Part gardener, part decorative-paint distributer, and 100 percent junker, Karla Ritchey specializes in turning her McKinney, Texas, landscape into a garden festooned with flea market and salvage treasures.
As a home economics teacher Karla loved showing students how to put things together. Sometimes that meant stitching together pieces of fabric to create a garment. Sometimes it meant mixing together ingredients to make a meal.
Retired now, she’s still putting things together. But the projects revolve around her garden, and the components she works with have been super-sized: 10,000 bricks, tons of stone from a construction site, tall 100-year-old windows, and other junk, building supplies, and flea-market finds she’s been collecting for years.
“I love to repurpose things,” Karla says, “and I love anything architectural: old windows, old doors, and anything to do with old buildings.”
And from those old parts, she created the centerpiece of her back garden—a light-filled she-shed. The shed rests upon a foundation of cinderblocks set level. Karla drove rebar through the holes in the blocks, then filled the holes with concrete to keep them stable.
“The floor is nothing but bricks arranged on the ground,” she says. “I got down on my hands and knees and leveled them with a garden tool as I went along.”
Karla built her unique potting shed from century-old windows removed from a building in downtown McKinney. The antique windows are held in place with a framework of 2x4s, some of which are hinged for ventilation purposes. “It’s like putting a puzzle together,” she says, “you get your framework done, then you fit the windows into it. Nothing’s plumb and nothing’s level, but it works.”
Both the pink door and blue foundation are painted with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, a product Karla distributes as well as demonstrates as part of her business, Lady Butterbug. Numerous garden features are united by their repetition of sweet cottage colors: pink, white, blue, and green.
Karla hired a contractor to build the shed’s gables and roof from a clear corrugated plastic used for greenhouses.
Karla’s husband, Steve Ritchey, created this shabby-chic light fixture from an old lampshade frame and a vintage gelatin mold.
Once used for cultivating, a rusty garden tool now makes an intriguing handle for the pink-painted potting-shed entry door.
A makeshift shelf is perfect for holding pots of shade-loving begonias. An old wood corbel and decorative metal bracket combine to support a shelf made simply from weathered boards.
Karla’s ingenuity extends to practical storage solutions as well as pretty displays—as evidenced by a hard-working area behind the potting shed where Karla stores equipment and supplies. Screen doors mark the entrance. One door is salvage, the other is from a home center. They don’t match, but their quirkiness pleases her, Karla says.
Vintage gutter straps attached to the privacy fence hold rakes, shovels, and hoes at the ready for garden duty.
All of this flea-market finery has happened since Karla bought the house. “The yard was in bad shape; it needed cleaning up and organizing,” she recalls. Which sounds much simpler than the reality, since Karla says she spent every waking hour of her first five years in McKinney transforming the landscape. With so many trees, she knew she’d never be able to grow grass. So she started her project by installing pathways, planting larger shrubs, and working on the structures. Then, as money and time permitted, she bought plants on sale. “I started with one bed and added another, then another, and kept going,” she says.
Intermingled with her favorite Texas plants is architectural salvage Karla has found at garage sales, estate sales, and First Monday Trade Days in Canton, Texas. Spanish roofing tiles line garden paths. Old manhole covers double as stepping stones. Old nail bins nurture plants. “I’m just a collector,” Karla explains. “I’ve learned through the years that if I see something, I need to buy it. It usually comes to me later where I’m going to put it.”
If you love the look of this shed and garden, don’t miss our next posts where we take you inside the structure, show off the salvage-rich patio, and feature a handmade potting bench.
© Caruth Studio