There is something sinister about a landscape of rusted metal: a corroded car off the highway, a forgotten Midwestern town, or a decaying seaport. The visceral response to the rambling, dark red oxide could come from its resemblance to blood or from the reminder of our own inevitable oxidation. Or maybe it’s just a fear of tetanus.
Rusted metal is often cast into junkyards as an unusable, unsightly material but that’s too bad. There’s a certain charm in rust. Borrowed from the designs of landscape architects, here are 10 genius garden hacks using rusted metal (Cor-Ten steel included).
Weave a Fence
Above: In Edinburgh, Scotland, architects Groves-Raines used traditional Scottish willow weaving techniques to create a rusty barrier around a custom composting shed from A New World Composting Shed in Edinburgh. Photograph by Dan Farrar courtesy of Groves-Raines Architects.
Build a Fence
Above: Architects Piercy & Company designed a perforated steel fence to let light into a brick-paved courtyard and to visually connect the two gabled wings of a house built behind the facade of a Victorian stables in London. Photograph via The Modern House.
An Entry Gate
Above: A rusted gate on the side of landscape architect Christine Ten Eyck‘s own house in Austin, Texas. Photograph by Matthew Williams for Gardenista.
Above: Another gate at Ten Eyck‘s Austin house. Photograph by Matthew Williams for Gardenista.
Add Sculptural Interest
Above: A circular rusty metal sculpture on the side of a garden path by landscape designer Anthony Paul from A Glamorous Black and White Cottage Garden.
Lay a Pathway
Above: A rusted iron walkway by Hugo Bugg at the Chelsea Flower Show in London. See more in Expert Advice: 10 White Garden Ideas from Petersham Nurseries. Photograph by Kendra Wilson.
Design a Planter
Above: Photograph by Matthew Williams courtesy of Julie Farris.
Designer Julie Farris created a Cor-Ten steel box overflowing with Korean boxwood for a New York City garden. For more, see Before & After: From “Fishbowl” Townhouse Garden to Private Oasis in Manhattan.
Build a Retaining Wall
Above: Photograph by Eric Piasecki courtesy of Nelson Byrd Woltz.
Cor-Ten steel forms a garden’s walls and stairs and mint, chives, chard, and tomatoes fill discreet stepped beds in a contemporary landscape in Connecticut designed by Thomas Woltz of Nelson Byrd Woltz. For more, see The Landscape Designer Is In: Playing Matchmaker Between a House and its Site.
Edge a Garden Bed
Above: Designer Julie Farris created a “simple and strong’ design for a townhouse garden with rusted metal edging in Before & After: From “Fishbowl” Garden to Private Oasis in Manhattan. Photograph by Matthew Williams courtesy of Julie Farris.
A Fire Pit for Entertaining
Above: A simple rusted metal fire pit is at Glen Oaks Cabin in Big Sur, California.
Add Curb Appeal
Above: Blue fescues line a Cor-Ten steel fence. Photograph courtesy of Huettl Landscape Architecture. For more, see our plant guide, Gardening 101: Fescue.
See more Cor-Ten steel in Before and After: A Music Studio Rises from Its Victorian Ruins and Rust Never Sleeps: 8 Surprising Ways to Use Steel in the Garden. And for more garden hacks see 10 Genius Garden Hacks with Poured Concrete