Meeting Nell Stelzer


Nell Stelzer

Nell is a very dear friends here on our Flea Market Gardening Facebook page.  A frequent commenter, she cheers others on while at the same time creating a rustic garden with help from a surprising source  I think you’ll LOVE her inspiring garden, so here’s the story in her own words. 


Hello, my name is Nell Howard Stelzer. I garden in Waldorf, MD which is in Zone 7A. I was born and raised in Kentucky and I have always had flower gardens, vegetables and some fruits.

A welcome pot of flowers

A welcome pot of flowers

My influences for gardening are from my father and my grandmother. My grandmother always used old enameled pans that became too old to use safely in the kitchen. I loved this look even as a child. My father used old containers, barrels and whatever he had to plant flowers. He made lots of wooden characters for his gardens. He taught me how to start flowers and plants from seeds or rooting.

Welcome to my garden! This pot has orange sherbet million bells, purple petunias and pink lobelia with the dracaena.

A view of Nell's garden

A view of Nell’s garden

“I found out about Flea Market Gardening through my best friend from junior high school when it was still in it’s early days, she was sharing photos of flowers and cool things with them. I went to the page and was totally hooked! I had already used flower stakes with signs or trellises with objects welded in them. I would try to find rustic containers for flowers. This page was challenging my inner being to the way I was accustomed to seeing gardening from my early childhood.”

Nell began by making dish flowers last summer…and devised a way to attach the rod ‘stem’ and leaves. Of course, she shared this with us!

First dish flower ,...with leaves!

First dish flower ,…with leaves!

Nell's tip for attaching the rebar,...a bottle

Nell’s tip for attaching the rebar,…a bottle and GE Silicone II clear glue

An old gate creates a background for more flea market and junky garden art

An old gate creates a background for more flea market and junky garden art.

Nell says, “There is one item that I had to have when I first found Flea Market Gardening! It was a wooden wheelbarrow, filled with flowers, posted by Lynn Mann. I showed it to my father in law, who loves making anything from old barn wood, discarded wood or pallets. He had it finished in about a week, even with a wooden wheel that rolls. My father in law helped me to create a new garden area that I call my “Split Rail Garden”. It was an area that grass did not grow well in.”

Nell's 'blank slate'

Nell’s ‘blank slate’

Split rail fence complete

Split rail fence complete

Ken Stelzer

Ken Stelzer, Nell’s beloved (and talented) father in law

The wheelbarrow has a place in that garden. I have added so many Flea Market Gardening items. I finally added rust when a metal bucket that I left out during the fall started rusting. My father in law made a wooden wishing well for me, complete with a handmade bucket and a potting bench. I am so fortunate to have such a talented father in law.

I had a request to post a picture of him, Ken Stelzer, who makes great wooden projects, so I did! I have posted pictures before of the chess sets, wheelbarrows and wishing wells that he has made us. He loves working with wood and it keeps him occupied. We love receiving the projects when finished!

The wheelbarrow that started it all

The wheelbarrow that started it all

The view of my split rail garden last spring

“The view of my split rail garden last spring”

Split rail fence garden

Split rail fence garden, corner to corner

A wishing well

A wishing well, also made by Nell’s father in law. By now we are ALL impressed!

This pumpkin flower pot makes us laugh

This pumpkin flower pot makes us laugh!

Potting bench

A fabulous potting bench!

My potting bench is finished and in it’s new spot. My yard cart has a new parking spot! My father-in-law made this out of three oak pallets for me. My sister in law had the lattice, we added it in May and I painted it all one recent morning.

Tipsy pots

Tipsy pots-click to enlarge

My tipsy pots, I changed to four colors of million bells. I have a double pink, Dreamsicle orange, magenta pink and saffron. This saffron has a red-orange center. I love million bells and think I have a great color range of them!  The other two pots have hens and chicks and a trailing succulent.

A patriotic door wreath, made by Nell

A patriotic door wreath, made by Nell

Nell's red, white and blue bowling ball created a sensation

Nell’s red, white and blue bowling ball created a sensation!

I have two bowling balls, one that has red, white and blue gems and the other I painted hammered copper. I have a wrought iron patio set that I thought about letting rust but painted red, white and blue. I love spray painting to change looks when I feel the need.

Nell's totem before

Nell’s totem before

Nell's totem after

Nell’s totem after

Panorama of Nell's garden

Panorama of Nell’s garden

I hope to do some projects this fall. I want to join my two existing gardens to become one and I want to do a small wildflower garden in part of our yard that grass is refusing to grow. I have some seeds from my Dad that I hope will grow.

I love being able to browse through all of the many Flea Market Gardening albums to get new ideas. I have been so inspired by many of our “Flea Folks” and I hope that I have inspired others, too!”

Panorama of split rail fence garden

Panorama of split rail fence garden.  Click to see this photo full size.

One last story from our friend, Nell,…in a message to me she wrote, “I saw one of my younger neighbors and her 5 year old daughter at the grocery last week. The child asked which house did I live in and I told her I had a flower garden to the side of our yard. The child asked the one with all of the fun stuff? I smiled and said yes that’s mine. She said I love your garden! I told her to stop and look at it. I want the love for ‘FMG’ to show and I guess it does.”

Nell and her 'Split Rail Garden'

Nell and her ‘Split Rail Garden’

Nell, you are truly one of our flea folk and if you can inspire a child to love a garden, then your hard work has really meant something in this world. We’ll be watching for the next project you accomplish.  And give that father in law of yours a big hug!  He’s a flea folk, too. ~~ Sue

See ALL of Nell’s garden and craft photos:

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16 thoughts on “Meeting Nell Stelzer

  1. I love a garden with some whimsy! Very fun!

  2. Wendy Weber

    Beautiful!! How lucky we are to love “creating” in our gardens.

  3. i love it! Thank you for sharing Nell’s garden tour with us! As a fellow Marylander with big plans (but also lots of weeds and overgrown gardens to deal with first), it’s nice to see someone else’s accomplishments & ideas.

  4. Bev

    I am not one to work in the yard but I had to read this because of the last name. You see, many many years ago when I was 19 I went with a fellow from Chicago whose last name was Stelzer. I’m glad I decided to read the article. You have a fantastic imagination with your flowers and gardens. So beautiful. I especially love your split rail garden. Your father in law is a gem. Such a super job he did on that wheelbarrow. I wish you all the best.

  5. Nell, you have absolutely beautiful gardens and your creativity shows in all that you have done !! Thank you for sharing your piece of heaven wit us gardeners !!!

  6. Jeanne Sammmons

    Nell…I loved seeing the transformation of your ‘split rail garden!’ Awesome ideas & pics & a big hug to that ‘enabler’ father-in-law! Always enjoy all your posts & comments! A true FMGing’er, Nell Stezler!

  7. Nell Howard Stelzer

    I want to thank all of you. I love FMG and have been inspired by so many of the Flea Folks there. I am very lucky to have an “enabler ” that is my father in law ! My gardens would look bare without his beautiful wood working abilites.

  8. Jan Reed

    Beautiful & inspirational pieces and gardens

  9. George

    Great job Nell .Keep the fun stuff coming.

  10. Nancy Meyer

    So very glad to learn more about you. Have always loved your posts and your gardens. (& pokes) <3

  11. Jimmye Porter

    Nell, thanks so much for sharing not only your wonderful garden, but also more about yourself and your beginnings. You realize you were my first inspiration when I came to FMG… I saw the Star Bowling Ball and challenged myself to make one… and I did… that is the very 1st craft project that I had ever undertaken that required lots of patience and time. I had lots of the latter, just not as much of the former… :)) Once I had accomplished this craft, I got busy with inspirations and encouragement from other FMG’ers… a wonderful group of folks I am glad to call my friends. Thank you again for sharing with all of us & I anxiously await seeing more of your fantastic garden creations… NOW, how did you make the leaves on the dish flower???

    • Nell Howard Stelzer

      Jimmye, Thank you for creating the twin to my bowling ball. That was one of the first things I made. My hubby found the star from one of candle holders. It was a fun project.
      The leaves on my dish flowers are from very thin aluminum that we were able to get a few sheets of. I traced the leave pattern on and cut it with tin snips,on on set I wrapped the edges around wire coat hangers using needle nose pliers. This was a time consuming project,I scored veins into each leaf then I sprayed with green paint. I did wear a thick leather glove while doing this and still got cuts on my hands but it was worth it !
      Thanks again,

  12. You and your family have created some really nice areas Nell. We gardeners are never done we just keep adding and adding!

  13. Fun garden! Thanks for sharing. My new flea market garden addition is an old elementary school desk that my husband took the lid off and I primed, brightly painted both desk and attached chair, and planted it. I planted a split hosta from my hosta garden. Then set the lime and burgundy desk in my hosta garden. It is so cute…maybe an idea for someone. I am a retired teacher and my daughter convinced me to pick up this FIND at our local salvation army store.

  14. Marie Niemann

    Nell you are such an inspiration to so many and I especially love being your friend and fellow lover of FMG where we’ve both met some wonderful friends that share our same love of junkola and gardening! I LOVE your split rail garden!!! You are lucky to have such a loving FIL to make such valued treasures for your gardens. ♥

  15. Bev Stamper

    What type of glue do you use for the stones you put on the bowling ball & is it water proof

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