Tag Archive: planter

Old School Gardener

Planter made from pallets seen by my old friend Nick at the Tatton Flower Show

Planter made from pallets seen by my old friend Nick at the Tatton Flower Show

slow grower

Old School Gardener

To start 2015 here is a selection of outdoor recycling projects involving reuse of pallets and other materials. Inspired?

Source: 1001 Pallets

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flower stepsOld School Gardener

window box planting pattern by Deborah Silver and Co.


Beautiful window box planting pattern by Deborah Silver and Co.

Old School Gardener

You may recall I mentioned trying to convert an old wooden bicycle rack into a plant theatre. These are traditionally structures where small specimen plants are put on display- usually in old terracotta pots. Auriculas and Pelargoniums are some of the plants often used. Here’s an example of an Auricula Theatre recently shown at an RHS show.

Auricula Ttheatre at an RHS show
Auricula Theatre at an RHS show

To avoid losing the interesting foliage effects (or ‘bloom’) on some varieties of Auricula, its advisable for the plants to have some overhead protection from the rain. Having recently completed an Alpine planter for the Courtyard here at the Old School Garden (which is now looking splendid- I’ll put some pictures in my next ‘Dear Walter’ letter), I thought this would add another interesting feature. Here’s what the bicycle rack looked like before I got to work on it.

The old Bike Rack before it's makeover
The old Bike Rack before it’s makeover

It is a relic of the local School at Cawston and must be a good 50- 60 years old. Having reorganised our sheds and so no longer in need of a rack for our bikes, it seemed a good opportunity to recycle something with local historical links. Having measured up and done a rough design, I bought a few planks of pressure-treated gravel boards from a local timber merchant and set to work; measuring out the spacing of the ‘shelves’ that would sit on the angled frame, cutting the notches in this to receive the shelves and screwing them home. Having some black wood stain left over from the alpine planter I used this to give the whole thing a unifying finish that would tie it into the courtyard. Here’s the final result, before and after painting, with the six shelves awaiting the addition of plants.

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As I have some pelargoniums in pots I think this is what I’ll use the planter for this year, though I’ll need to purchase a few more interesting varieties and source some old 3″ or 4″ pots. Next year I might do a spring display of Primulas (including Auriculas) as well as something for the summer months. I might have to think about an overhead canopy of some sort to protect the Auriculas from rain (maybe some sort of movable ‘pram hood’ that can be pulled over from back to front?)

Once the new planter is planted up I’ll show you how it turns out!

Old School Gardener


It’s been a while since I gathered together examples of garden and outdoor projects involving the use of recycled or upcycled materials. The previous posts have continued to prove popular. Here’s another set of projects from the beautiful, through the practical to the completely wacky!

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PicPost: Flipped

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The finished 'Woodblockx' planter- soon to be home to an alpine collection

The finished ‘WoodblocX’ planter- soon to be home to an alpine collection

You may recall that two wooden planters in the courtyard here at Old School Garden, recently ‘bit the dust’. Not using pressure treated timber when I made these a few years ago was certainly a mistake. I was wondering what to do to replace them and a few weeks ago was approached by a Scottish company called WoodblocX to do a trial of their products- they make a range of raised planters, beds and ground support systems using an interlinking set of wooden bricks (or ‘blocX’).

Having looked at their comprehensive website, I decided to go for a raised planter (1350mm long by 450mm wide and 450mm high), and I’m hoping to use this both to replace the old planters and create a new feature – an alpine bed. This should be at the right height to be viewed from the nearby metal table and chairs in the courtyard and if suitably finished off will tie in nicely to the predominantly black and terracotta colouring of the many other planters and pots in this sheltered, sun trap setting.

Well, the planter was successfully delivered within a few days of ordering. Last week (having given the courtyard surfacing its yearly clean), I set about constructing it.

In with the new- my new 'Woodblockx' planter awaiting construction
In with the new- my new ‘Woodblockx’ planter awaiting construction

There was a pack of various leaflets and other material supplied with the pallet-load of parts and having checked these off against the list supplied, I wound myself through this material. Though comprehensive, the fact that there were bits of advice and information spread across more than one document initially threw me and I didn’t find any instructions specifically about how my planter should be built or look.

So I spent a few minutes working back from the diagram on the company website to see how each layer of the planter should be built up. I also began knocking in the various plastic dowels and wedges (which join each layer of ‘blocX’ together) to what I hoped was the correct configuration. Then I discovered that these didn’t match up to the next layer’s holes, as the next layer of blocX has to be laid like a brick course with no joints overlapping each other, so not all of the holes correlate. Still no problem, as I guessed that a couple of spare blocX had been sent and, as I discovered later, it is easy to just saw off the tops af any dowels that are in the wrong place! (there was also a good supply of plastic dowels sent so I could afford to waste a couple).

I decided to take another look at the literature I’d been sent and then – to my embarrassment – discovered a set of instruction diagrams for my planter showing which sized blocX should go where and which holes should have the dowels in! Though I hadn’t worked out the layout to exactly match that shown in these diagrams, I thought mine would work too, so I pressed on with the second and subsequent layers. Hammering in the dowels and then pushing home the next layer of blocX on top was very satisfying and I proceeded layer upon layer, to see my planter taking solid form before my eyes!

Using a rubber mallet, and green plastic tubing to hammer home the black plastic dowels was a doddle
Using a rubber mallet, and green plastic tubing to hammer home the black plastic dowels was a doddle

After the fourth and final layer of blocX then came the simple, but attractive capping, which really finished of the planter very tidily. This is knocked onto another set of dowels as well as four metal corner brackets which help the planter to hold its shape. The whole construction time- allowing for my careless beginning– took around an hour, was simple and good fun, giving ‘instant results’.

These planters can be used in open ground (they come with two long metal spikes which help anchor it into the ground), but in my situation, sat on clay paviours, the weight of the planter (especially once full of earth) will be sufficient to hold it in place. As advised by the Company I could have also fixed it in place with some angle brackets. I will add an inner lining of landscaping fabric to help protect the wood (though it is all pressure treated) and to avoid soil seeping out from underneath.

Though the rough-planed finish of the WoodblocX is attractive enough from a distance, I think I may sand it down a little and apply either some black wood stain or similar treatment to tie it into the rest of the courtyard planters. I’ll do a further article to show the finished item, planted up.

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So, what do I think of WoodblocX?

The planter is very solid and I think will last a long time- especially with the extra treatment I’m planning to give it. The solid construction does not look out of place in the ornamental setting of my courtyard and would also look smart in a more ‘kitchen garden’ context too. I should imagine that the construction system using the plastic dowels would be very effective in a ground retaining role too. The modular nature of the system opens up all sorts of design possibilities if you’re considering a multi/split level garden.

As someone who’s a bit of a DIYer (especially using reclaimed timber), I guess that I could have created a similar sort of planter for a fraction of the cost (the planter that I have would cost just under £200, including delivery). I doubt whether it would look as attractive or be as solid and long lasting though. So, if you’re after a smart look and solid construction, your time is limited or your skill level relatively low, WoodblocX offers an ideal ‘self assembly’ solution to your planter/walling needs. I have a friend who’s considering the system for edging a patio that’s surrounded by sloping ground, and I can imagine him setting this up relatively easily and so avoiding the need to engage a tradesman to install a (probably) more expensive brick or similar retaining wall. The company also offers telephone advice and support during your ‘build’ in case of queries (I didn’t take advantage of this).

So, all in all, I’m pleased with the result and enjoyed the construction process, though perhaps a ‘less is more’ approach to the literature the Company sends out would make the construction a little less daunting at the start. If you’d like to find out more, click on the link on the right hand side to go to the WoodblocX website.

Old School Gardener

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