Flies in the Pig Pen

…Shoo Fly Shoo!

  • How can you bedazzle a gloomy basement apartment with bars on the windows?
  • How can you unleash your inner farmer when you don’t have any land or cute overalls?
  • What do you do if you live in the city, under the shadow of a giant cathedral and NOTHING will grow?
  • How can your home make you happy?
A: Garbage Flowers.

My street gets a lot of foot traffic and I’m so tickled when people stop to pay a compliment or ask about them…where’d you get them? how’d you make them? how much water did you have to drink?… It’s very flattering, and more important, I’ve met all sorts of people (a real treat for city living). And, not only have I met the neighbors, the neighbors now think I am one of those eco-chic-and-well-informed people who spell green with a capital G.

I’m still working on it.

Oddly enough, first time I saw a garbage flower it was on a farm, or, to be more precise, a hog shed. Theory was the shiny flowers would attract birds, and birds would eat the bugs that came with the glory of raising livestock (read: maggot laden poop by the truckload). Don’t think the flowers worked on the flies but gosh that was one good looking pig pen.

Fast forward 20 years…walking by Anthropologie and look in the window and BOOM THERE IT WAS: a billion fabulous garbage flowers and not a dirty hog in sight! It was stunning. Could hardly hold back from ripping them down from the display. It was so well so executed though, it didn’t even occur to me that I could do this at my house.

Shame on me.

Two weeks later, we were visiting friends in Oak Park and crossed an elementary school, and there, behold, the most fabulous technicolor extravaganza you could ever hope to see! Those kids had COVERED their schoolyard’s chain link fence in garbage flowers, even brighter and more beautiful than the Anthropologie installation. There were hundreds!  Best part was that every flower was different. The bottles varied from liters of soda pop, to milk jugs and yogurt cups. And the painting was clearly, lovingly, mixed by tiny little hands. Man, was it gorgeous! Hats off to the art teacher at that school. If those kids felt half as inspired as I did, that teacher deserves One Heck of an award.

I walked away from that fence feeling like I ate a rainbow.

I wanted more. Now I just knew I needed to replicate it at my apartment. No chain link fence on my property, but the bars on my windows would do just fine!

One month, 5 cans of spray paint, 80 pipe cleaners and A Heap of recyclables later, I have my very own garbage flower display! They make me happy every time I walk through the door.

Directions on how to make them for yourself. Bars on windows not included.


  1. says

    I loved your story.it was heart felt and fun.
    your flowers are very cute and clever. the store your talking about travels all over the world looking for fresh ideas for their stores. I think its called shopping international its a great show .. love your work .. God bless..S

  2. says

    I’ve been looking at all your flower tutorials and really enjoying them. We’re moving and I can’t wait to show off some new rooms with coffee filter flowers and pom poms. Thanks.

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