Create a giant, garden art coneflower (Echinacea) for your backyard using repurposed kitchen pans, paints, and glass gems.
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Make a Giant Garden Art Coneflower
I have been wanting to make this project for ages. Years ago, I saw a giant (gorgeous) coneflower birdfeeder in a shop. It was way over my budget (or spending conscience), but, it left me determined, as a non-welder, to figure out a way to make something simpler but similar. This one by no means lives up to the one I saw, but I think it’s really sweet in the garden, acting as the Mama of the Coneflowers (I have a lot of them).
I’ll walk you through how I made this one and offer alternate ideas for materials and assembly. Instead of struggling to find materials like mine, I encourage you to work with what you find and use your creative Spidey sense. You might just come up with something you like better!
The most important part is to make sure your pans fit together nicely, allowing some extra room for the tops of the metal flower petals. The snug fit is the key to it all holding together in the garden.
Coneflowers come in lots of colours. I made the classic, old-style coneflower, but there’s no reason you couldn’t either leave the metal plain or paint everything in other colours.
Unlike a welded garden art flower, this project is not going to last dozens of years. The coneflower shown here is fairly secure but do note it is simply holding in place because the top cake pan fits snugly over the upside-down pie plate. Before you decide on your pieces, test them out. The metal flower petals will need to fit in between the pans where they join, so make sure there’s a little extra room for this.
If you’re looking for a project that can stand up to wild winds, or grandchildren and pets knocking it about, this is not for you. Mine is subject to heavy rains and some wind, and birds landing on it, and it does fine.
Supplies & Materials
- Metal pie plate and cake pan (8″ diameters) – be sure the cake pan fits nicely over the upside-down pie plate, sitting on the lip. My cake pan is 8″-wide, fitting nicely over the 8″-wide base of the pie plate.
- Aluminum flashing (14″x42″)- this is a thin metal, sold in small rolls, intended for patching roof leaks (under shingles). It is almost exactly like the metal of soda pop cans. If you want to be really frugal or like to reuse stuff, you could make smaller flowers and use cans instead. I used a roll that is 14″ wide and needed 42″ in length (for 14 3-inch wide flower petals).
- Metal Spray Paint (light pink for flower petals, orange for pans) In the photo, I show acrylic craft paint, because I used it to add colour on top of the metal paint, but you should use all-purpose, exterior spray paint suitable for metal surfaces as your base coat. Other paints will wear off. If this is not a concern, follow your muse.
- Acrylic Craft Paints – In the video you will see that I painted the pie and cake pans orange (with metal spray paint) as a base coat. I then added brown and orange details with acrylic craft paint to resemble (ish) the top of a coneflower.
- Glue – I use GE Silicone II Sealant for gutters and flashing. It’s way cheaper in a big tube that fits in a caulking gun, but much easier to dispense in the little hand-held tubes. Your choice! If I don’t need much, I use the little tubes.
Also see The Glue Resource Guide for Garden Art Projects for more options.
- Glass gems – available at most dollar stores, clear glass gems work perfectly here, to give the cone-like texture but show the paint colours underneath.
- Wire (16-gauge or similar – approximately 18″) to hold flower petals in place.
- Wood stem – I used a 2×2 piece of wood for the flower stem. It could be painted but I left mine natural.
- Hole puncher – the kind used for paper, used to punch holes in each flower petal.
- Scissors – for cutting flower petals.
- Brass fasteners (14 total: 1 for each flower petal)- available in school supply shops.
- You may also need a 1″ wood screw, pliers, and a screwdriver; paper and pen for making a paper flower petal pattern.
1 Make Flower Petals
- Make a flower petal pattern with a piece of paper to suit the size of your aluminum flashing. The roll I got is 14″ wide. For the 8″ pans, I needed a total of 14 petals, each 3-inches wide.
- The aluminum flashing is thin and easy to cut with a good pair of scissors. Look at a photo of a coneflower to see the basic leaf shape. They are long and narrow with a slight curve at the tips and tops.
- Make a flower petal pattern with a piece of paper, sizing it to fit the size of your aluminum flashing. The roll I got is 14″ wide.
- NOT SHOWN IN PHOTOS: The tops of the flower petals should be trimmed to a narrow point, not full width as pictured. See the photo in section 5 for examples of how they should be.
- TIP I found it easiest to cut out strips of aluminum, and then cut out the details of each petal.
Spray paint the petals (both sides) in the desired colour. I used a light pink metal spray paint and then added darker pink acrylic craft paint with a dry brush. You might want a more blended look. I wanted the contrasted colours.
Always allow paint to dry thoroughly before adding more or handling the pieces.
2 Paint the Pie and Cake Pans
Paint the pie and cake pans orange with metal spray paint. Only the lip of the pie plate will show, so that’s the only part you need to add colour to.
When dry, add dabs of brown and orange paint (if you like) to make it coneflower-ish.
3 Attach Glass Gems
Attach glass gems to the cake pan using GE II Silicone Sealant for gutters and flashing. Keep the pan upside-down and work from the lip up, letting the gems dry in place and lean on the ones below as needed.
4 Assemble the Flower Petals
To secure the petals to the flower, use a hand punch to create a hole near the top of each flower petal.
Next, sit the pie plate on something to hold it about 18″ off the table, and place a ring of wire around the plate, above the lip. Don’t fit it tightly as you want room to tuck in the metal flower petals.
Fold over the top 1/2″ of each flower petal and punch a second hole that lines up with the first one. Sit the folded tops over the wire and secure in place with brass fasteners.
If you are concerned about things flapping around (I’m not), you could run a thick bead of silicone sealant around the wire to help hold it in place with the pie plate.
To attach the coneflower to a stem, there are a few options. I drilled a hole through the middle of the pie plate, and used a wood screw, securing it to the 2×2 wood post.
My metal cake pan (with the glass gems) fit snugly over the tops of the flower petals (where the brass fasteners are) and did not need further reinforcements. Again, AFTER securing the pie plate to the wood post, you could add another thick bead of silicone sealant around the tops of the flower petals/pie plate wire and then secure the cake pan in place.
Here’s the finished coneflower. I think it looks quite grand in the garden.
If you make some, please share your photos on the Empress of Dirt Facebook page.
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~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛