Gardening: The secret to creating stylish water garden

Nancy Szerlag
Special to The Detroit News

Krylon spray paint is to outdoor decor as chalk paint is to interior makeovers.   I first discovered this paint in a spray can several years ago when painted dried allium seed heads became a hot item as a garden accent with the trendy set.

Galvanized containers like this can be used to create water gardens.

 The paint acts as a preservative and the seed heads last through the growing season.  This paint can be used on a variety of surfaces including metal, plastic, paper and wood.  And the good news is that it comes in huge array of colors, including metallic (available online) so you can go crazy or not, depending on your mood. French blue is my color of choice.

Last weekend, I came upon a great how-to article in the July /August 2017 edition of American Gardener magazine that was adapted from the popular DIY book "Potted: Make Your Own Stylish Garden Containers" by Annette Goliti Gutierrez and Mary Gray (Timber Press). It talked about creating a water garden using a galvanized stock water tank. No big deal, right: Just fill it with water, add some water plants and you’re good to go. Well,  “as is” galvanized water tanks are utilitarian and simple in design. True, they’ve become popular for use as containers for raised bed vegetable gardens, but this “heavy” industrial look isn’t suited for most patios or decks where a small water garden would be a lovely accent.    

However, with a spray can of Krylon paint (metallic copper goes well with galvanized zinc), some painter’s masking tape, fine sand paper, a few other materials you probably have hanging around the house, and very little elbow grease, Gutierrez and Gray transformed one of these industrial containers into is a more sophisticated accessory that works perfectly with the rustic and “lighter” industrial look that is so on trend today. And the good news is this project takes hours, not days to complete.

  The downside to this project is stock tanks, readily available at feed stores and online, are pricey –new they run a couple of hundred dollars or more depending on the size.  But don’t let this deter you from picking up this book, because recycling is the name of the game and Gutierrez and Gray include 22 other designs that are inexpensive, good looking and easy to do.  

And if you keep your eyes peeled, chances are you will come upon another large waterproof container, just sitting on someone’s lawn waiting for trash pickup and free for the taking, that can be spray painted and adapted for use as a first class water garden.  

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and a Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. To ask her a question go to and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at