DIY Projects Lifestyle Thrifting & Vintage

Upcycled Vintage Bulb Planters

July 10, 2019

Vintage bulb planters seem to pop up in the thrift stores I dig through, so I thought they would be fun to upcycle into something new. Find out how I turned two of these handy yard tools into a mini decorative rain chain for my rustic deck decor.

Can you believe we’re already into the second week in July? Crazy! Today I’m joining my Thrifty Chicks blogging gals for another upcycling challenge. Last month we had fun with flower pots, and this month we are featuring old yard tools that have perhaps seen better days.

Thrifty Chicks DIY projects based on a common theme.

In this blog hop you will see how we’ve each upcycled and repurposed old yard tools in new ways. You will also find links to each blog post shared at the end. Let us know what you think!

Rusty Well Worn Yard Tools

I have a thing for rusty well-worn yard tools. To me they tell a story, even though as is often the case, most stories we’ll likely never know. I’m always so curious about where these yard tools have been in their lifetime, and I have a healthy respect for the hard work they’ve been designed to do!

When I came across these garden bulb planters, it seemed to me they’d definitely put in their time. I was happy to see they’ve been retired from their day job, but I felt they deserved a better retirement than spending their days on a dusty, old thrift store shelf. So I snapped them up and brought them home with me that day!

I had so many ideas for how to offer these tools a new life, but before we make them over…what is a bulb planter anyway?

What is a Bulb Planter Anyway?

These two hand-held bulb planters are designed to make the hole in the soil for planting bulbs. Press down into the soil, pull up and the plug of soil should come up too. The soil stays inside the metal shaft of the planter until you’re ready to cover over your bulb. The small holes you see on the side of the bulb planter indicate the soil depth in inches so it’s easy to gage your hole depth for planting.

Edwardian style vintage hand held garden bulb planters.

The wooden handles are rounded and contoured to fit the palm of your hand more comfortably. However, these hand-held planters require you to be low to the ground, so this can make for back-breaking work. Don’t be fooled by this Edwardian design. These yard tools are designed to work hard, and for hard work to be done!

Rain Chain Inspired Decor

I’ve been working on our deck decor and felt these bulb planters could be made into something that worked with the rustic vibe. I kept picturing the two planters hanging somehow, and I liked the idea of stacking them rather than spreading them out. That’s when the idea of a decorative rain chain came to me, so I did a little test-run by laying them out first.

Upcycled Bulb Planter Rain Chain Prep

Once I had the basic plan in place, I pulled together my supplies. I had everything I needed in my stash of DIY odds and ends, so the total cost for this project was really just my time.

Supplies to Make a Decorative Rain Chain

The pieces of chain I used were salvaged from an old hanging flower basket. I have used bits of this chain on other DIY projects too. There’s a short length on the upcycled vintage upholstery webbing I turned into a magazine stand and featured here.

Chain, eye screws and hooks for DIY decorative rain chain.

Earlier this year I thrifted these teardrop shaped prisms, only they are made of resin plastic, not crystal. I’ve been saving them for a rainy day (oops, that was SO not intended!). I realized they would be perfect for this decorative rain chain I was about to make.

A group of raindrop shaped prisms made of resin will be used in a DIY decorative rain chain project.
Remnants of chain from a hanging basket and a teardrop shaped prism made of resin are used to for a DIY decorative rain chain.

The only other supplies I used were eye screws, triangle pieces from picture hangers and split rings (not shown) to join all the parts and pieces together.

Needle nose pliers are a tool kit essential.

Note, I could not do this project without a pair of needle nose pliers…and some of my Mr.’s strength to get things started!

Making Rust to Age Metal

One thing I did try to do and I’ll say right up front, I wish I had tackled even a few days sooner, was making rust. I wanted to give the less worn bulb planter a rustier finish so it looked more like its mate, and also rust up the chain and other hardware.

Edwardian style vintage hand held garden bulb planters.

I searched Pinterest for DIY steps to make rust and I pinned a few, but I followed Sarah’s tutorial over at The Farm Wife Crafts blog. Sarah gives a good breakdown for the rusting solution and for the steps involved.

Ingredients measured out ready to be mixed for DIY rust.
An after shot of chain that was DIY treated to rust.

In the end there was no real change to the rust of the bulb planter, but I was happy with how the chain and hardware came out. It’s pretty clear, if you want to make rust, you really have to give it a chance to rust up! This mini fail is on me.

Decorative Rain Chain Reveal

The hardest part about this project was capturing the reveal photographs. We’ve had amazing weather…until I hung this rain chain up! It’s like Mother Nature knew. Once the rain chain was in place, a little breeze drifted in and a light rain started to sprinkle. By the time I was finished, there was a strong breeze and my rain chain was swaying along with it. The sprinkle turned into a torrential downpour and the skies went dark.

Thrifted prisms bring upcycled bulb planters to life in a decorative rain chain for outdoor decor.
A teardrop prism brings an upcycled bulb planter to life in a decorative rain chain for outdoor decor.
Teardrop prisms bring upcycled bulb planters to life in a decorative rain chain for outdoor decor.
A teardrop prism brings an upcycled bulb planter to life in a decorative rain chain for outdoor decor.

Are old yard tools worth a second chance? I would love to hear what you think! And if you like my upcycled rain chain, I hope you will stop by the other Thrifty Chick’s posts and see what they’ve been up to. We know with the talent of these gals it will be all good! You will find the links to each post below.

Thrifty Chicks blog hop featuring five blogger's upcycled projects for old yard tools.
  1. Itsy Bits and Pieces – A Fun Yard Tool Makeover
  2. Me 🙂 – Upcycled Vintage Bulb Planters
  3. Lora – 10 Easy Ways to Decorate With Vintage Garden Tools
  4. Color Me Thrifty – Repurposed Garden Trowel
  5. Little Vintage Cottage – Upcycled Yard Tools Wreath
Pinned & Shared at Audrey Would
Upcycle bulb planters into decorative rain chains for rustic outdoor decor.

Thanks for stopping by!

Audrey Would Vintage Home blog

Photographs © Audrey Would! Vintage Home unless otherwise indicated.

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  • Reply Marie July 27, 2019 at 11:01 am

    Such a clever idea for a rain chain! Sheila, I love the rustic and vintage charm of yours. Pinned 🙂

    • Reply Sheila Zeller July 28, 2019 at 8:12 pm

      Thank you Marie! I really appreciate your feedback 🙂

  • Reply Diana July 16, 2019 at 6:20 pm

    Clever idea Sheila! I never would have thought of it 🙂

    • Reply Sheila Zeller July 28, 2019 at 8:10 pm

      Thank you so much Diana! It was such a fun challenge and just kind of fell into place for me. We’re enjoying having it hanging on our deck, and lately it’s been all sunshine, no rain!

  • Reply Tuula July 11, 2019 at 10:39 am

    Love this project! I’ve never made a rain chain, but have always wanted to. Love the addition of the crystals. Rusty goodness and sparkly crystals are meant for each other. Pinned!

    • Reply Sheila Zeller July 13, 2019 at 9:33 pm

      Thank you for pinning and for your awesome feedback, Tuula! I appreciate it. And I totally agree, I definitely think rusty goodness and sparkles are meant to be!! 😉

  • Reply Lora Bloomquist July 10, 2019 at 9:32 am

    Sheila, the only way I’ve ever rusted anything was to leave it outside for a year or two! I’ll have to check out the quicker way to do it. I’ve got a bulb planter that’s never been used; never thought about repurposing it. This is a great idea. Rust and crystals-great opposites combo;)

    • Reply Sheila Zeller July 10, 2019 at 8:25 pm

      LOL Lora, you and me both to the rusting process! I’ve been wanting to use the crystals but hadn’t come up with a project for them until this challenge. I really had fun with this one! 🙂

  • Reply 10 Easy Ways to Decorate with Vintage Garden Tools - Lora B. Create & Ponder July 10, 2019 at 8:06 am

    […] Audrey Would!, “Upcycled Vintage Bulb Planters” […]

  • Reply Linda @ Itsy Bits And Pieces July 10, 2019 at 8:04 am

    This is such a cool idea, Sheila…looks wonderful! I love how you got the great patina on the chain, too! Love the crystals!

    • Reply Sheila Zeller July 10, 2019 at 9:02 am

      Thank you Linda! I had so much fun putting this together once the idea took shape, and I love stepping onto the deck now and seeing it in place.

  • Reply Tania July 10, 2019 at 7:48 am

    Oh I love this! I’ve always wanted a rain chain but have never thought to make my own… Especially from bulb planters!

    • Reply Sheila Zeller July 10, 2019 at 8:58 am

      Thank you Tania! I’ve always loved rain chains too, but this idea just kind of fell into place. I think it was the raindrop shaped prisms that made it all click. This challenge was so much fun!!

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