Landscape Architect Makes Furniture Out of Garden ‘Debris’

David Hughes, a landscape architect from Doylestown, Pennsylvania, often finds himself ripping out dead, overgrown, or otherwise undesirable plants to make way for new ones. But rather than hauling off that old plant to the dump, curb, or chipper, Hughes finds a new life for this flora. That's because, in addition to designing ecologically responsible landscapes, Hughes is a skilled woodworker who makes rustic furniture from garden "debris," a kind of plant-world dumpster diver.

Hughes gets his natural supplies from a variety of sources. He uses storm-felled trees, gnarly vines, pruned branches, and wood plucked, with permission, from the side of the road. In addition, Hughes helps the Natural Lands Trust and local preserves thin out invasive or dead trees. And every 4th of July, again with permission, he rescues unwanted driftwood from death by bonfire at a public beach on Maryland's Eastern Shore.

His woodwork designs are usually chairs, tables, benches, garden gates, and screens, trellises, railings and birdhouses. While his designs may look simple, they are often very time-consuming; a simple-looking chair can take 35 hours to make. And that is not counting the time it takes to find and dry the wood, and do research.

Hughes finds that landscaping and woodworking is “a nice marriage”. His company, Weatherwood Design, is about 70% landscaping and 30% woodworking. “It’s like putting together a big jigsaw puzzle. There are no square edges to anything,” he said.