Decorative garden balls are an inexpensive alternative to the classic gazing ball. Plus, it’s a great way to recycle some old household items and turn them into garden art.
This tutorial shares the materials needed and a step-by-step guide to making your own basic decorative garden art ball.
If you’d like some design ideas, I have a gallery of garden art balls here.
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Basic Design and Material Ideas
Using a bowling ball or thick glass lamp globe (that’s what I use), some decorations, and adhesive (see the one I recommend here), you can make a glass garden sphere for approximately $5-20. I’ve provided free instructions below.
Along with flat marbles (glass gems), additional design options include pennies, old costume jewelry, and/or paint, or decoupage with Mod Podge. Really, you can cover the base sphere in just about anything with a flat side that adheres nicely and can withstand the weather.
I often get asked about grout after the basic ball is completed. No, you cannot grout the balls with this method. If you want to cover up the areas between the marbles (as shown in the photo below), use mini bits, which are listed in the Garden Art Balls Materials section (below).
Garden Art Ball Materials
Here are ideas for the base, decorative materials, and adhesive:
- Lamp globe. I look for old lamp globes (from ceiling fixtures) at the thrift store that have strong, thick glass. I have lamp globes in my garden all year-round here in Canada and I am yet to have one break. The old ones are tough!
- Bowling ball. Be sure to sand off the glossy surface before you start for better adhesion.
- Some people also use old sports balls such as a soccer or football ball but I have not tried this myself.
- Spray Paint. If you want your bowling ball or lamp globe to have a colour that shows in the gaps between the marbles, sand and spray paint it first. Krylon brand works nicely and comes in many colours.
The quantities needed will depend on the size of your base (lamp globe or bowling ball) and how complex your design is.
- Flat Marbles – flat-bottom marbles, round marbles (glass gems), square gems.
This may be the only decorative item you need. If you want to make a complex design, consider the following items as well.
- Mini-bits (embellishment glass, 2-4 mm)
- Vase fillers
- Vase gems
- Filler confetti…
- These fillers (for the gaps between the flat-marbles) are sold under various names. It really helps to see them in-person or read the size descriptions carefully online. You want to be sure they are the size, colours, and textures you want for your project.
- I have found them in craft store, florist shops, and dollar stores. Most often they are in the floral department.
More Ideas for Decorative Materials
- Coins, round glass or mosaic pieces, flat stones or decorative accent glass, beads, necklaces, aquarium gravel…. Quantity will depend on the size of your ball or globe. Leftovers can always be used for other projects.
- Outdoor silicone sealant/adhesive. I use clear (not white or any other colour) GE Silicone II and it must be waterproof and made for outdoor use.
GE Silicone II sealant is sold as a sealant but works as an adhesive when you apply it fairly thickly, allowing it to grab the flat marbles as it sets.
Do not substitute with other sealant products – GE Silicone II is the only one I’ve tested that works.
Check the ‘USE BY’ date on the tube to make sure you’re getting fresh product.
- Caulking gun (if you’re using a tube cartridge). Don’t worry: they’re inexpensive and they’re not guns. They simply dispense the silicone sealant. Phew.
- GE Silicone II works very nicely as an adhesive for outdoor garden art projects because it is permanent.
- This means you cannot remove it once it has dried.
- This is why I recommend you plan your project design in advance, make sure you have enough materials, and work in small sections, applying just enough adhesive to secure a handful of flat-marbles before continuing with the next section.
- If you have to stop in the middle of your project, use up any adhesive you have already applied first. You cannot add more adhesive on top of dried adhesive. It will not stick.
- If you are new to using this product, this answers frequently asked questions and provides tips for successful use for outdoor garden art projects.
Garden Ball Design Ideas
There are so many possibilities!
Plan your design ahead and be sure you have the right amount of materials.
Garden Ball Instructions and Tips
Read all the steps before you start. This tutorial a basic ball with flat-marbles. Using fillers or ‘mini bits’ is a more advanced method that requires a lot of time and patience, applying each tiny bit, one at a time, while the adhesive is still wet. If you are keen to try this, be sure you read and obey the adhesive product warnings regarding ventilation and skin contact.
You must read and obey the warnings on the adhesive product label.
The adhesive works so well because it forms a permanent bond. This also means, you only have a limited amount of time to add your decorative materials before it dries. Once it is dry, it is never coming off and there is not anything that will remove it. This is why I advise you to plan your project ahead, and work in small sections.
STEP 1 – Assemble Your Materials
- Assemble your materials including glass lamp globe or bowling ball, flat marbles, floral fillers, and GE Silicone II. Read the product label to understand health and safety considerations, clean up, and drying times.
- If you are new to using silicone sealant as an adhesive, read these tips for success first.
Step 2 – Clean, Paint, Sand Globe or Bowling Ball
- Start with clean, dry glass lamp globe (the old kind with thick glass) or a bowling ball.
- For best adhesion, rough up the surface of the bowling ball with sandpaper.
- You can also apply spray paint if you want a specific base colour. If the spray paint creates a really smooth surface, rough it up (gently) with fine-grit sandpaper.
- You must be certain the surface you apply the adhesive to has some ‘grab’ and is grease-free or the adhesive and marbles may not stick.
Step 3 – Plan Design and Apply Adhesive and Marbles
- Make sure you are using the correct adhesive. Other sealants I’ve tested do not work the same way.
- I recommend GE Silicone Sealant: waterproof, clear-drying, for outdoor use. Please read the product label and follow the safety instructions.
- Plan your design first, work in small sections, and be sure you have enough materials to complete the design.
- Use a strong bowl to hold the glass globe or bowling ball in place while you’re applying the silicone sealant.
- Work in small sections. You want the sealant at least 1/4″ thick. Again, read the label on the silicone sealant and follow the safety guidelines. It will also tell you how long the adhesive will take to dry.
- If you want to add decorative fillers, this must be done while the adhesive is still wet. Once the silicone sealant dries, it cannot be removed and will not stick to anything.
- Press each marble snugly into the silicone and let the silicone ooze out around it. This will hold the marbles in place as the silicone dries. Do not get the adhesive on your skin.
If your marbles are not sticking, stop what you are doing. This probably means the surface is not clean enough or has some sort of greasy residue that the adhesive cannot stick to. Or, the adhesive may be old and faulty. Either way, remove all adhesive immediately with a rag, before it dries, and see this page for troubleshooting the problem.
- If you work from the bottom up, each new row of marbles rests on the row below and they won’t shift around while you are waiting for the adhesive to dry.
- If you’ve applied at least a 1/4″ of silicone, and let the marbles touch each other, they should stay firmly in place.
Need a Break? If you do not want to complete the entire project in one sitting, just make sure you have applied marbles to any section with adhesive before taking a break. Again, you cannot make the adhesive sticky again once it has dried. There are no second chances with this stuff. But it’s worth it because it works so well.
When you have finished adding all the marbles, allow everything to dry. See the product label for the required drying time.
When the silicone has dried, your globe is ready to be displayed outdoors.
Have a look at your local thrift shop. I often see weird nameless things that would make great stands.
- Metal plant stands
- Solar lamp stands
- Lamp bases
- Bird bath or flower pot, or on the ground.
I used an old glass lamp as the base for this garden art ball (above) and solar lamp stands for the ones below.
Popular garden art projects (with complete instructions) from this site are available in my eBook:
Empress of Dirt Garden Art & Ideas
Thrifty ways to use household stuff to create a wonderful garden.
I hope you’ll make something wonderful.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛