The discussion around inexpensive containers for indeterminate tomato plants in a recent post has brought up a good point regarding how to conceal the clinical blandness of food industry buckets. The conversation in that post reminded me of a brilliant camouflage technique I discovered on a Saturday walk through my own neighbourhood a few years ago. I have shown this image during several presentations yet it did not occur to me to share it here. I’m not sure who the gardener/designer is although I’m fairly certain it is connected to the small restaurant that is located at this intersection. Whomever they are, what they have done to transform this corner with very little money is brilliant. The tomato plants seen in the foreground are growing in your average industrial food industry bucket but has been concealed using cheap bamboo blinds.
Putting something like this together is incredibly easy and very nearly free. The blinds are cut to size, wrapped around the container, and secured in place by wrapping string around everything and tying a knot. Try securing with wire first and then covering it up with string if you’re concerned the twine won’t hold on its own. Jute is a very affordable but weak string. It can be replaced with a stronger twine made of cotton or sisal. All kinds of decorative options are available in abundance in the curbside economy. Replace bamboo curtains with wood curtains, grass beach mats or any combination of discarded natural fibre rugs, mats, or blinds.
These materials will probably only last a year outdoors but at least you have given them another year of life out of the landfill. By the end of the year they may even be weathered enough to break into bits and put into the compost bin.
Another trick I employ when I can’t find anything to disguise ugly containers is to surround them with prettier pots. Organize larger, utilitarian buckets and garbage bins at the back of the arrangement, placing smaller, decorative pots with attractive plantings of pretty flowers and brightly coloured heirloom veggies in front. If the smaller pots are too short raise them up using larger decorative pots turned upside down as props. Make shelves out of bricks and discarded pieces of wood and then disguise that layer behind a lower tier comprised of smaller pots that sit on the ground. This tactic can be a little bit labour-intensive over the course of a growing season since it requires rearranging as the plants expand and grow. But containers generally require rearrangement for this reason regardless.
The fluidity and possibility for change that comes with container gardening is a positive that big money designers use to their advantage. While most of us can’t afford to swap out expensive containers for new expensive containers on a whim, with a little ingenuity and creativity any of us can fancify ugly buckets or simply rearrange pots to improve the overall look of our container gardeners.