Containers: Whimsical, Whitty and Wild

Containers: Whimsical, Whitty and Wild

by Naomi Mathews (

It seems everywhere you look these days, gardeners are growing flowers, shrubs, trees, and even vegetables and fruits in containers. All kinds of "different" containers. Not just the tried and true terra cotta pots, planters, and window boxes that have adorned yards, balconies, and patios for what seems an eternity. Not at all!

The good news is that if you want to join this popular container gardening rage, it won't cost you an arm and a leg -- just a little time and very few dollars. In fact, you probably already have several of these increasingly popular containers stored somewhere in your garage or in Grandma's attic. If not, I can almost guarantee you that if you take in a couple of garage sales or snoop around in a few thrift stores, you'll come up with some real goodies.

I know, I understand. It's tough to break old traditions like planting the same variety of pink petunias in the same old clay pots, then positioning them on the same old watermarked spot on your deck every spring. But you'll find it can be a barrel of fun to break traditions! And, you can still plant your favorite pink petunias in those beloved clay pots -- you'll just be adding some "different" varieties of containers this year!

Why not just follow me around for a while and see what we can find in some musty, dusty, long-forgotten places.

Pansies in bootsHere's a wonderful way to make good use of Grandpa's rubber boots that have been stored in the garage for several years. The first thing you'll need to do to make them good containers is make a small "hole" in the bottom or side of each boot for drainage. (There might already be some there!) Several colorful annuals such as pansies, lobelia, and brachycome are perfect to fill these boots. Buy healthy plants at your local garden center along with a package or two of soilless potting mix. It's a good idea to mix some slow-release fertilizer granules with your soil before planting. After planting, water the plants in your "boot" container regularly, making sure the soil doesn't dry out. Deadhead the spent blossoms as needed, as you'll want to keep Grandpa's boot container looking nice and tidy.

Creel ContainerWhile prowling around in our cluttered attic, this fanciful fishing creel my hubby never uses anymore caught my eye. What a quaint little container this will make for some colorful, early-blooming primroses! Planting those in my dear hubby's fishing creel will be a piece of cake. Since I really don't want to fill his antique creel with soil, I'll line it with some durable plastic, then poke several holes in the plastic for drainage. I needed only two potted primroses to place into this creel. This creel also has a great strap on it that will be great for hanging it in a shady spot in the back yard. I'll need to remember to water each of the pots several times a week. When my primroses have served their cheerful spring purpose, it will be easy to replace them with pots of other colorful summer favorites such as mums, asters, or a geranium. My simple creel container will provide me with fresh flowers from spring through fall with minimal care. And you can't beat the price of my container!

Naomi's Goose PlanterWhat could look more peaceful than a graceful swan planted with a colorful foliage plant. Swans have long been popular as planters, both indoors and out. I'm sure you can find a variety of them at garden stores these days, but wouldn't it be great to spy one at an estate sale or a second hand store? One of my favorite indoor planters is my charming antique swan of solid concrete -- with a proper drainage hole in the bottom! I have no idea how old she is, since there is no date with the copyright name engraved on her side. My antique swan planter not only brightens a drab spot in our dining room, but also provides a comfy home for my one and only philodendron. I planted my philodendron in its own pot for ease of watering and care. The good news is that the price tag on my swan planter was perfect. Her former owner had grown weary of this lovely swan and gave her to me at no charge!

Swan PlanterI realize that not everyone will be as lucky as I was in getting a free antique swan planter. But having a graceful NEW concrete swan planter can be equally as enjoyable. Imagine how this one would look sitting on a tall pedestal or at your front entryway. There are also countless colorful bouquets you could dress her in such as impatiens, heavenly scented heliotrope, dianthus, Sweet Williams, or delightful Lilliput dahlias. For an appealing accent to any bouquet, add either trailing lobelia, gypsophilia, Dusty Miller, or a few feathery Lotus vines. Don't be surprised if you see some iridescent "flying flowers" coming to visit your swan!

wishing wellOne of my all-time favorite planters was a charming wishing well. I recall when we had to remove a large tree from our side yard at one of our former homes. Since its unsightly stump had to be left in the ground, we decided to build a wishing well around it. That wishing well is still there, and is lovingly planted with gorgeous flowers every spring. I'm sure few people realize that it still hides that old stump. No -- the wishing well in this photo wasn't ours, but it does give me some great ideas! Picture this one filled with brilliant blue browallia that blooms almost continuously from spring to frost. For great foliage and color contrast, plant yellow nasturtiums around the outer rim of the planter. By summer's end, their unique trailing foliage loaded with bright yellow blossoms will be cascading beautifully over the sides. It's best to use a commercial soilless mix in wishing well planters, adding some slow release fertilizer granules before planting. As is the rule with all containers, be sure the planter has adequate drain holes. Water on a regular basis to keep plants moist but not soggy.

For a more contemporary look, you may prefer a wishing well similar to this redwood one featuring a basket weave planter. Many garden centers offer wishing wells in their garden accessories areas. OR, try your hand at constructing your own to save expenses. Craft stores are loaded with woodworking books and patterns for constructing a variety of planters, including wishing wells.

barrels on wagonAs mentioned earlier, you can have a barrel of fun finding whimsical, witty, or wild planters. All it takes is a little time, a few dollars well spent, and to let the creative side of your brain take over! I'm not certain I could find a place for this wagon load of barrels, but they do look intriguing, don't they?

Don't overlook the many other possibilities available for innovative containers. Here are just a few we haven't mentioned yet: Wheelbarrows, galvanized milk containers, metal coal buckets, galvanized wash tubs, wooden whiskey half barrels, antique wooden tool boxes, old watering cans, and Grandma's old black bean pot. How about an antique wrought iron flower bed? Just plant its feet firmly in the ground, add some sideboards, then make a great mattress of rich, humus soil for a grand flower bed. Finally, plant your flower "bed" with plenty of your favorite cutting flowers for your summertime pleasure!

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