Flowerpots hanging in trees
December 17, 2013 2:18 PM   Subscribe

There are a series of terracotta flowerpots hanging upside-down in trees in a residential area, and I'd love to figure out why there there. This is what they look like.

There are about ten of the pots, hanging with blue string from high branches at street level (the housing is at a lower level), mostly reachable but not terribly easily. I'd initially assumed they were bird feeders, somehow, but I can't quite see how it would work, and they look just the same as when I saw them six months ago so that's probably not still true. Shelter? Art?

Have you seen or made anything like this, or do you know what it's for? I'm giving architectural tours of the neighbourhood soon and would love to satisfy my curiosity before then.
posted by carbide to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
There might be seed balls hanging inside so birds can access it but squirrels would have difficulty
posted by edgeways at 2:22 PM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Bat houses?
posted by ereshkigal45 at 2:34 PM on December 17, 2013

For fun?

Maybe scarecrows.
posted by humboldt32 at 2:37 PM on December 17, 2013

Is there some kind of clapper inside? My guess would be windchimes.
posted by bricoleur at 2:39 PM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Making wind chimes out of small flowerpots is a popular activity to do with little kids. We have some in our trees, now that I think of it, that are probably 5 years old.
posted by not that girl at 2:49 PM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Not to threadsit, but: there's no sound coming from them, and they happen to be outside housing for older people.
posted by carbide at 3:20 PM on December 17, 2013

Why don't you just walk up to the house they're in front of, and knock on the door, and say, smiling, "Hi! I'm sorry to trouble you, but I was just noticing your flower pots hanging in the trees, and I was so curious, I just had to ask, what are they for?" As long as you're cheerful and friendly and unthreatening, you'll probably get an answer.
posted by The otter lady at 3:40 PM on December 17, 2013

From Wikipedia: "A terracotta flower pot hung upside-down, filled with bundles of straw or wood wool is an ideal house for earwigs."
posted by Houstonian at 3:41 PM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ours lost their clappers ages ago. But, yeah, why not ask if you can?
posted by not that girl at 4:04 PM on December 17, 2013

Wait! People WANT earwigs? Please explain why this could be.
posted by Cranberry at 4:25 PM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Earwigs eat tree lice on fruit trees.
posted by Houstonian at 4:42 PM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Wren houses
posted by TallulahBankhead at 4:43 PM on December 17, 2013

Are they situated such that you are able to look inside them and see what, if anything, is in there? That would likely help a lot in figuring out what they're for.
posted by brainmouse at 4:50 PM on December 17, 2013

There might be seed balls hanging inside

I remember there being a Blue Peter craft project in my youth which involved melting together fat and birdseed, letting it set in a yoghurt pot, and hanging it upside down as a bird feeder. (For bluetits and the like, I believe, which are acrobatic enough to hang upside down and get to the goodness within.)

(This seems to be the current variation; this is more like what I remember.)

Could your mystery pots be something similar?
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 5:21 PM on December 17, 2013

At a guess, I'd second Houstonian's suggestion that it's an Insect Hotel.

We have a bunch of those around in the fruit trees.
posted by HFSH at 5:27 PM on December 17, 2013

Is that a quince tree? Maybe the tree type gives a clue.
posted by Houstonian at 5:57 PM on December 17, 2013

The first answer was right. It is a bird feeder. They are popular in parts of Europe. Linking some examples here.

Basically, you can use a coconut or a flowerpot to make one. Then you need some lard and a lot of different seeds. Melt the lard, mix in the seeds and pour the thick mixture into a dry coconut or flowerpot. Attach a twig or cord beforehand or as long as the lard is still warm and let it set. The next day it is completely solid and can be hung upside down. Certain birds like fatty feed and with tough winters in the northern and eastern parts of Europe it is actually recommended to feed birds as soon as everything is covered in snow.

Is it possible there is a retirement home or a kindergarten/school close by and they had a DIY-activity-class and made those? Might have been last year or so if the pots are empty by now.

EDIT: Haha, We had a deal, Kyle beat me to it.
posted by travelwithcats at 10:49 PM on December 17, 2013

Belatedly (sorry!), thank you all very much. I've ended up raising it as a question to each tour group I'm leading, and it's a nice opportunity for some interaction. Still no definite answer but I am convinced by the bird feeder theory.

The otter lady suggested that I knocked on a door and ask, which I might still do. It's a charity housing scheme for older people in an urban context, so I'm mindful of my own grandparents getting alarmed by strangers calling to their (urban) door, but perhaps that was over-cautious of me.
posted by carbide at 7:18 AM on January 17, 2014

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