From Broken to Beautiful


Charlie GardenHow to recycle in the garden. 

By Charlie Thigpen

Photography by Beau Gustafson

I recently looked at a small neglected area in front of the shop and wanted give the spot a facelift by creating a fun and unique garden. Not wanting to spend a lot of money, I needed to use what was available. Well, when you have a garden shop you tend to accumulate a lot of cracked pots. We had a surplus of terra cotta parts and pieces, so I created a broken terra cotta garden. Instead of throwing away these planter relics, they became a part of the landscape and a focal point for our shop.

First, I set a large broken planter on its side. I pitched the planter so that it could hold several inches of soil and be planted. Once the pot was positioned, I dug a 20-inch-wide trench from the planter to the sidewalk. The dug out swale sweeps around a giant concrete bowl. I filled the trench with terra cotta pieces and made it look like a stream of terra cotta was flowing from the planter. I placed the pot shards on the ground like a puzzle to totally cover the trench.

Next, I filled the large piece of planter with potting soil.  I placed one variegated sweet flag, one Tapestry Heuchella, and a Marina pansy in the planter. On the very edge of the pot, I set a trailing Freefall Marina pansy so that it will eventually spill over the rim of the planter and into the terra cotta pieces. In the terra cotta pieces, I randomly planted more of the Marina pansies to look like water running through the creek bed. Along the sides of the terracotta trench, variegated Japanese sedge grass was set out. I also planted a few of the Ruby Glow Euphorbia. The Ruby Glow has dark foliage that’s striking and stands out next to the white and green blades of the variegated Japanese sedge grass. I also planted a few of the variegated Pittosporum to fill in around the terra cotta pot and the creek bed. This low-growing shrub looks nice in the garden and we love that we can clip it and use its attractive foliage in flower arrangements.

To finish the garden, a layer of fresh pine straw was placed around the plants. The straw will help insulate the planting during the cold of winter and will also help keep weeds from encroaching on the new plantings. The thick layer of mulch also creates a nice brown backdrop, making the orange terra cotta pieces stand out in the landscape.

I used broken pots as the feature in this little garden vignette, but you can use whatever you have laying around your landscape, whether it be a stack of old bricks, a pile of leftover stone, old gardening tools, or some type of architectural fragment. Be creative and use what you have to make a unique place in your landscape. Recycling is cool, especially in the garden.

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