Container gardening doesn’t have to be traditional. Clay pots filled with tomato plants and geraniums are just fine, but a few blossoms or mosses set in castoff containers can be more interesting. I have a garden shed full of terracotta pots that are lovely, but when it came to planting time this year, I ignored them and went in search of containers with character and patina.
Rooting around in my basement, I found a large, old, rusty can filled with nails. I dumped out the nails, punctured holes in the bottom of the can for drainage, poured in garden soil, and added white pansies. The pansies really jump against the dark brown rust. It’s a statement piece. The next find was a vintage black metal workman’s lunchbox, probably from the 1940s. Here again, add some drainage holes, open the lid, and it’s a perfect vessel for something bright. I found a brown fishing tackle box, almost the same size as the lunchbox, that was perfect for my creeping thyme.
Last year, while walking on a railway trestle, I spied a large black metal bucket that someone had used for target practice. It was riddled with bullet holes. I lugged it home and added dirt. The bullet holes provided drainage. My nasturtiums are loving their new home.
Two of my favorite vessels are silver-plated ice buckets and trophy cups. They have great patina and monograms and come in beautiful shapes. Other favorite garden containers include kitchen pots, pans, and colanders, to name a few. Add drainage holes and you have a unique, affordable way to decorate your yard and patio.
Not that I think you should give up on the terracotta. It’s easy to paint, so get your acrylic paints out and add some color or design to the pot. Or add a swipe of chalk paint to the terracotta so you can label your windowsill herb garden with chalk.
Don’t discard the little green or black plastic containers your plants come in from the nursery. Spray paint them bright colors and keep using them. Personally, I love turquoise.
If you need a little inspiration, walk the streets of any Cape Cod village. If you peek at the entryways, patios, and terraces, you’ll see lots of unexpected containers, planted up with flowers and climbing vines. It’s nothing new to re-use old containers for new plantings.