Tag Archives: pots

you paid money for that?

At the plant sale attached to the recent succulent show a couple of the society members looked at one of the plants I had in my hands and made all sorts of approving noises. “Great plant!” or “Wow, you scored!”

That was not the reaction when I got the plants home.

While John didn’t quite come out and say something like, “You paid good money for that?,” it was there in implication in what little he said.

I suppose it’s the curious gardener’s curse, getting all excited over some of the odder botanical life forms that didn’t get sprinkled on with the magic unicorn glitter that makes a plant conventionally pretty. Add to that the more general gardener’s curse of being able to see the future in recognizing the promise in a packet of black seeds indistinguishable from dust or a bag of brown bulbs looking no more promising than a heap of shallots.

Here’s one of the little plants, Ipomea platensis, a species in the same genus as morning glories. This is the young plant.

Some day it’ll grow up into something looking like this plant in the main succulent show. Very cool, but we’re missing the magic unicorn glitter.

This is a cool plant with a Latin name that would draw snickers from a junior high school science class, Fockea edulis.

Some day I hope mine grows up into something looking like these larger plants in the main show…

Here’s a more mature specimen of Dioscorea elaphantipes, another of the little plants I got. I think the form of the caudex on this one looks pretty amazing. So far these are three caudex-forming (caudiciform) species, but the inflated plant parts all look quite different from each other. The foliage, too, looks totally different one plant to the next.

Oper­culi­carya decaryi also has a cool inflated stem…

…and tiny, dark, delicate leaves.

And then there was this one, Tyle­codon striatus, a plant that even I think is kinduv ugly. Lots of brown stem and not much else. They have competitions to find the ugliest dogs. Do they have ugly plant contests? This species stands a pretty good chance of winning. And I paid good money for it!

Not all was lumpy and bulbous at the plant sale, and there actually was a lot of unicorn glitter spread over many of the plants.

Echevaria Afterglow and Sedum adolphii 'Oranges'
Golden sedum
Dudleya brittonii
Flower on Adenium obesum, a relative of the tropical plumeria. Like most of the plants I purchased this species will form a dramatic caudex, but people seem to buy it at least as much for the flowers.

I liked the forest of plant labels at this vendor's booth. One of them bears the really unhelpful plant name of succulent...

There were succulent-friendly pots, too. Just look at all that drainage.

And of all the pots I came so close to going home with this one by Don Hunt Ceramics. Isn’t the glaze terrific? You wouldn’t care if the plant inside was as ugly as one of my new ones!

Considering what I purchased–and especially what I did not buy–this might just be the last time I’m allowed to go shopping unattended.

agonizing over the right pot

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that people often hate to go shopping with me. Plants, clothes, paint colors, cheese…it can sometimes take me a long time to make up my mind. I admit that these aren’t life-or-death decisions I’m making. But as far as I’m concerned that’s no excuse not to pay attention to the process. Some things in life are still very important.

During last week’s plant shopping adventure I picked up three little aloes I wanted to pot up for the back patio. I was surprised by how quickly I was able to pick between all the cool offerings. Some collectors like one of everything that catches their eye. By contrast I guess I like to collect one thing in depth. Accordingly I picked an interesting genus of plant (Aloe) and then decided on three contrasting but complementary examples. I was a little bothered that two of the three were unknowns, but I don’t begin to consider myself an aloe collector. They looked cool and the price was reasonable. Decision made.

Then came time to select pots for the plants and for the location where they’d live. The local Home Depot had some functional designs but nothing that excited me. Then I was off to my favorite local nursery. Even when I set some basic rules for myself (“nothing matching,” “a simple design not detracting from the plant,” “earth tones or glazed blue for color”) I ended up with lots of workable options. Since the nursery has a good return policy I picked six to take home to see how they looked on the patio and with the plants.

None of the pots were really pricey, but in all cases they were priced higher than the plants. A lot of the profits in the nursery and landscaping biz aren’t the plants themselves, but all the stuff that goes with them.

So in the end I kept four of the pots and rejected the center and right of the largest pots in the first photo. The extra pot now houses a little division of Aloe maculata (a.k.a. A. saponaria) that I dug up from the front yard. It’s typically an aggressive colonizer–the Matilija poppy of aloes–spreading underground via long stolons. I’m not sure how it’ll do in a pot, so this is an experiment.

Here’s part of the finished edge of the patio. Clockwise from the top: Aloe andongensis, A. saponaria, unknown red aloe.

And here’s the last of the aloes, yet another unknown, nearby in its new pot.

In my teen years I did some informal study of Japanese bonsai and ikebana, the art of arranging branches, leaves and flowers. Proportion proportion proportion were big themes in both, and one of the standard formulas was that the container should be approximately one and a half times the height of the plant material. In all my pots the plants seem too small, but as we all know plants do that amazing thing: grow. Since some of these are unknown species I have no idea how much they’ll grow. But I hope they’ll come to look more at home in their new digs.

Okay, now it’s time to worry about the next big thing…

vinyl resting place

I realize that I’m dating myself when I reveal this, a long shelf of vinyl LPs, one of several in the house. I never listen to them, but I don’t know what to do with them. There’s a lot of common trash in the collection–Does the world need to preserve the billionth pressing of an indifferent rendition of the Pachelbel Canon? Then there’s music so bad that you can’t bear to part with it. Case in point: The Liberace Christmas album, in which Lee recites “The Night Before Christmas.” So badly done it’s a camp classic.

A few holidays ago I decided on a few truly trashable discs and recycled them into flowerpots. It’s one of those craft projects that you can find lots of instructions for out on the web. While visiting John’s aunt last month I saw one of the examples of my handiwork, with a small potted poinsettia set inside the craft project from hell.

Here’s one of the prototypes here at home, holding a potted plant. The hole in the disc for the spindle makes a great little drainage opening. This is more of a tray than pot, but I finally worked out a way to make something that had a nice pot shape to it.

I ended up using two ceramic pots as forms, a small 4-incher and a larger one, around 6 inches. I’d place the disc and smaller pot on a cookie sheet in the oven, with the hole of the disc centered on the hole of the pot. The temperature was set at a low but vinyl-melting temperature, something in the high 200s if I remember correctly. When the disc reached the melting point and began to just sag, I pulled everything out of the oven, placed the larger pot on top of the disc, and these pressed down gently. The disc would assume a nice pot shape and form some attractive crinkles in the space between the two pots. Just let the disc cool a minute and you’re ready for the next one. The fumes from melting vinyl can be pretty intense, unpleasant, and probably not good for you, so this isn’t a project I’d tackle in an unventilated house during the dead of winter. Also, remember that plastic is flammable! Be careful.

Last month John gifted me this USB turntable for transferring vinyl into sound files that I might actually listen to. Now all I need to do in my copious spare time is sort through several hundred discs and decide which few I want to keep, which ones I want to convert and recycle, and those that can be turned into flowerpots right away.


  • Original Sargeant Pepper first release: keep
  • Liberace Christmas album: convert but keep (was there any question on that?)…
  • Alternative TV (a British avant-garde rock duo’s album that I bought after reading a glowing review): flowerpot
  • Pierre Boulez conducting Debussy’s La Mer: convert and recycle
  • Anything Barry Manilow: flowerpot (what was I thinking?)…

A similar technique can be used on 45s as well as 12-inchers. Here’s a little Rolling Stones candy dish, for example…

a mountain of plastic pots

I had a mountain of unwanted plastic pots, mostly in the 3-5 inch size, leftovers from when I was growing more than just a few orchids around the house. The pots were used, a little old, but basically functional. I couldn’t part with them–who knows when I’d need them? After a couple years of goading from John, a couple hundred of them went to the landfill last fall.

Then I heard about the Missouri Botanical Garden having a great idea. They’ve started up a program to recycle those unwanted leftover plastic pots into something useful.

Garden pots and trays have been recycled into landscape timbers, useful for building retaining walls and landscape borders. Each timber measures 7-inches X 9-inches by 8.5 feet long, weighs 280 pounds, and lasts for up to 50 years.

Well, yeah, Missouri would be a little far to go next time I have a pile of pots I need to part with. But I’ll be a little more diligent in looking around for more sustainable solutions than dumping them!