Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Upcycled Garden

Self-proclaimed “Garden Junkers” Patrick McChesney and Sherri Johnson stick plants in almost anything sitting empty on their properties.  Moss roses are tucked in a hanging dust bin.  Petunias cascade from different levels of a cream separator.  Mini gardens sprout in wheelbarrows and washtubs. 

“The rustier and more dented the better,” says McChesney who is currently installing the front end of a vintage truck into the side of a small hill in his landscaping.  “What some people consider junk, I consider yard art with character.”  And what could be more “green” than recycling containers and metal that might otherwise end up in the landfill? 

This spring, think outside the terracotta pot and use your imagination when planting containers. Flowers can flourish in almost anything as long as they have proper drainage and exposure to light.  Galvanized buckets and tubs, copper boilers, vintage carpenter’s tool boxes, crates, wire baskets, suitcases, and Radio Flyer wagons all make great containers. 

One of my favorite planters is an old, red Emerson seed separator that I purchased at an auction.  I lined the cavities at the top of the machine with thick plastic, poked holes in the bottom for drainage, filled it with soil, and planted both cascading and upright flowers.  With smaller containers at its base on the steps, it became a focal point on our front porch.
If you need a bigger planter, try a wheelbarrow, claw footed bathtub, or a canoe.

I have an old wheelbarrow upturned in the garden with flowers planted to look like they “spilled” out.  Another idea is to set up a vintage iron bedframe in the garden with the side rails level with the ground.  Filled with flowers, it literally becomes a flower “bed”.  Long chicken feeders or hollowed out logs make effective border planters.  For an upright, layered planter, paint an old dresser a bright color, set it outside, and plant flowers in the opened drawers.  

An old chair with no seat can hold a pot of bright flowers and is easy to move to various locations such as a porch, by a fence, or by a mailbox.
If you want an unusual hanging planter, add wire or small chain and an S hook to a colander, a globe cut in half and hung upside down, or a birdcage.  

A scale with plants added to the hanging basket would work well.  For a wall, try attaching a fishing creel, a vintage mailbox that opens at the top, or a pair of bright rain boots nailed right through the rubber rim.  Fill with ferns or bright flowers.

Upcycling your garden doesn’t need to focus just on planters.  Repurposed trellises can be made from metal grids, vintage bedsprings, or funky 1970s room dividers.  Make a tipi trellis out of old garden tools by sinking the long handles partially into the ground and tying the tops together just under the metal part of the tools. 

Old grates, metal headboards, or vintage implements are not only sturdy trellises but also become focal points in your landscaping.

The Garden Junkers recommend taking a good look around your barn, garage, or attic for great pieces.  “Have an open mind and get creative,” Johnson says.  “Yard art is everywhere, and the more imaginative you are, the more fun your yard will look!”  

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Real McCoy

           Be warned.  Collecting McCoy pottery is addicting.  With hundreds of designs in a plethora of colors to choose from, you may find yourself adding shelf space to display your finds.  McCoy is fun, affordable, and fairly easy to find as you get started.

            McCoy began in America’s heartland—Muskingum County, Ohio.  Ohio is also home to Shawnee, Hull, Weller, and Roseville, all popular with collectors, but McCoy became the country’s largest pottery manufacturer, making more product than all the other companies combined.  

Today, you can find the pottery at a variety of places from yard sales to antique stores, many for less than $10.  The McCoy family began producing their pottery in the late 19th century and continued for four generations.  Their first pieces were functional—crocks and cookware for everyday use.  In the 1930s and 40s, McCoy introduced vases, cachepots, and novelty shapes like animals and fish for flowers and plants. 

After WWII ended, McCoy’s popularity soared, and the company developed hundreds of new styles to meet public demand.  At that time, the pottery was sold in five-and-dime stores.  The massive volume of production then is why pieces are still readily available today.

            Each design and line had names such as Blossom Time and Hobnail.  Collectors could mix and match patterns in different styles—such as a pitcher that matched a flowerpot.  The colors used were in line with midcentury tastes:  glazed turquoise, pink, yellow, and green.  

Today, collectors have the choice of specializing in certain colors, styles, or decades.  “Lunch hour” pieces are intriguing to most collectors; they were painted by McCoy employees on their lunch hours in colors that didn’t match the rest of the collections the company put out, so one may find unexpected designs in one-of-a-kind colors.

            Be sure to look for the McCoy mark on the bottom of pieces.  There are copycat pottery company products that may fool you, but as your collection grows, your eye will become trained to recognize the distinctive glaze and color of McCoy. 

Dedicated collectors have formed the McCoy Pottery Collectors’ Society that puts out a quarterly journal for members.  Every July a week long Pottery Lovers Reunion is held in Zanesville, Ohio where people come to buy, sell, look, learn, and trade stories.  Some collectors have amassed hundreds and even thousands of pieces. 

            This spring, a great piece to start your McCoy collection with is the simple flowerpot.  Imagine some violets in a bright colored pot on your windowsill, and the hunt will begin!

Source:   “McCoy Pottery,” Country Gardens, Early Spring 2014, pp. 68-73.