It’s okay to be potty

Our old wheelbarrow has worked so hard that it’s truly on its last legs … um, wheels. And I can’t wait for it to call it a day. I can picture it, parked in its final resting place in the garden, overflowing with flowers and pretty leaves. It will make an excellent container for plants.

The wheelbarrow’s next life is all planned (with the permission of Isis, the cat)

Ive had a fixation with containers, you see, since I first started gardening. My first garden – in Westville, Durban, if you recall – was on such steep land that I hit on the idea of planting as much as possible in our courtyard in containers. Anything, absolutely anything, even an old toilet cistern, was turned into a home for plants.

Whenever I had spare cash (not often), I would buy a pot. Over the years, the obsession turned into a sizeable collection, most of which has followed me to my various gardens around the country.

Habit of frugality

Old colanders have found new life in my garden as containers for plants. So have rusted and holey three-legged pots, a lot of strange pinch pots from my pottery craze days, tightly woven baskets, a coconut shell, hollow pieces of wood, and a couple of cracked clay basins. I’m considering the possibilities that the old bamboo steamer holds.

And my frugality (born of necessity) became a habit (because it feels right in our throwaway society). So I’ve just turned a 5 litre olive oil tin into a plant pot: I cut away the top with a can opener, punched holes in the bottom with hammer and a large nail, and planted a trailing pelargonium, grown from a cutting, into it. It stands on a chipped side plate from the kitchen.

Potty things in my garden … ceramic head by Steve Meise; pretty pastels from Gen

Fabulous pots

In my Irene, Pretoria, garden, I found a stash of old chimney tops, and they made fabulous pots, especially for fuschias.

In friends’ gardens, I’ve seen plants growing in pretty teacups (drainage would be an issue, I think), old shoes, and even the skull of a large wild animal. And I can just see how lovely my pink roses gumboots would look if a plant – a small trailing aloe, perhaps – came frothing out of them. Frankly, though, I prefer them on my feet.

Anything goes, really, as long as it is aesthetically pleasing to you. It works in my garden because most of my pots are conventional and painted in various earthy colours, even though a few have fallen victim to my occasional mosaic frenzies. Mostly, I think it works because I think it is pretty. And that’s what matters, isn’t it?



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