"Quirky containers"

Unusual planters can add interest and humour!
Sunday, 10 July 2022     

Head-shaped planters at Ivy Alley Nursery, Hunters Hill

Pots have been on my mind lately, since I have been doing a fun pottery class with my daughter. One of the 'rustic' pots I have created is (hopefully - if it survives the kiln!) going to be used to house a small indoor plant. It has set me thinking about all the interesting and unusual containers I have seen used to contain plants over the years in the gardens I have visited. I love beautiful, classic pots, especially in brilliant hues that add colour to the garden themselves, but I also like the quirky containers used by imaginative gardeners.

One of my weaknesses is for pots that are shaped or painted like a face so that the plant put into it looks like a hat, headpiece or crazy hair (indeed my own pot is one of these). One of the best collections of these I saw in the Ivy Alley nurseryin Hunters Hill in Sydney a few years ago. I seem to recall using eggshell pots painted with a face that my children used to create something similar on a windowsill, with grass or cress seeds used for the 'hair'.

I love seeing 'found' objects used as planters - old teapots, teacups, galvanised watering cans and buckets, old barrels and coppers, giant shells, old boots, toys, wheelbarrows, baskets, wooden crates - even an old wooden rowing boat or a bath! In fact, anything that can hold some potting mix can be used as an impromptu pot. Make sure there are drainage holes in the bottom of the object. A special drill piece for ceramic objects will allow holes to be drilled in these to turn them into a planter. Use good potting mix to fill the container, and water and fertilise the plants regularly.

Another technique to produce unusual containers is to treat old tin cans to produce a rusty effect. I've never done this myself but was recently given such a pot, already planted up with some metallic-looking Kalanchoe orgyalis (known colloquially as copper spoons) and Kalanchoe hildebrandtii (called silver spoons), which I am enjoying. Various instructions for creating these pots by painting them with various substances can be found online. This particular one was made by burning it in a fire pit until the paint on the tin blistered, then left to rust in the weather for about a month.

Over the years, I have also been fascinated to see furniture and other larger household items turned into a place to grow plants. At the erstwhile garden Perennial Hill in Mittagong, a dressmaker's dummy was covered in sphagnum moss held in place with wire, and then planted up with succulents. In the Magic Lane in Annandale, a picture frame on an easel had been treated in a similar way and displayed a succulent 'painting'. I have seen a garden seat transformed into a horizontal plant stand, and in a memorable display at the Chelsea Flower Show, a table and a set of chairs were smothered in plants for a surreal tea party!

Quirky containers add much to a garden. They inject a note of humour and remind us not to take gardening TOO seriously. They tell us something about the creativity and the personality of the gardener. Too many such pots in the one garden might become overwhelming but one or two here and there are always a source of joy to me when I visit a garden. I'd love to hear about other ideas for unusual planters!

 Reader Comments

1/2  Alison - 2125 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 11 July 2022

Thank you for this great blog. I love pots - both quirky and classic. I think they give character to a garden. Though I do think its easy to have too many. In my garden I have a Balinese head with Sydney rock orchid in it, an old copper full of bush basil and a rusty old camp oven full of succulents to name a few.I love the sound of your unusual containers! Deirdre

2/2  Maureen - 2118 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 11 July 2022

Great blog ! Ivy Alley at Hunters Hill is a great place to visit for inspiration on 'using the unusual'. Rachel the owner trawls op shops etc looking for the unusual, and no doubt kerbsides! Amazing what she does with somebody else's trash! Yes, it is such a great place to visit! Deirdre

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