Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Monday, August 8, 2016

A quick afternoon project

I've been on the hunt for a container for one plant in particular, my Cryptanthus lacerdae 'Menescal'. It's one of the earth star bromeliads that produces pups at the ends of long stolons, like a strawberry, or a Saxifraga stolonifera (aka strawberry begonia), if not quite so spectacularly. (You can see a picture of a mature specimen with lots of hanging pups at Black Jungle Terrarium Supply, which I think is also where I got mine from).

I contemplated the hanging hover dish planters that Loree of Danger Garden has posted about several times (one such post here) but couldn't justify the expense (the cheapest model starts at $95). Besides, my plant is too small for any of those. Maybe if they made one about 6" in diameter, that would be perfect for a small bromeliad like this to grow in indefinitely.

So, I started looking at materials I could turn into a hanging planter: pots (an obvious starting point), funnels, cans for recessed lighting, etc. I was about to pick something out from the latter option, but I wanted to see what I could find at second-hand stores first. While perusing the offerings at Goodwill today, I found something that just might work.

I know, beautiful, right? Why would anyone donate this? I'm sure it must have mistakenly fallen into the box marked "give away" when someone was doing their spring cleaning. Ok, so it's not my taste at all and I shouldn't make other people ashamed if they do like it, but the shape of that metal shade is what caught my eye. With a little fiddling at the store prior to purchase, I found I could do this:


It comes apart! And while it's hard to tell with the glare, that bottom piece is solid and fits perfectly into the narrow end of the shade. It even has a loop at the top (see previous photo) that can work to suspend the whole thing from. Now, pause for a moment to contemplate what on earth could be done with the little amber disco ball... I know at least one person who works with glass. Maybe he'll chime in... and move on.

First step, remove the structure inside the shade.

A combination of heavy-duty wire cutters and pliers accomplished that.

Next step: Forget to photograph the base before and after drilling drainage holes in it. Then, proceed to find some way to attach the base to the shade. It's a fairly close fit, but needs an adhesive to really secure it. Oh, look, silicone! It's waterproof and you can put down a big, gobby line of it to make sure things are really stuck together. The shade only actually touches the base on a razor edge, so that big, gobby line is important to fill in the gap for a better hold. And once the cryptanthus is planted, nobody will see how ugly the inside of the container is.

Continue to admire your ugly handiwork with the silicone while you think of how to suspend the planter, since the structure you were going to use to hang it from came off while you were drilling the drainage holes. Hey, look at that, a couple lengths of chain that have been sitting on the window sill for years are the perfect length to double up and use as a hanger.

You briefly toy with the lazy idea of using the silicone to attach the chains inside the dish, but then you spot the bonsai wire on the window sill and decide to go with a more attractive and secure method, instead. Measuring four spots roughly equidistant around the edge of the dish, you drill the holes. Using the pliers again, you curl four short lengths of wire and use those to attach the chains to the dish.

Another length of wire at the top holds the chains together and gives you a hook to hang the whole shebang. Tada! It even kind of matches the color of the plant.

I managed to wait until the next day to plant it, giving it time to dry. One issue I may correct later: the chains didn't leave much headroom once the plant was actually in, and I had to get the pliers back out to detach the chains to plant it and re-attach the chains once I was done. But look!


I think it looks pretty good! The cryptanthus appears to fill the container already, but they have small root systems that make planting in small pots like this possible and even preferable. The only plants I pair with pots so relatively small compared to the foliage are bromeliads, orchids, and succulents (and bonsai, back when I had a few).

The existing pup broke off during the repotting process, but luckily it was big enough to separate and was even producing a couple root nubs. The main plant has several more stolons forming, and may produce even more now that the first pup has been detached. This pup is destined for the local fall plant swap (along with the already-rooted Cryptanthus behind it).

And that was my quick afternoon project. Now I've got a taste, I want to make more containers like this, but I've got lots of other BIG projects that will probably keep me busy for the foreseeable future.

10 comments:

  1. Very clever, Evan! Potted sometimes offers half-price "seconds" of those hover pots but I expect your solution was much more cost-effective. I happened by a bromeliad show and sale yesterday but was disappointed to see very few Cryptanthus and none as exotic as those you show here.

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    1. Yes, even at half-price, a hover pot would be much more expensive than the $8 I spent on this project. Personally I think that was overpriced for an ugly candle lamp, but it was still cheaper than the other options I was considering. I wish we had bromeliad shows here...

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  2. That is wonderful! A perfect solution...much better for this application than a Hover Dish. Believe it or not I'm in the midst of making something kind of similar, hoping to finish it up tomorrow, we'll see about that.

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    1. Thanks, Loree! I agree. I wanted to emulate the style of the Hover Dish, but I knew they were all too big for this plant, even if I could afford one. Looking forward to seeing what you're making!

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  3. That is a really brilliant repurposing of that lamp. It takes a creative mind to look at that piece in the thrift store and see its possibilities. I would be tempted now to just turn that stained glass part upside down now and put it out in the garden as an orby-type ornament.

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    1. Thanks, Alison. The glass part is open on both ends, so wouldn't look like an orb even if I turned it upside-down. Maybe if I put it on it's side and hide the ends, but my garden just isn't very art-friendly. That stuff gets lost.

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  4. There is nothing more satisfying then a thrift store find that works for you. Well done. The Cryptanthus lacerdae 'Menescal' is amazing. Clearly not something you'd see in just any nursery.

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    1. I love thrift store finds, though this is the first time I've altered one to this extent.

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  5. Impressive repurposing, and what a fab plant. It deserved a custom-built home.

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