Rebecca Stoner Kirts, Basil Becky, is a master gardener, whose interests include garden photography, traveling, and sharing these experiences through writing and speaking. Becky is always happy to answer questions; she can be reached at

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Creative Containers
by Rebecca Stoner Kirts       #Containers   #Decorating   #Unusual

Whiskey barrels are wonderful as planters.

Repurposing all types of objects into creative and sometimes wacky planters is a major gardening trend so hop aboard and I will give you some of my ideas. I have long been a fan of this idea – whether antiques or something you discover in the attic or barn – repurposing provides a vessel with non-traditional flair. Nothing is out of bounds, often the quirkier it is, the more impact it will have. So let your imagination run wild. Pursue the flea markets, rummage through grandma’s attic, or go picking in farm outbuildings; any object is fair game.

First and foremost you must be able to provide good drainage in the vessel. This may involve drilling some small holes or providing a layering material such as small pebbles or charcoal. Be sure to not ignore this step or your oddball planter will be a soggy mess. Sometimes, I find it is better to plant in a clay pot and then place that in the “found” container. That way you do not have to alter the special container, changing its structural integrity.

Please use a good potting soil. Remember drainage is crucial and a good mix of peat, perlite, and vermiculite will ensure a healthy growing medium for your plants. Choose plants with similar growing requirements. Remember these guys are all in the same pool, so they need to have the same basic requirements.

Although the planters are going to provide a lot of the interest, the plants are the main focus. I look at the shape of the planter and try to make sure the plants provide balance and aren’t out of proportion or in danger of toppling over.

Clockwise: Wait … this is for silverware at a garden party, oh no … succulents fill it up much better. • These orchids are very content in their bamboo log home. • Since my son is too old to love it, let’s make it into a planter.

Many interesting containers have only small areas for growing medium. So out of necessity, I have discovered the wonderful world of succulents. Succulents are great for smaller containers. And they can survive where not many other plants could. Plus, the upsurge in their popularity has made many different varieties widely available. Some are beyond interesting and actually fall in to the weird category.

Since I live in an older house, I particularly love finding ways to use items from old houses.

Wooden shutters: I discovered this unique planter as I was repainting my house. I planted succulents along the top pocket of the vertical slats.

Old wood doors: I have seen doors painted a bright color with an attached window box sitting out in a garden … so interesting.

Old drawers: Repaint or at least weatherproof them and voila – instant planter.

My daughter’s old iron bed now rests in the garden with beautiful annuals growing all over it.


Polly wants to be a planter – planted with baby tears (Soleirolia soleirolii) this old birdcage comes alive. • Baskets always are great vessels for basil. • Old milk crates are perfect planters.

Found in the old barn … now looking great full of marigolds (Tagetes spp.).

Wooden boxes are perfect for all these colorful blooms.

Lastly, how about an old cast-iron sink or bath tub – perfect in the garden filled with colorful plants.

Kitchen items can also serve as planters. Look around your kitchen and you may see many items begging to be repurposed. Old colanders, teapots, glasses, bowls, tea canisters, and old baskets are all perfect candidates.

I also love to raid my children’s old toy closet, especially since my kids have told me they have no interest in all the “valuable objects” I have saved. It is now time to repurpose the old trucks, and Hello Kitty canisters. When I see them out in my garden overflowing with plants, it brings back fond memories of my babies.

Another group of items to repurpose for planters are the ones “Mother Nature” hands us. Take for instance that old fallen over and partially hollowed out log – perfect for a planter. How about a stump from a fallen tree, or even an old tractor or car left to sit by the barn, the possibilities are endless.

I could go on and on but I am hoping these ideas will fire your imaginations and you are going to look around and start envisioning plants growing out of oddball containers. Have fun … the options are endless, so start today “thinking outside of the pot.”



A version of this article appeared in an April 2017 print version of State-by-State Gardening.
Photography courtesy of Rebecca Stoner Kirts.


Posted: 03/30/18   RSS | Print


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