A Colorful Glass Welcome

Glass adds sparkle and dimension, perhaps even color, to the garden, and it holds up well.

Hops and ivy wind around a colored-glass and steel archway dating to the early 20th century: a romantic entry to the garden path.

William Wright

The Victorian house in Seattle had a cramped side yard, with just a narrow, 48″-wide path between the house and the neighbor’s fence. But this was the gateway to the nicely manicured backyard. The homeowner wanted to add an invitation to proceed, and maybe a bit of sparkle. One day, as he poked through the basement of a local salvage dealer, he came across a century-old iron arch—and it was four feet wide. Inset with pretty but not precious colored-glass panels, it would be perfect as both a focal point and an entryway to the rear garden.

Easy 1–2–3 

1. Replacement Glass
Several panes were cracked or missing; the owner chose textured colored glass for even more interest. Each pane was blocked into its steel square with shims, a dot of caulk set in each corner to secure the glass within the frame, and allowed to set for 24 hours. Sash putty was carefully applied with a putty knife at a 30-degree angle on both sides of the glass and the entire frame allowed to cure for several weeks. (The putty must skin over and harden before paint will adhere properly.) The putty was sealed with tinted oil-based primer, followed by a coat of Benjamin Moore’s ‘Black Satin’ exterior latex.

2. The Arch Assembly
Nothing to it: the steel frame was simply lag-bolted to the existing wood fence and, on the other side, to a 4×4 post. Plants twist and climb over the wood trellis installed as an open roof over the path and the steel arch. The arch has half-disappeared into the landscape; glimpsing a secret garden beyond, visitors step through as the colored glass sparkles above.

Broken or missing glass is easily replaced—or upgraded—with colored, textured, fused, or opal or opaque glass from retail and online suppliers.

Courtesy simplystainedglass.ca

3. Alternative In Wood
Any (not precious or rare) wood-frame or steel window of suitable interest can be used in the garden. Take care to make it weatherproof (as most windows are, with proper finishing). Allow for seasonal expansion and contraction of metal or leaded joints. Protect the window with flashing that sheds water: a beveled cap of copper or painted wood glued or screwed into the frame. Prime and paint sash with a high-quality exterior paint.

Glass In The Garden

Glass will shrink and expand with cold and heat, so take steps to avoid breakage. These tips come from pros at Glass Expressions.

• For the cames that hold individual pieces of stained glass, choose softer lead; copper foil is generally used for interior work.

When you come across salvaged windows, metal or wood, think creatively about reuse as garden ornament.

Brian Coleman

• Leave more than typical space at joints: 1⁄8″ instead of 1⁄16″.

• Use a good polishing compound to seal glass and lead. Try Stained Glass Finishing Compound, a carnauba wax by Clarity Glass.

• Any type of glass should stand up outside, but thicker glass weathers better. Fused glass is generally thicker and works well in outdoor settings.

• Just polishing the glass every few years will clean it and keep it sparkling.


Tags: exterior glass OHJ October 2017 stained glass

By Brian D. Coleman

Brian D. Coleman, M.D., is the Editor-at-large for Arts and Crafts Homes and Old House Journal magazines and has written numerous articles on home design. His work has appeared in magazines ranging from Old House Journal to Period Living in the U.K. 

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