Califonia Bountiful

Gardening: Planters with personality

Aug. 2012 California Bountiful magazine

Unique planters can add a touch of whimsy to your garden. Check thrift shops, yard sales or your own garage for inspiration. Almost anything goes!

It's time to think outside the pot. Anything can be a home for plants as long as it holds enough soil for them to grow and it has drainage. If it doesn't come with drainage holes, you can probably drill some. Aside from those two criteria, anything goes: old buckets, antique milk cans, bird cages, wicker baskets, cowboy hats, teacups, mailboxes, old coffeepots, dresser drawers, lunch pails and even metal horse troughs. Fill them with marigolds, coral bells, yellow and green periwinkle, red striped flax, deep blue hydrangeas, scented geraniums—whatever strikes your fancy.

My husband's cast-off, worn-out hiking boots are spending the next year outside, where I will let Mother Nature throw everything imaginable at them: rain, wind, hail, plenty of sunshine and blazing heat. When the leather has turned hard and crusty, and the toes begin to curl, I'll plant them full of succulents or herbs. I'll put them on the walkway to the front deck, or perhaps near the door, and imagine my guests' smiles as the old shoes greet them.

A terra cotta pot shaped like a woman's head hangs on a post on the back deck. It's filled with pansies and fescue, a whimsical reminder to have some fun in the garden. Then there's the kitchen colander that hasn't been used for draining pasta in years. Instead, it's planted full of herbs. It's just outside the front door, tucked among the pots of hydrangeas and Japanese maples, so it's easy to dash outside to snip a bit of parsley or oregano for cooking.

Where do you start for inspiration? Look at thrift shops, antique stores, yard sales, in your garage or backyard. Terra cotta is always a good choice because it adds warmth and substance to the garden. Small metal containers get really hot in full sun and transfer that heat to the soil, so if you're planting in a silver teapot, for example, use plants that like shade. Then, put those where they will get morning sun, but be protected from the blazing afternoon light.

Be sure to use plants with similar needs in each planter. For instance, avoid mixing shade lovers with sun worshippers or drought lovers with thirsty ones.

Choose containers of varying sizes for a grouping. Generally, groups of odd numbers look better. Be careful not to make the vignette look busy or messy. As in interior designing, less is more. And have fun.

More information

Pat Rubin

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