative to traditional bark and gravel mulches?

Glass mulch is proving to be a popular choice among the gardening and landscaping fraternity due to the wide variety of colors and textures that it offers over that of traditional mulches.

The material is produced from recycled glass shards, which are tumbled in order to round out the sharp edges. It resembles pea gravel to look at and comes in a variety of colors.

Think of the color of all the glass jars and bottles that you put in your recycle bin and that will give you an idea of the decorative effects you could have in your back yard or garden.

Andela Sunstone landscaping mulch 100% recycled content

Glass mulch is the ideal decorative medium for all manner of plant pots, planters, street side gardens and around the base of trees.

Because of the larger variety of colors and textures than you will find in bark or gravel mulches, you are only limited by your own imagination. Indeed, glass mulch has been used successfully in landscape design to simulate blue and/or green water.

Some local landfill sites across the country offer free glass mulch although there is normally a limit on available colors. Recycled mixed glass has been used in the UK for a number of years as an aggregate for road resurfacing and is affectionately known as glasphalt instead of asphalt.

So, why not give your landscape a beautiful new look with tumbled glass mulch. As well as doing your bit for the recycling effort, you will be using less water to keep your plants and trees healthy.

At Exotic Pebbles and Glass we’re big on Eco Friendly products!

This week I’m going green I’ll tell you why eco glass is more environmentally friendly than organic mulch and give you the ultimate run down on sustainable landscaping.

Why you should get rid of your patio and replace it with a tree. And when you should spend money on new ecologically sustainable landscaping and when you can just improvise a better solution by yourself. After my post about 2017 design directions, some people were caught by surprise, by the ecological direction. Aesthetic took a back seat, and now design follows a new direction.
Sustainable design is all well and good, but, homesteading? Synthetic turfs? That’s pushing it, to say the least. But in this post, I’ll go further and show you that good design isn’t necessarily design that sticks to the basics, but rather it’s the application of creativity to solve problems. Beyond the regular eco-warrior tips and some basic principles, I’m going to reimagine the modern yard. A blend of organic and synthetic fused together to both please and protect.

Cobalt Small 1/4 Inch – 1/2 Inch

There’s only so many ways you can make a lawn look fresh and exciting. But an above ground aquarium? A flowerbed filled with exotic weeds. Now, we’re playing with some new elements, and I see no reason why we should cower away and not use these new features, even if we don’t get 100% sustainability, it’s still going to be an improvement, and we got to play with some new design elements in the process.

SUSTAINABLE LANDSCAPE DESIGN PRINCIPLES

The basic principles of sustainability are minimizing resource needs and making the best out of the waste and byproducts of your garden. First, let’s consider what we input into our landscaping, first of all, materials. We try to use biodegradable elements, like wood, mulch, paper or cardboard or permanent materials that don’t degrade but also don’t pollute because they have a very long lifespan and when we do throw them away and recycle the raw matter: nonreactive plastic, corrugated metal, fireglass.

We’re going with the first ones usually when their production doesn’t actually create any environmental externalities, let’s say a homestead in the woods. Even a village can not consume enough wood to endanger the forest unless it’s a logging community and the cut-down wood for the entire Pacific Nord West. This is why I prefer the later. And I think modern manufacturing, with products that degrade in less than a year, is more harmful than 6 decades ago when you basically had bought everything you would even own by the age of 24.

Eco glass mulch

Here’s where it gets controversial. Eco Glass or landscaping glass is this type of perennial material. There is an argument that can be made for mulch as a land cover. It locks in humidity, it protects the top layer of soil from direct sun, and it decomposes releasing nutrients over time into the ground. It’s an excellent choice, but considering you need to replace it seasonally, I don’t think it’s a sustainable option in the global sense. All those bags of mulch need to be produced, processed, wrapped and transported in a neverending cycle. Sure, even if you produce biomass with it, and the only waste is the plastic bags it comes it still produces more waste byproducts than the equivalent of landscaping glass or better said eco glass. And don’t get me started on its looks, it makes gravel look appealing.

Check out our guide on backyard landscapes here!

RESOURCES

Another input consideration is water and fertilizer. Water is a significant’ issue, and I will be addressing it all across this post. It’s too important just to list out our abuse in use and how we waste it. For now, let’s talk fertilizer. Ideally, you want to try to get away with as little phosphorus, and nitrogen seeping into the ground or wash off getting in the sewers. Meter your ground, find out what it needs and give it just enough to not “burn it.” You can’t go in blindly, you need to know what is going on inside the ground.

Landscaping glass is a great compliment to rocks and pebbles.

The second step, manage your plants carefully, pick hardy grasses and flowers and plants that don’t attract pests. To prevent further weed growth, install a permanent weed barrier made out of non-reactive plastic, or some more biodegradable weed barriers like cardboard. I prefer the biodegradable option here because it’s just more versatile. Easy to readjust and adapt if you get one or two weeds slipping trough.
But they are both more efficient and less poisonous to your soil than weed killers, especially over larger surfaces

OUTPUT

In regards to output, there is a lot to be said, from water run off to grass clipping getting brushed off and going in the sewer. One of the biggest wastes is done during maintenance, and that’s also when you wash away all the nutrients and fertilizer and let it drain into our water system. You need those clippings, and by letting them wash away, you are ironically also paying for the city to clean them up.
Goes without saying that if you can, compost. Even if you don’t want to go all out on creating a zero carbon footprint, you should really consider just how nurturing compost is for your soil and just how well plants thrive in composted soil, especially if it’s dense and compact clay soil. And you don’t actually have to do it yourself. Go online and have a look around for communal composting around your area. And hand them the clippings instead of just throwing them away, who knows, maybe you’ll get some composting tips in the process.

AQUAPONICS

If you want to go the extra mile or to the last, level in reducing waste is setting your greens in aquaponic gardens. Zero waste, zero maintenance. A full-scale carbon and lifecycle right in your garden. And it actually gives you food if you set it up that way. If you have space for a pond and a plant bed, actually consider this more expensive garden. It will surely be the most eye-catching feature in your garden even if you leave it to the side and don’t really make a big deal out of it. That’s the power of selfaware design, it speaks of human values and engages even when it is understated and restrained. It’s just fascinating that we can create a complete, self-sufficient system within a couple of square feet. And we can do even more than that if you take a look at the permaculture craze.

DESIGN THAT BENEFITS THE ENVIRONMENT

HOW TO REDUCE YOUR YARDS ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT

Now we’re getting into the meat of this. This is all about reducing waste and getting the longest life span out of your materials. A proper garden should require some work to set up but then require minimal input or expenses over its and your lifetime.
The first point I want to hammer home is that the eye doesn’t see age or price. You see texture, color, shape, lines and elements. And for a couple of hundred years now we’ve had some fantastic materials that with fantastic shapes that can outlive us. So if you have a prejudice against anything that isn’t new, stop it. You are turning away from a Mona Lisa for a selfie. Old school manufacturing was a craft that took you years to master, now that same level of expertise and value is almost gone unless we are talking about really expensive custom pieces. And even then, I would choose the older piece because I’ve met some modern “craftsman, ” and they are younger than me. Don’t be scared of scouting around for old pieces or even damaged or rusty pieces.

RECYCLE

Scout around for some interesting pieces made out of recycled materials, I’ve seen this done with corrugated galvanized steel, terra cotta pots, and bricks. If you put in some work in even damaged or degraded assets can be made to shine again, literally.
Broken slabs of concrete can be sanded down, stained and used as walls, backgrounds, stairs or platforms. Use a slight stain and just add some character to it making it older, so it preserves its recycled origins.
If I had the time, I would never buy a terracotta pot or a forged steel support ever again. There are tons of beautiful designs online that outshine any expensive modern option. Get a privacy panel from our store over here, and you’ve got this very classic unique green vertical element that adds a character in any yard with a minimal footprint, both regarding space and regarding carbon.
In the the same way, you can use corrugated steel for any installations that require a sturdy material but be lighter than rock or stone. Get any construction throwaways, and with a polish, it’s brand new. This is especially handy as smaller pieces are harder to get your hands on without scrounging around. I don’t know why you would use anything else for a roof to your patio or shed. Always be careful when working with acid, always use protection a respirator and be aware of your wind direction or go to a professional and let them do it, support local craftsmanship whenever you get the chance, the have the tools, the skill, and the materials to give you the best results.

MULCH

Another waste is water evaporation. Ideally, for water retention, you should use a wood mulch, but I made my argument why that isn’t actually environmentally aware, it also encourages weed growth, and we already want to reduce the chemicals we input into our soil. So I go unapologetically with rocks or glass. Because we are talking about the smallest environmental impact, landscaping glass is the clear winner, within this context all Landscaping glass is eco glass. It’s recycled tempered glass and has no decay over the years. If anything you can just throw it in a tumbler with some carbide grit, ceramic pellets, and some water and tumble it for a couple of days and you get shiny new gems. No other ground cover can over so much for such a small carbon footprint.

And regarding water retention, we’ll talk more about that in the next part, but suffice to say that smarter irrigation and more intelligent selection of plants work better than using wood mulch as a universal fix. Plant trees, use shading panels, loosen the ground, so it absorbs more water and stores it deeper like in a rain garden, use a continuous automated sprinkler system in combination with. There are so many options that are much better than just storing the moisture with mulch.

GAS FIRES

Now, you wouldn’t argue that burning fossil fuels are in any way sustainable. But if you really want that fire feature gas burners are so much cleaner than wood. Wood releases 3000 times more particulates in the air compared to natural gas.

Also, if you use a fire glass bed for the flame, you can accentuate the flicker and get away with a much smaller flame compared to the size of the wood fire you need to get the same effect. The Same thing applies if you have an aging fireplace and you want something new, go directly to gas, it’s cleaner, and it looks better if you learn how to use, by reading this article, over here from my fire glass design guide.

Check out our guide on Outdoor Fire Place Design for more inspiration.

INVADERS

Invasive plants are another environmental pollutant that up until recently we rarely considered. Because plants like the purple loosestrife have had a devastating effect on biodiversity in North America and New Zealand eradicating whole fields of local flora because of it’s more aggressive growth cycle, it matures and monopolizes the resources of other plants and clears out the native competition. These plants are like weeds on steroids. This is more than just another argument for nativars.

I want you to really look closely at the effects your plants can produce and how connected your garden is with the larger environment. We often just draw inspiration and falsely believe that our yard and the rest of the world are separate entities and the causality is exclusively one-sided. It’s not, and you should be more aware of that, especially if you live within miles of concrete and asphalt, which may seem like a world away from the forests of Cascadia or the Ogalla aquifer.

TERRAIN

One final note on waste and this is more of a metaphorical one. Don’t waste your space and native topography. Take advantage of dark corners, hills, and “10 hours of sunlight” areas. You can get a lot of variation if you use the environment and work with it instead of investing money to change it and adapt to the plants you want to use. And this brings up the subject of nativars. Local plants will always thrive where you need a lot of effort and expense to make others work.

If you don’t have much space; read out maximizing small backyard designs here.

Just by checking your soil and shopping around for climate specific plants you’re gonna have a better-looking garden, cheaper and without the need to use any expensive toxic chemicals. We’ll get to how actually to change the landscape in the next part, but for now, I want to address people that aren’t remodeling or have a lot of space. Use hills for greedy flowers than need a lot of air and sun. Use natural shade or a privacy panel shade for short brushes that want more humidity. You can get a lot of environments from a small garden if you try. This is what landscaping is all about, with enough money and tech we can build a Amazonian rainforest on Mars, but that’s just lazy.

ECO-FRIENDLY LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE

Now, I’m gonna teach you how to make the most of what you have available. The most obvious option and the easiest for those with small budgets are to collect rainwater runoff in rain barrels and just use the free soft water for your gardens needs. Besides the ecological benefits, this option is very versatile for use in small spaces and the Chinese are experimenting with the technology as a linchpin in combination with solar panels for indoor heating.

PLANT BEDS

Speaking of small spaces, downsize your lawn area. This is a forced design choice in many gardens built after 2014 when we all became very aware of the effects of climate change. Now, it’s not seen as a design compromise but rather a creative opportunity for zoning and segmentation, which means that in regards to lawns large yards and small gardens have an equal chance at bold, unusual design.
Flowerbeds are thirsty; use them as primary assets if you must have so you get most out of the water you have to use. Group them together based on their water and sun requirements. And funnel rain runoff into the thirstiest flower bed. Let it collect there and seep into the ground. If it doesn’t loosen the ground.

You can use landscaping rocks to help add to the design and look of your yard!

A BETTER FLOWER BED

This is a rain garden, and it uses depth of the soil as a natural reservoir for moisture that feeds of naturally from rainfall and any other water you might be using. It’s a bit tricky, and you need to adjust the water funneling a few times, but it’s amazing and invigorates your garden from beneath. Essentially they are a plant bed that is designed to collect runoff and stops it from getting into the sewers to prevent swelling during rainy seasons.

They also have an excellent side effect on your soil, because a rain garden is made of loose soil and encourages pudling and infiltration the water seeps into the ground actually sponging up all the water during rainfall and very slowly releasing it during the drier season. It’s a great way to keep your soil healthy and to stabilize the stress densely populated areas put on the sewer system. Again, usually people cover it with mulch to keep the humidity at peak levels, but as I previously said, I prefer landscaping glass because it’s lower maintenance and discourages weed growth. And if you live in harder climates, the weeds will love that wet, fertile soil you have in that plant bed.

DINING UNDER THE CANOPY

IN the same way, but this time from the top down, use deciduous trees as natural shade and moisture catcher in the summer, for your more sensitive plants or to help with water evaporation. Trees are the reverse of lawns, the bigger, the deeper they go and the better balance of your soils humidity. They lose water very slowly and need proportionally less. A large tree will do more for the dry soil than any amount of wood mulch because it creates it’s very own microclimate balancing out wind, sun, and humidity. And just like the airing out of the solid you do with a rain garden, the roots of trees do than naturally.
Trees also open up an interesting design opportunity, the livable recreational space. If you can afford a large three in you garden jump on it, it offers a unique feel for your gathering area, and it also provides a yearly natural source of composting keeping the ground beautiful and healthy. Use permeable pavings so you make an excellent compromise between making the most of the natural water cycle, and making is accessible and usable to your soil. I know changing your gathering spot to something more long term isn’t an attractive prospect.

Think about it this way: our resources are getting used up faster each year. And each year there’s more of us to share what we have. Sustainable landscaping isn’t a fad, it’s an integrated way we will think of about all future landscaping design, so why not just get a head start on everyone. By the time it will be the only affordable options due to watering restrictions you’ll have a lush 10-year old covering your garden with its dense canopy.

GARDEN HACKS

On a similar vain, but at a smaller scale, you should strive to use privacy panels and living walls instead of solid blocks for your separation. They don’t store heat and dry out their corners leaving some more breathing room, I’ve already talked about how cheap they can get and how great they look, so I won’t repeat myself, but you should also be aware of their positive influence on the health of your terrain and surrounding landscaping.
And we would not be talking about sustainable landscape redesign without talking about rain gardens. Because they can work with any water source and act as a battery for humidity making water usage more efficient, they are the cheap and easy solution for most landscapers on a budget. The combination of privacy panels, synthetic lawns and rain gardens, should work for most mid-size gardens and are flexible enough when used in conjunction with some beautiful landscaping glass or gravel to provide an infinite amount of looks and styles regardless of your local climate.

Get a mock up of your space and try out some designs, section it, figure out a central feature area, a secondary feature and then plan out some beautiful lines in between, cut them off with the panels and create the illusion of multiple communicating spaces instead of one big one.

GREEN LANDSCAPING PRODUCTS AND FEATURES

Go as green as you want, but at least try, there are plenty of lazy man option out there that are installed and forget. You don’t need to change everything in your garden. Keep these principles in mind for when you need to change some old features in your garden. Or better, follow the recycle policy, salvage the old feature and see how you can repurpose the old feature or spin it into something new. I’ve seen privacy panels made out of benches and art features made out of concrete stairs. Nothing is lost, everything is transformed, the only question is what is it going to transform into?


But that’s an option, on a much more serious note is our obsession with lawns. If you live in a drought area, downsizing your lawns and getting rid of lawns altogether is somewhat more urgent as you seem to get less and less rain with each passing year. Cut it in quarters, and turn 2 diagonal corners into gravel pit’s, you will transform the surface into something modern and daring, and you would have cut in half your water expenditure.
Replacing the gasoline mowers with an electric or manual one is one of the simplest switches you can make. Now for me personally a rugged, sharp mower beats a battery one any and every time. I could rant about this for a whole post, and maybe someday I will. But in my view a push reel mower is always the better option: your grass will be healthier, it’s quiet, it’s easy to maintain and fiddle with.

But can’t argue with tastes. Just remember always to gather your clippings. Also, while on the subject of mowing, another handy tip to keep the ground from drying up is to leave your grass a little longer over the summer. It helps a lot and a 3-inch grass all but stops direct sunlight to fall on the underbed and drying it up.

DROUGHT PROOFING

So while technology is a downgrade regarding mowers or at best a sidegrade. A tool that does improve your landscaping massively are sprinklers and this time technology improves them massively.
Modern day sprinkler systems, monitor your soil’s humidity in real time, you can set variable watering based on zones and soil. High tech sprinklers are by far the most efficient irrigation option you can install.

Although a bit expensive it will more than pay for it’self in less than 2 years, or less if your utility bills are above the national average. While if you live in less dry places, you can make the leap to rain gardens and or collect rainwater into a reservoir as suitable alternatives, but in arid environments save up and get these things, because they make a significant dent in your monthly utility bill.
Again, especially for those of you that live in dry areas, the second biggest saver will be Xeriscaping. Over the years slowly move on to drought tolerant plants, succulents and deciduous trees for their soil regulating nurturing and protection and limited water needs. When you replace the ground cover consider landscaping glass, synthetic turfs gravel or crushed brick, which goes with any arid theme. Just remember, to get a strong weed barrier as well as dry land weeds are particularly hardy.
We want to use as little poisons as possible even in the dessert.Use dense rot-resistant wood for your finishings, and in no time you will have a well-kept garden, toxin free that will last decades in the dessert.Or go a bit further down the rabbit whole. Use weeds as a feature. They work really well in arid scapes, and if you use them with intent, they can pass for native plants.

THE HARD ONES

Composting and aquaponics are not for everyone. But in the case of composting, do share your biomass with someone if they have a compost heap and get your composting needs from them when the time comes. I have no place for composting, but I would never lay a flower bed without it, so I looked around, found a couple of guys within a 15-minute drive and I get my compost healthy and natural from them directly. And that’s also where I empty all my waste. Win-Win.
Outdoor aquariums are an interesting feature brought by the use aquaponics. In similar vain, ponds are the new lungs for your garden, so it’s definitely something to consider if you want to try something new and daring that infuses your yard with life.
And the last level of eco-landscaping would be the permaculture, which is the full-scale autonomous garden, but this is a full-time affair and requires a lot of space. The basic concept is to make your whole garden a self-sustainable microenvironment. And it is so fascinating I might make a whole post about it, about zones, edge effect, vertical layers and the inspiration that all that can create into landscaping design.

Need unlimited, free tumbled glass or organic mulch? A friend of mine told me about this program and it took me a while to find the details.

This well-hidden, gem of a program put on by the COA is called the Austin Resource Recovery Center. It’s a place where folks like us can take our trucks and fill up as many times we want with glass or mulch.

Phone: (512) 243-3325

Hours: Monday – Friday; 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Closed Saturday and Sunday

Here’s the map. (south of Austin Bergstrom International Airport).

The city will load the glass mulch into a pickup for $9.64 per ton (no cash or credit cards, checks only). You can load it yourself for free. Bring your own shovel

Glass Description: Color-mixed processed glass aggregate. Generated from the sorting of commingled materials picked up from the City of Austin’s curbside recycling program. Contaminants: Approx. 5%; includes paper and caps.

Directions for Use – Put Glass in bucket or tub, put on rubber gloves.. fill with water, stir up glass so paper and plastic pieces come to the top. Wash, rinse repeat x 3

The mulch is about the same.. Whatever the COA collects curbside, it mulches and dumps into this pile.. It’s not going to look as good as store-bought stuff, but…hey… it’s free!

I put the stuff down without weed barrier (you can see a few poking through). Something about the sunlight refracting through the glass, heating up the surface and soil beneath, prevents grass from growing throughout. This stuff is perfect for low-light or metal gardens like the one i’m starting pictured below:


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11 Ways to Use Recycled Glass Around the Garden

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Recycled glass can be practical, decorative or both when incorporated into an outdoor living space. It adds unexpected texture and a pop of color to any style of yard and homeowners use it as lighting, pool tiles and even upcycled irrigation. Should you wish to add some glass to an outdoor living space, check out the following ideas.

1. Colorful Container Mulch

A perfect way to integrate recycled glass into an outdoor living space is to use it as a topping for container plants in lieu of rock or wood mulch. A layer of glass tumbled glass usually doesn’t have sharp edges and can last much longer than wood mulch which tends to biodegrade or blow away. Glass looks particularly stunning when placed around succulents of contrasting color.

2. Pool and Other Tiles

The red tiles on this infinity pool are made with recycled glass and laid with unusual red grout. Recycled glass tile is incredibly durable, resists stains and doesn’t need sealing unlike slate or natural stone. Note that larger tiles can be more prone to cracking during installation or use though any glass tile can crack or scratch if it comes into contact with something hard. Transparent glass of any color also adds interesting depth and light reflection that is not common with ceramic tiles.

3. Unique Groundcover

Recycled blue glass pebbles are the focal point of this space as one might expect gravel or other pebbles in a natural color to be used instead. Glass, when purchased for an outdoor application like this, is perfectly safe for even kids and pets to walk on.

Also, check out the striking color contrast between this blue recycled glass and the green-yellow ground cover in this contemporary landscape. A home in La Jolla has similar sea blue glass in the front yard. The homeowner even went as far as to toss a handful of small glass fish and starfish on top of the glass. Neighborhood kids just love it.

4. Accessories for Outdoor Tables

The glass bottles inside the wooden crate have been repurposed into vases holding whimsical flowers in order to make a magazine-worthy centerpiece for an outdoor dining table. The rustic look balances the clean lines of the chairs and sleek grey table cover.

5. DIY Lighting

The bottoms of these bottles have been sawed off at various heights for decorative purposes and also to allow a lightbulb to be slipped into the bottom. Hang them all at the same level for a more formal look, but the staggered heights and bulbs suit a casual dining space like the one above. While these lights are indoors, it could very easily be hung from a pergola or other outdoor shade structure. A San Diego company called Bottles and Wood makes smaller scale recycled bottle pendants out of Skyy Vodka bottles and similar.

This particular succulent planter was designed specifically for a restaurant. Landscape lights are run into upside-down, empty wine bottles to create a glow at eye level–a festive touch, seeing as the restaurant probably serves wine.

7. Fire Pit Topping

Small pieces of glass or recycled glass make a contemporary topping for an outdoor fire pit (or an indoor fire place). If the fire pit is gas, the glass does an excellent job of dispersing the flame as air pockets between glass pebbles allow gas to seep around it. Use a fun color to enhance the space, but be sure that the glass is safe for use in a fire pit.

8. Garden Art

While this eclectic bottle tree isn’t to everyone’s taste, it does showcase how recycled glass can be incorporated into a garden as a sculpture or other piece of art. You can DIY a piece or search on Etsy for similar glass art that can serve as a focal point in the yard.

9. Unique Decorative Walls

This homeowner neatly stacked wine bottles on to a stuccoed wall to create an interesting privacy screen that doubles as art. When light shines on the bottles, the glass showcases an interesting range of blue and green colors. The blue container planting ties the color scheme together brilliantly, too.

This wall would be the ideal backdrop for an outdoor bar or entertaining area. The homeowner created this wall using a glass drill bit to make the holes in the bottles (noting that many will break along the way). You’ll need to use washers or something similar to prevent water from seeping into the bottles through the holes and openings in order to avoid causing unnecessary weight or mess.

10. An Outdoor Countertop

Beautiful recycled glass countertops are far more durable than natural stone and require less maintenance. Depending on the manufacturer, if the countertop has big chunks of glass, you can even sometimes see writing on the bottle shards which adds a ton of character. These days, recycled glass countertops come in a variety of price ranges and colors.

11. Container Plant Irrigation

It’s possible to upcycle a wine bottle into a surprisingly efficient irrigation system for container plants that is perfect for the busy or traveling gardener. Fill the wine bottle with water all the way to the brim, quickly turn it upside-down and shove it into the container planting at least 6-8″ away from the base of the plant as not to damage the root system. As dirt dries, water will seep into it to keep the plants hydrated. Refill the bottle as necessary.

Your Turn…

How do you use recycled glass in the garden?

Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden celebrates its 20th anniversary with a blockbuster exhibit.

by Page Leggett

China is the traditional gift for a 20th anniversary, while platinum is the modern choice. To commemorate its 20-year milestone, Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden is eschewing both. Instead, the Belmont destination plans to mark the occasion with the suggested modern gift for a third anniversary: glass.

In this case, it’s better than platinum. In a larger-than-life exhibit, Seattle-based artist Jason Gamrath is installing 40 hyper-realistic, botanical glass sculptures, including 10-foot orchids, technicolor pitcher plants and beautiful-but-deadly Venus’ flytraps.

Grandiflora: Gamrath Glass at the Garden debuts Friday, May 24 at the nearly 400-acre garden. Blending man-made sculptures with natural flora is no easy task, according to the artist. “Inside a gallery, we can isolate the work. There are fewer distractions,” he says by phone from his Washington state home. “But out in nature, we have to make it look like it belongs. You can’t fight with nature.” The artist will be on-site for the installation, which will take between two and three weeks, and for the exhibit opening.

Gamrath, 32, has been working with glass for more than half his life. He discovered the medium when he was just 15. “I got to play with fire,” he says. “Who wouldn’t want to do that?”

Photographs from Lumina Studio

When you think of glassblowing and Seattle, another artist’s name might come to mind. The Emerald City is also home to the world-famous studio of Dale Chihuly, whose distinctive glass sculptures graced the gardens at Asheville’s Biltmore last year. Aside from geography and medium, the two artists share much in common: Both produce intricate, eye-popping, colorful and curvilinear forms on a grand scale.

“Chihuly was really the first to break out of that ‘glass-has-to-be-functional’ mindset,” Gamrath says. “He said, ‘I want to make something people have never seen before.’”

That’s Gamrath’s goal, too. His work has parallels to Chihuly’s, though his style is completely original. Chihuly’s work pays subtle homage to nature in its flowing, snake-like forms, yet it remains rooted in the abstract. Gamrath’s work, on the other hand, is based on his close study of the botanical world. It’s realistic to the point of being anatomically correct — except for its exaggerated size.

“I like to think I’m a mix of some of my favorite artists,” Gamrath says. Chief among those is William Morris, a California-based glass artist and former assistant to Chihuly. Gamrath began working as an assistant to Morris at 16. “I opened and closed the door ,” he says. “I was the low man on the totem pole, but I soaked up all these skills.”

Photographs from Lumina Studio

Photographs from Lumina Studio

Today, Gamrath has his own studio and his own staffers, which he describes as “extra hands attached to my body.” However, he’s not ceding any control. “I have my hands on every single piece,” he says.

His studio includes “shops” where specific tasks are performed. “Probably 50% of my work is glass,” he says. “There’s a lot more than just glass blowing that goes into this work. So, there’s a glass blowing shop, a grinding shop, a metalworking shop and a painting shop. Each is a very specific skill, and there’s no room for error.”

Gamrath’s attention to detail would make a botanist jealous. “There are infinite numbers of mysterious things going on in nature we don’t see,” he says. “I like finding the seldom-noticed thing and bringing attention to it. It could be a beautiful curve or the organized randomness along the edge of a flower petal. Nothing happens by accident in nature.”

Nothing happens by accident in his studio, either. His highly methodical process begins with thorough examination of his subject matter. “I find a real specimen and watch it develop,” he says. “I’ll cut a bud open to examine what it looks like. I’ll study the backs of flowers — the part you never see. Then, I try to replicate the stages of development in glass. Since glass is an alive medium, it can mimic the growth of a plant.”

Photographs from Lumina Studio

Photographs from Lumina Studio

Like most glassblowers, Gamrath began by making utilitarian vessels. He soon sought bigger challenges. “I decided to try to make something realistic,” he says. “Then I wanted to take it a step further and make something hyper-realistic. Then, the next challenge was to scale everything up. I wanted to push the limits of scale and accuracy.” It’s both that intricate detail and the enormity of Gamrath’s botanical works that captivate in equal measure.

Most of the pieces in the Daniel Stowe show are part of Gamrath’s personal collection. But there’s one new piece he made especially for the Belmont garden. His Cattleya Orchid “covers all phases of that flower’s blooming and opening. You can see new, fresh buds, the in-between stage and the full flowering.” This piece, which will be displayed at Founders Hall in the visitors pavilion, is the one he’s most excited to view.

At Daniel Stowe, the gardens are getting a spring makeover to ensure they’re ready for the exhibit. Big, bold, beautiful plants with large flowers and leaves will complement the sculptures placed among them. Guests can explore the Butterfly Bungalow by day, or enjoy a drink and live music in the beer garden on select evenings.

Gamrath’s advice for exploring his work? “Don’t think too hard. Enjoy the beauty, and allow yourself to be carried away.” That should be easy to do on a sticky summer evening — when it’s too hot to think, anyway.

It may be Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden’s anniversary. But visitors are the ones getting the gift. SP

Experience Grandiflora: Gamrath Glass at the Garden May 24 through Sept. 29 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Beginning May 30, the exhibition will be open Thursdays through Sundays from 6 to 10 p.m. DSBG will be closed for a private event the evening of June 16.

Adult admission is $14.95. Seniors 60 and up are admitted for $12.95. Kids 2–12 get in for $7.95, and children under age 2 get free admission, as do DSBG members from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Members get a 30% discount on evening admission. Tickets are available at the door for daytime admission and both online at DSBG.org and at the door for evening admission.

What Is Glass Mulch: Tips On Using Landscape Glass As Mulch

By Mary Dyer, Master Naturalist and Master Gardener

What is glass mulch? This unique product made of recycled, tumbled glass is used in the landscape much like gravel or pebbles. However, the intense colors of glass mulch never fade and this durable mulch lasts nearly forever. Let’s learn more about using glass mulch in the landscape.

What is Tumbled Glass Mulch?

Glass mulch is a commonly used synthetic, or inorganic mulch. Using tumbled glass mulch made from used glass bottles, old windows and other glass products keeps glass out of the landfills. The ground, tumbled glass, which may display minor flaws common to recycled glass, is available in various shades of amber, blue, and green. Clear glass mulch is also available. Sizes range from very fine mulch to 2- to 6-inch rocks.

Using Recycled Glass in Gardens

Tumbled glass mulch has no jagged, sharp edges, which makes it useful for a variety of uses in the landscape, including pathways, fire pits or around potted plants. The mulch works well in beds or rock gardens filled with plants that tolerate rocky, sandy soil. Landscape cloth or black plastic placed under the glass keeps the mulch from working its way into the soil.

Using landscape glass as mulch tends to be relatively expensive, but the low maintenance and longevity help balance the cost. As a general rule, 7 pounds of glass mulch is enough to cover 1 square foot to a depth of 1 inch. An area measuring 20 square feet requires about 280 pounds of glass mulch. However, the total amount depends on the size of the glass. Larger mulch measuring 1 to 2 inches or more usually requires at least twice as much to cover the ground effectively than smaller mulch.

The expense is higher if the mulch is shipped. Look for glass mulch at retail building supply companies or nurseries, or contact landscape contractors in your area. In some areas, the mulch is available at the Department of Environmental Quality or city recycling facilities. Some municipalities offer recycled glass mulch to the public free of charge. However, choice of specific sizes and colors is usually limited.

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Some outdoor areas are enjoying a little extra sparkle — with assistance from old beer bottles and other recyclables used as landscape glass. Bits of repurposed glass, in jewel-like nuggets, provide a decorative accent at the base of hedges, potted greens, and other types of landscaping.

The repurposed glass is formed by grinding various types of recycled glass. Sometimes referred to as “glass mulch,” the pebbles are tumbled to round off sharp edges. They are sold as “glass pebbles” at some landscape shops around the nation, and via online retailers. In Austin, Texas, the solid waste department gives away free repurposed glass. Depending on the supplier, glass pebbles are available in an assortment of hues.

ASG Glass in Utah produces landscape glass in a wide variety of individual colors and blends. Some are the natural color of the bottle or window being recycled, others feature added pigment, according to ASG Glass President Berkeley Booth.

Not Just for Your Backyard

The array of available colors allows gardeners to create beautiful customized designs. For example, a football team ordered a truckload of green and white glass to place a sparkling team logo on the ground near its stadium.

Blue hues featuring soft sea tones and clear pieces can be used to lay out a faux stream or pond to highlight a landscape. Darla Senter shares glass landscape ideas on her Pinterest page, where you’ll find dozens of ideas.

Darla Senter created this pump and stream in her garden using repurposed glass.

The creative possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

Cost and Benefit

The price of the ASG Glass products depends on the color and quantity. Twenty-five-pound bags are between $40 and $90. You’ll need about seven pounds of glass per square foot. Earth911 researched 16 different glass types and the average cost for a 25-pound bag is $76.

Online supplier EnvrioGLAS, in Plano, Texas, touts another environmental benefit of the recycled product. “Glass mulch does not absorb water like wood mulch, so the water goes where it is intended — into the plants — and even less water is used.” Most of its products are sold in 50-pound bags for around $35.

An Artistic Touch

Charlie Nardozzi, a nationally recognized gardening writer, said he regards glass pebble as primarily a decorative feature. Unlike organic mulch, glass doesn’t break down and fertilize the soil. He said he’s not sure if it offers other mulch functions, such as keeping the soil cool and moist. It does, however, offer an interesting aesthetic value.

“It’s really kind of cool,’’ he said. “It’s really more of an artistic expression.”

For those who want to express their artistic personality through glass mulch for free, the city of Austin gives away crushed glass at its landfill. Of course, the palette is a bit more limited. The city of Austin’s decorative glass is a blend of the containers they collect — clear, brown and green.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on February 9, 2009. The article, including the glass pricing, was updated in August 2018.

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Applying mulch around your trees, shrubs, garden, and landscape beds is one of the easiest and most effective ways of not only keeping plants healthy, but also reducing water usage, preventing weeds, minimizing mowing, and just plain making your yard look better.

According to a North Carolina State University study, a proper layer of mulch will result in a 10 to 25 percent decrease in soil moisture loss due to evaporation, help keep the soil aerated by reducing soil compaction from rain hitting directly on the soil, and reduce water runoff and soil erosion. The insulating qualities of mulch help keep the soil at a more uniform temperature by keeping it warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.

Types of Mulch
Mulch falls into one of two main categories, organic mulch and inorganic mulch. Organic mulch would be material such as pine straw, bark nuggets, wood chips, compost, grass clippings, or even layers of newspaper. Organic mulch will usually decompose over time and will need to be replenished regularly. Examples of inorganic mulch are gravel, rocks, pebbles, recycled glass, recycled tire mulch, and landscape fabric. This type of mulch typically does not decompose over time so need only be placed once.

How Much
Mulch should be applied to a depth of about 2 to 4” and extend out to cover as much of the root zone as possible. For trees, mulch at least 3 to 6’ out from the tree. Be sure to pull mulch back 1 to 2” from the base of plants and trees to prevent rot.

Mulch Use Calculator
Check out The How Do Gardener Mulch Use Calculator to calculate how much mulch you will need to cover an area based on its length, width, and the depth of mulch desired.

Use a Border
Rather than just having a mulched bed go right up against your lawn, use a border of stones, metal or plastic edging material. This will make for a distinct outline for your mulched area, keep weeds and grass from growing into your beds, and make trimming the grass along the bed edges much easier.

Free Mulch?
Well, mulching sounds like a good idea, but what about this whole “free mulch” thing? Did you ever wonder what happens to the tree limbs and branches that the power company trims back from power lines, or the empty glass bottles that are picked up from all of those recycling bins you see curbside on garbage day? Here in Austin, and in many cities across the country, they are processed into various forms of mulch and made available to the public for little or no cost, usually at the city dump or recycling center.

Tree waste is shredded into traditional wood mulch, and the collected glass waste is crushed into small pieces and tumbled with course sand until the edges are smooth and there are no more sharp points. Some facilities sort the glass by color, and others mix glass of all colors together to produce an attractive multi-colored glass mulch.

Here in Austin, you can get as much wood mulch as you can load into your vehicle for no charge. If you load glass mulch yourself, it is also free, or for $9.67 you can have a worker in a Bobcat load a ton of glass mulch in one quick dump. Not a bad deal, a ton of mulch for the same price as a few bags of mulch purchased from the store.

Get Creative
Try putting different types of mulch in different beds and pathways in your landscape to add interest. Glass mulch makes an interesting and attractive addition to your home landscape, but its unique properties afford an opportunity to get creative. Try replacing that narrow strip of grass between the street and the sidewalk with glass mulch. I decided to form up my own custom concrete stepping stones, in sizes ranging from 1’ by 1’, to 1’ by 2’, and embed a layer of glass mulch into the top of the wet concrete to provide a one of a kind look for a pathway.

Summary
Mulch can be applied any time of the year. It can consist of a wide variety of materials with many different textures, colors, and looks. Other than a little elbow grease, it can often be applied for little or no cost. Check with your local municipal waste management facility or recycling center for free mulch in your area. Mulch is a great way to spruce up your landscape and protect your plants. Choose mulch with the look and the price that suits your needs and put some down this season. You’ll be pleased with the way your landscape looks and the way your plants and trees thrive.

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Dry Landscaping Inspiration

Forget Grass!

Not only are sand and gravel lower maintenance than grass, but they will beautifully compliment the rest of your landscaping. If you are concerned about issues such as water conservation or chemical use on your lawn, you may be pleased to learn that sand and gravel can be great alternatives. Landscaping gravel comes in a variety of colors and textures, and so does sand. Check out our gravel calculator here!

Glass Gravel

Glass gravel is an unusual and stunning alternative which comes in a variety of colors and sizes and lasts forever. Glass gravel is made from recycled and broken-down glass. It undergoes rigorous cleaning and is tumbled until no sharp edges remain. You can use glass gravel as an accent for gardens, walkways, or landscape beds.

Lava Rock

Lava rock is naturally porous, meaning liquid and air pass through very small holes in the rock. This makes it an absorbent landscaping material for gardening. It is also an attractive alternative that comes in many different styles.

The fact that it’s porous also makes it lightweight, so it is easier to install than other rock and gravel. Lava rock has become a popular choice for desert landscaping because it imitates natural terrain so well.

Pea Gravel

Pea gravel is a landscaping favorite. This is because of its smooth texture and amazing color variation. Also, the cost is very reasonable making it an appealing choice for almost any application. Fill a side yard, cover a driveway, design a patio, build a dog run, walkway, or planting bed. You can choose gravel based on your knowledge of space available or by using a gravel calculator.

Paver/Concrete Sand

Concrete sand can be used to level the ground beneath pavers and fill the spaces between them. This coarse-washed sand helps prevent shifting and breaking of the pavers, making a paver walkway much more stable.

True to its name, concrete sand is also used for making certain types of concrete. The concrete can then be poured into a tile template. This creates the illusion as if it was made by laying down individual pavers. It can also be used to create patio areas, garden edging… even outdoor steps! In this sense, it is truly decorative sand.

Play Sand

Play sand, or Mason sand, can be used to incorporate a children’s play area into your yard. Like other landscaping materials, it comes in a variety of colors. This decorative sand is perfect for use in sandboxes and under play equipment because the medium-coarse reduces tracking. This means the sand will not be dragged into your home and other parts of your garden or on your kid’s shoes.

Outdoor Sports Area

Play sand is also very useful in the creation of outdoor sports courts such as:

  • Volleyball courts
  • Golf courses
  • Beach ball courts

It can be patted down into a smooth play surface surrounded by small pavers to create an authentic home play field. The variety of color choices to this decorative sand give you many options for creative visuals when designing your court.

Zen Garden

A Japanese Zen garden is a beautiful and meaningful way to showcase multiple landscaping materials. A Zen garden is a rock garden showcasing uniquely-shaped larger rocks—think of them as an accent—in a bed of enclosed play sand or gravel.

Landscaping sand or gravel represents the sea. Larger, decorative rocks represent the earth and its natural formations. Interestingly, Zen gardens do not include any living plants.

To upkeep the garden, periodically rake the sand or gravel to recreate the moving waters of the sea. The Japanese have been known to design intricate patterns with the sand which require intense concentration; then, it all gets raked away to make way for a new design. Tending to a Zen garden can be a meditative experience.

Decorative Sand & Landscaping Gravel

Pioneer Landscape Centers is a leading landscaping supplier in the US! For the past 50 years, we have served homeowners, contractors, builders, municipalities, and businesses across the country. We continue to exceed expectations every time with customer service and craftsmanship. And we do it in style! For additional questions or to make use of our gravel calculator, reach out to us at (866) 525-4079.

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