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Unusual Containers for Planting

Most of us love the classic simplicity of a large terracotta pot. But there are times when you need or would like more unusual containers for planting. It may be that a particular theme is needed, perhaps to reflect the owners’ interests. Or you might enjoy up-cycling household and garden items found at boot sales.

Some items are not as unusual as they once were. Chimney pots for example, are relatively mainstream now. Virtually anything you can think of could be used as an alternative planter. However, for your planting to be a part of your garden and not just an item dumped randomly, there are a few pointers to consider.

Unusual Containers for Planting – a bit of planning

Have you found just one item you’re going to use as a planter?

A single item might be there to remind you of a holiday or a person. Or just because it amused you! Depending on its size, your planter could be a focal point at the end of a path. The above-mentioned chimney pot has many uses, both singly and as a group. A pair of them either side of a front door can take the place of the ubiquitous Bay trees in terracotta pots. Plant them up with a rolling selection of seasonal scented flowers to give you pleasure when you walk the door.

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Or is this the start of a whole new themed garden?

You may have bought a garage full of ‘rubbish’ along with your new house. It could be the making of an interesting garden. The trick for it to look like you planned and designed the garden, is to find a link between the items.

Size matters

Where are the containers going to be – sun or shade? And what size are they? This affects the plants you’ll grow in them. Remember to consider long term maintenance of the planting. Not always mentioned in some of the articles you see on unusual containers for planting!

How permanent do you want your garden to be?

Not a daft question. For those who are renting their accommodation, garden containers that will only last a couple of seasons may be fine. You can move the plants with you to the next place and start again with a different theme!

For more permanent planting schemes, take the time to prep the container for life outdoors with wet soil inside. Some unusual containers are just not going to be long lasting, whatever you do. Having them in a covered porch will help protect form the worst of the weather.

Do your containers need to be child and pet proof?

Vintage china is not going to withstand footballs being kicked at it! although some of your children’s broken toys and outdoor play equipment have potential to be re-used as planters and plant supports.

Unusual Containers for Planting – Themes

For example, a seaside garden would suit a nautical theme. Boats, canoes, coils of rope, buoys, nets, fish kettles. Build gabion walls rather than traditional ones and leave planting holes in them.

A small patio garden could be enlivened with coloured plastic rubbish bins used as planters for fruit trees on dwarf root stock. Large plastic buckets would fit fruit bushes such as gooseberries. Recycle boxes such as the council provide, would be perfect for outdoor melons. Whilst strawberries would crop merrily in drainpipes.

Are you a musician? With music stands and broken musical instruments you could create your own orchestra in the garden!

Rubber tyres take decades to decompose. They make excellent planters and sand pits. Group them together using ‘child-tolerant’ plants and give your children the feel of being on a desert island.

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Weddings, Christenings, Naming Ceremonies and other family events. A short-term scheme but different to your usual floral arrangements! For example, for a silver wedding anniversary, you could paint old cans, cheap buckets and so on and fill with scented flowering shrubs.

Unusual Containers for Planting – Large

Neither this list nor the following one for small containers are comprehensive. Some are not as unusual as others and some are really quirky. I have aimed to restrict the items to those which would work outside. Unusual containers for planting indoors is a whole new blog I need to write for you!

  • Bath / bathtub / vintage bathtub
  • BBQ
  • Belfast sink / kitchen sink
  • Bin / rubbish bin
  • Boat / canoe
  • Book case / book shelves
  • Bucket / galvanised bucket / plastic bucket
  • Chimney pot
  • Dresser / Sideboard / chest of drawers
  • Fountain, unused
  • Gabion planter
  • Milk bottle crates
  • Musical instruments – drums, piano
  • Pallet
  • Patio chair
  • Recycle boxes / plastic storage crates
  • Rubber tyres
  • Vintage bicycle / broken bicycle
  • Water tank
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Wire dressmakers dummy

Unusual Containers for Planting – Small

There is an overlap between small and large containers. Boxes come in various sizes, so you could have a range of the same type to give you a choice of planting.

  • Bricks / breeze blocks
  • Casserole dishes
  • Chandelier
  • Children’s old toys / play equipment
  • Colander
  • Drainpipe
  • Garden tools
  • Ice cream dishes / vintage china
  • Jeans / denims
  • Magazine rack
  • Musical instruments – violin, guitar, trumpet
  • Old tin box / vintage boxes / vintage style boxes
  • Picture frame
  • Recycle boxes / plastic storage crates
  • Roller skates
  • Tea cups / vintage tea cups / plain white tea cups
  • Tea pot
  • Tin cans / paint cans
  • Tool box – metal expanding
  • Watering can / galvanised watering can
  • Wellington boots
  • Wooden vegetable / fruit boxes

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Unusual Containers for Planting – Prepping them for the plants

Some means of drainage is going to be needed, wherever possible. This just makes the maintenance easier and survival rate higher. Except for those very short-term planting schemes, where it’s less relevant.

If there are no drainage holes, you will need to tip water out at some point. For some containers filling the base with broken crock, gravel, polystyrene packaging will at least prevent the plant from standing with its roots in water. This is a useful idea for when the plant is in a separate pot which is placed inside the container.

Wooden containers will last longer if you can protect them from the wet soil. You could line the sides and base with plastic, remembering to put holes in the base for drainage. Raising them on pot feet keeps them off the wet ground.

Both vintage colanders and colourful plastic ones make brilliant hanging baskets. You may or may not need to use a liner, depending on the hole size. If you want to plant the sides as well as the top, you’ll need to enlarge the holes.

Choose a soil / potting compost / growing media suitable for the plant.

Positioning the containers: Remember some, such as vintage china, are unlikely to be frost proof. Move these into a greenhouse or enclosed porch over winter.

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Now, you go off to source your unusual containers for planting from vintage shops, your own garden shed, etc. I will set to and write you a blog for more plants to grow in them. For sun and shade, large and small, edible and ornamental.

If you can’t wait a you already have your containers but no idea what to do with them, then why not get in touch? Plews can help with a quirky planting design to suit your quirky planters!

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