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Weekly Gardening Tips for Your Area


Instant Garden Antique: Aging a Concrete Bird Bath

Lynn Coulter
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bird bath

Many gardeners want their gardens to look as if they’ve been around for a long time. Lush plants, mature trees, mossy bricks or stones, and deep shade add charm and make a garden feel magical, as if it’s very old, yet timeless, too.

You can wait patiently for time and the elements to give your garden a patina of age and romance, or take a few shortcuts. A little paint, for example, can “age” a concrete bird bath or other garden statue in just hours.






1. Do this project outdoors, if possible. We worked in an area that didn’t have any grass or plants that would be harmed. If you work inside, make sure you have good air circulation while handling the bleach and paints. Use a covering to protect your floor.

2. Put on the rubber gloves, and mix a solution of one part water to one part household bleach in the bucket. Use the scrub brush to gently clean your bird bath or other concrete item with the mixture. If your item is stained with grease or oil, use a degreaser made especially for concrete.

3. Let the bird bath dry and brush off any loose flakes or chips.

4. Pour a little paint into a disposable bowl (don’t worry about measuring). Use a different bowl for each of four colors: light green, dark green, black, and brown. Add water until the colors are the shades you want. This isn’t exact, so play around until you get a look that you like.

5. If you took off the rubber gloves, put them back on, and dip the sponge in the light green paint. Squeeze it over the bird bath and let it run. (If you don’t want to use a sponge, just drizzle the paint from the bowl.) Don’t cover every inch, because you don’t want a solid color. You can use the other colors to fill in any spots you missed. You’re going for a weathered effect, as if rain had streaked the surface.

6. Repeat with the dark green paint, using a sponge or pouring from the bowl.

7. Do the same with the black paint mixture, and then the brown.

8. Allow the piece to dry, and put it in your garden. You can let the weather continue to age it, or brush concrete sealant over it. Let the sealant dry before you apply a second coat.

9. Put potted plants in the bird bath, if you like, and hide the pots with some sphagnum moss. If you want to use it to provide water for birds and other wildlife, don’t put water directly into the painted basin, as the chemicals might harm them. Instead, use a shallow pan that is safe for drinking, fill it with water, and put it in the basin. Add a couple of small rocks for the birds to perch on as they drink.



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