Meeting Stephie McCarthy

Meet Stephie!

“Hello, Flea Market Gardening lovers. Greetings from our little house I call Coral Belle Cottage in the Blue Ridge Mountains. We’re a hop-skip-and-jump from the Shenandoah River and historic Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. May I show you around our garden?

“The house is pretty cozy (really small) and cedar-sided in a rich shade of chocolate. It would be a very plain-Jane dwelling indeed, except it turned out to be a great backdrop for a patchwork quilt of gardens and salvaged/repurposed decorations. I’m learning through this hobby that no matter how plain or modern your space may be, flea market decorating is a lovely, rich layer that is fairly easy to add!”

“This is one views you’ll see when you come up the lane. I carried this solid guy home by myself on the wings of inspiration and refinished it on one side with a teal called Laguna blue by Plaid (don’t you love that name?) Accents are cobalt, gold, plus a window box and of course, faded curtain. I think doorways and windows, pretend or not, always have an air of mystery about them, as if they could open to a place in your imagination. I also think prettying up a door or window can welcome luck into your life! At the very least, salvaged doors and windows add a dimensional feeling to an otherwise bland stretch of fence or wall. It’s like making magic, in a way.”

“Note:  I sandwiched the colors between layers of decoupage sealant which preserves the cracks and crazing and a little watered-down brown latex stain. I love Plaid products because I don’t have to wear my paint mask with them.”

“Across from the dooryard is this rose arch we made out of ordinary wire fence material, bent and anchored, and “Gandalf Sticks.” We find lots of these curly, knobby branches washed up after storms on the river. Maggie, the tuxedo girl, checks out everything in the garden for cat appeal.”

“Beyond the sentry cat is the “Pocket Meadow” which features roses, lilies, wildflowers, and huckleberries.”

“Here’s another view of the rose arch, showing the top of the antique gate on the left that leads to the “Petit Potager” or kitchen garden. I found this gate leaning on a tree at the Old House. The Old House is another home we are renovating and our main source for salvaged junk—turned treasure.”

“A previous owner of the Old House squirreled away a trove of doors, shutters, and all sorts of lovely, moldy junk in the barn, cellar, and attic. The Old House was a charmer but the antique stash sealed the deal, though it will probably take the rest of my life to sort it out. That, or you will see me on an episode of Hoarders!”

“Who am I besides a junk lover? I’m a home-based artist and designer, and I have always loved folksy and vintage art with a modern touch! I truly love seeing the creations people around the world create to add magic to their spaces. I’ve learned to make hypertufa, sow seeds in winter, and so many wonderful things from gardeners on the Internet. Now, I’m restoring and assembling unique things using my painting and design tricks!”

“I’ve been painting since about age 15, and believe that “Easy is Good.” You’ll fine me blogging and sharing project notes on FaceBook and Twitter, as I quarry my way through our barn!”

“By the way, have you noticed what intrepid Flea Market Gardeners have … rust is beautiful! Take at look at this aged fireplace cover featuring barefoot Goddess and anchor. It sits on top of the well at the Old House garden and is soon to get a protective coating I’m experimenting with. I’m not sure what the round thing is against the wall, but next to it is the original pump with the word “climax” stamped on the front.”

“Now for an indoor project! No nails, no glue, this new-fashioned orchid case brings the garden inside at Coral Belle Cottage. This is a modern lantern with the light fixture removed and wood stain dabbed on to tone down the shiny brass. The weight of marbles and pebbles hold the case steady in a vintage bowl, a satin tassel marks the hinged door, and a wooden stand rescued from a curb turned out to be the base. Tempted to use that cool Laguna on it too!”

“Here’s the first project I tackled at Coral Belle Cottage. This wicker bench was part of a rickety, four-piece set I bought for just $15.00. My favorite tropical blues and greens made this an inviting spot for “Angel” cat. She claimed this space just minutes after I finished the cushion with a cabbage rose design by Waverly. Luckily, I still had room to photograph my squash blossoms.”


Zucchini Elf

“A little more about me. I grew up in a family of artists who were also gardeners and collectors, so it’s no wonder I followed their lead. Like my grandmother, Ruth, I love to put an original twist on homespun hobbies. Here are two new ideas I came up with for you guys. If you try them, I hope you’ll drop me a line at and let me know how they came out.”

“This is a Tart pan and Cutlery Plant Marker. I hammered flat a mini-tart pan, (also some some cookie cutters, shown below), and forks. Though any cutlery will work, I chose utensils that were light and flexible, easy to flatten with a tack hammer on concrete floor  softened with folded T-shirt fabric.”

“Aluminum metal tape is trimmed and added to make harmonizing labels. The metal tape is easy to engrave with a pen for the plant name. It’s amazing how really seamless it looks, though I wouldn’t be afraid to try a little antiquing stain next time! Sand off a bit for a worn look.”

“A note about using cookie cutters, I snipped and bent the edges with pliers for ease in flattening, and then filed, bent, and hammered the sharp edges smooth. I always follow safety rules when I make things and I hope you do too! The tart pan version is easy enough for children, if you help with the silicon part.”

“This is my design for a Canister Garden Cloche based on pricey antique glass bells. I made this from a rather ordinary, but large glass canister and glue formulated for glass. I attached the lid to the bottom which acts as a handle but also forms a natural display pocket. I put a handful of trinkets and gems in the space before final gluing, so that when the sun shines in the garden, they’ll catch the eye (if you know where to look.) Decorative though this may be, it’s useful for nurturing treats like this 2nd-year artichoke. Use a garden bell only in cooler weather so you don’t cook your plants.”

“Some of the trinkets I put in the lid of the cloche. Be sure not to use anything that will block the light too much.”

“Behind the scenes, meet the chief wizard behind my Fairy Tale Garden, my husband and creative partner who I call the “Greg to my Dharma.” He’s the engineer who brings life to my creations and is also the light of my heart. Here he is recycling a window salvaged from a building near the mall in Washington, DC (Department of Agriculture, as I recall). A carpenter friend rescued it from the dumpster for us and he is turning it into a classic cold frame for winter cucumbers and such.”

“I hope you’ll visit our web site to see how it turns out with the dazzling paint job (pink and green?) and new glass to update this garden classic. (Also, wish me luck with my winter cucumbers.)”

“Thank you for visiting, Flea Market Gardening friends, until we meet again!  To see what’s new at my home and garden, don’t forget to stop by:


A Note from Sue:  I was so delighted with these words and pictures from Stephie McCarthy.  She is a valued creative member of our Flea Market Gardening group.  I so encourage you to visit her website for more gardening tips, artwork, recipes and tips for healthy living!  Thanks, Stephie!

More of Stephie’s photos:

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13 thoughts on “Meeting Stephie McCarthy

  1. Your garden is beautiful Stephie. I love the arch, fence, and all your creative ideas.

  2. Jimmye Porter

    OH MY Goodness… I feel as if I just toured the most Enchanted Garden I have ever seen. I kept looking for Christopher Robin & all his Friends in the One-Hundred Acre Woods. I am so in AWE of your creative talents and the imagination that goes along with it. Thank you so much for sharing your treasures with everyone, I will visit your website to see more.. & more. TFS :))

  3. Nancy K. Meyer

    So wonderful to meet you and your gardens. Love everything, but especially the rusty grate and the lovely cats. <3 Very Nice Ideas

  4. Nell Howard Stelzer

    It was great seeing your gardens and learning more about you. I book marked your website and will check it out later. I have lots of old cookie cutters and may use your idea.They are very creative ! TFS !

  5. Jeanne Sammmons

    Am lovin’ the garden cloche idea to replicate jar bells! And adding the trinkets & gems is a great idea! Enjoyed visiting your Coral Belle cottage/gardens…a very beautiful & comfortable place! Love old doors & windows & your door is beautiful…nice recycling! TFS, Stephie! And I’ve bookmarked your web site.

  6. Lisa Collier

    love to meet others with the same gardening/recycling passion. Enjoyed looking at your ideas and gave me a few of my own !! Thanks for posting !

  7. Annie

    What a treat Stephine…Thank you for sharing your talents and the things you love~<3~

  8. George Weaver

    What a wonderful Home and Garden. You had me hooked from the start . But you reeled me in with the Fireplace cover . Nothing better than some rust for the yard what a great piece.

  9. Anne

    i loved the cookie cutter plant labels!

  10. Absolutely delightful and inspiring! I have one of those large jars sitting on my counter that I have been trying to figure out what to do with. My first thought was to use it for punch but your idea is so creative. Being somewhat addicted to metal I LOVED the rust piece and those plant markers. The markers are on my list to make for sure. Great ideas. Thank you for sharing with us all. <3

  11. Marie Niemann

    Stephie, you are truly an artist in so many ways and it shows! Love Love Love your home and beautiful magical gardens. Those plant markers are so cute!! And of course the rusty fireplace cover is a true treasure to cherish forever!

  12. Kirk Willis

    WOW! WOW! WOW! Stephie, you are a true artist! So many great, inspiring ideas here! WONDERFUL!

  13. I sure enjoyed the walk through your garden Stephie, thanks for sharing!

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