Making Your Collectibles Work For You!
inOctober 11, 2012 - 6:46am
I am an avid gardener, and am always looking for ways to use the pottery, baskets, porcelain, and metal ware I collect as containers for plants. The hard part for me can be figuring out how to use them without incurring damage to my special pieces. As I look around my home I realize there are a multitude of things I can do to combine my enjoyment of both plants and collectibles.
The first thing I do is decide what plant material I am going to use. This greatly affects my choice of container. If, for instance, I am rooting a vine like pothos, something tall and narrow is what I will choose. For an African violet, something short and squat from which I can easily remove the potted plant for watering is just the thing. Large crocks are great for big house plants, colored glass vases, pottery or porcelain pitchers are ideal for cut flowers.
Secondly, I assess the antique or collectible I want to use as the container for the plant material. Is this piece really expensive, fragile, or a one of a kind piece? If so, it may not be well suited for this use. Is it a well loved piece that is a little worn around the edges or perhaps a less valuable item that I am more comfortable using outside of a display cabinet? This is a better candidate for this project. Better still are items that have minor damage that could be covered by the plant material. You still have a beautiful container planting, and no one is the wiser! Next, the challenge is to find a liner for the container I have chosen. I pull out used plastic water bottles, old Tupperware or Rubbermaid pieces, heavy plastic deli containers – anything that will hold water and protect the vintage container I have selected to use from water/soil damage. I make sure the liner I use is at least ½” smaller in diameter, and about ½” to 1” shorter in height than my decorative container. I find disposable water bottles to be invaluable as liners in vases since they come in a variety of diameters and heights and can be cut down to the right size if they are too tall for the container. They come in clear plastic for use in clear containers, too. They can also be lifted right out of the vintage container so that water can be added or changed periodically. If using a basket as my decorative container, I like a heavier liner than the plastic ones you typically find in a garden center, so this is where the old Tupperware, Rubbermaid and such come in handy. Also, there is a great variety of shapes in the old plastic ware and the heavier deli containers - square, rectangular, oval, etc. This is a great help since the containers, too, have such variety of shape.
NOTE: I do not recommend using old glasses, canning jars or pottery/ceramic to line your collectible or antique pottery or porcelain as chips may occur if the pottery, ceramic or glass should bump against the vintage container. Glass can be heavy and dent old metal containers unnecessarily. Glass and ceramic material can also get wedged inside other containers (been there, done that!). The weight of glass can damage baskets, too, so I am very careful in my selection of a liner for my chosen container. I have seen people use aluminum foil to line a basket or pot, but it punctures, tears and leaks too easily and will ruin your container, so I do not recommend it. I also do not use disposable foam containers for the same reason – they will eventually get holes in them.
In addition to the decorative container and a solid waterproof liner, I have on hand river rocks, pebbles or glass rocks to help weight the bottom of the liner if needed, and excelsior or moss for topping.
NOTE: I never use the rocks, pebbles, etc. directly in the bottom of the vintage container, as they can potentially damage it. Having gathered these items, the next step is putting everything together. I take my liner and fill it with a few river rocks if it needs weight, then add the potted plant, cuttings or flowers (and water), depending on what material I have chosen. I then place the liner filled with planting/cuttings into the decorative container. If I have chosen a container that is a little too deep for the liner I have on hand, I haul out the old plastic ware items again and locate an item that can be turned upside down and placed under the liner to give it a little boost to the correct height. If I am using a potted plant I usually will add excelsior or moss on top to retain moisture and add a finishing touch.
Voila! I have now created a beautiful decorative piece for my home using my favorite things while preserving the integrity of my collectible or antique item, recycling plastics, and incorporating living plants into my décor. I have used plants in my old glass, pottery, porcelain, baskets, brass, copper and tins for years, and enjoy the variety of color, pattern, texture and shape this creates in my home. You can do it too, and find yourself able to make your favorite collectibles work for you!
Written by Denese Bielek
Finch & Fern Antiques and Collectibles on Ruby Lane