Non-plant decor for planters?
July 30, 2019 10:37 AM   Subscribe

Our home came with not-ideal-for-Florida brick planters built against the side of the house. Damp soil held against the side of the house is problematic: leads to moisture inside the walls, provides access for insects, etc. We capped the sprinklers, removed plants. Problem solved! New problem: empty planters reduce curb appeal. What non-plant decor items would look intentional and cool around our home?

The previous plants were low-moisture plants, but their water requirement was still problematic. Assume that just removing the planters is not an option due to expense. Anything in one section of the planters gets blazing western afternoon light. Anything in the other section of planter, in front of a different section of house but still facing the road, gets afternoon shade. The eves of the house keep the planters mostly dry, but the humidity is severe.

I’m considering gazing balls, a series of decorative pots, etc. I’m just not good at this stuff. If we had a quirky house, I’d go for Flamingos painted in pride colors, but this house takes itself way too seriously (looks like it belongs up north, rather than SFL. Has an expensive stucco job with the stucco carved and painted to match the brick, and of all things a big Chicago brick double fireplace inside. There’s a continuity of theme. I’m working on convincing hubby to paint the very serious front door aqua.)

Also, there’s a septic tank right in front of these planters, so I can’t plant anything in front with deeper roots than grass, otherwise that area would be a butterfly garden.

I’m reasonably handy with a paintbrush, access to basic tools, and don’t mind moderate diy. I have some, but not unlimited, funds to work with.

Decoratively-minded mefites, throw your decor ideas at me! (Temporary photos of unsightly planter on my IG)
posted by Nancy_LockIsLit_Palmer to Home & Garden (28 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Fancy gravel / river rocks.
A tile mosaic.
Bench seating. With hidden storage underneath if those planters are dirt down to ground level.
Fake succulents (usually more convincing than other fake plants).
Painted lattice fencing cut to fit just to cover the dirt.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:52 AM on July 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

Put a couple of large black rocks in there and then cover the dirt with white pebbles, reminiscent of a Zen garden.
posted by jquinby at 10:54 AM on July 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

Rock garden, with gazing balls is enough to make the space look intentional but not be too over-the-top. If you don't have enough money to fill all of it with river rocks, use a garden border to create a neat shape and fill the back half with gravel, and on the gravel place the orbs/whatever other statue- like things you want. Have a variation of orbs in color and size will add some much-needed whimsy to the house. If you want to keep it stoic, thing of some concrete statues or blanched driftwood
posted by FirstMateKate at 11:03 AM on July 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

Design Toscano has a huge variety of garden statues, from serious to silly. Wide range of prices and sizes too.
posted by FencingGal at 11:09 AM on July 30, 2019

Could you hang balcony planters over the ledge?
posted by trig at 11:14 AM on July 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

Is the house symmetrical? Is that part of the formality? Any sculpture or gazing ball collection will be more formal if it's in symmetrical pairs, or balanced pairs. If it isn't symmetrical, doing something that closely echoes the wall-window-wall-window-wall rhythm of the house will also be relatively formal.

Don't worry about "I’m just not good at this stuff."; most of the people I know who are do it by trying things and looking at them and changing them a bit.

You could probably grow plants without damaging the house if you took out the existing dirt and found impermeable sub-irrigated planters to fit inside the brick; their drainage (of rain) could be directed through the front drainage of the brick planters, not towards the house. (*Is* there drainage out the front of the brick planters? I bet there should be. I agree that you need to take out the soil if you have insect contact problems. ) And once the plants are in containers, you can mix plants with anything else -- seating, art. I kind of want to put red lantanas under the windows trimmed to look like red geraniums in northern windowboxes.
posted by clew at 11:14 AM on July 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

Rotating seasonal fun zone! Halloween is obvious, flamingos for summer, Easter bunnies in spring, etc. You’ll need a few gnomes to stand guard, naturally (they can have seasonally appropriate flair).
posted by ewok_academy at 11:22 AM on July 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

How about metal flower sculptures?
Modern sculpture?
Totem poles?
Outlandish DIY?
Wooden art?

Pinterest is your friend.
posted by XtineHutch at 11:33 AM on July 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

Metal sculpture. (Examples: Agave and red flower ocotillo at etsy's TopangaPatina, to coordinate with an aqua door; saguro cactus torch at Desert Steel; eclecticism at Barberville Yard Art.)
posted by Iris Gambol at 11:34 AM on July 30, 2019 [3 favorites]

1. Could you excavate the soil and put individual containers inside, or line the planters in some other way? Maybe you could even make drainage holes in the outside of the planters and arrange the liner to channel water out there.

2. I'm a fan of gongshi / suisecki. These are basically lovely rocks.

3. Cover the planters with a (well-sealed) wooden top and use them as benches.

4. Fairy Garden / Miniatures

5. Just use sand (get rid of most of the soil, or it will eventually mix in) and make a Japanese rock garden.
posted by amtho at 11:42 AM on July 30, 2019

Oh also - lithops and other desert plants really really don't want you to water them.
posted by amtho at 11:44 AM on July 30, 2019

Bird bath? Bird feeder?
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:44 AM on July 30, 2019

I really like the idea to turn it into a bench. You could even make hinged covers for included storage (after emptying out the dirt of course).

If this were me, I would empty out the trench and then put in a bunch of large pots with young citrus trees, and then transplant them to the yard once they get too big. That might be more effort than you're interested in though!
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:52 AM on July 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

Fill it with bottle trees.
posted by saladin at 11:52 AM on July 30, 2019

Also, I gotta disagree with your premise that the pride flamingos wouldn't go with the house!
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:57 AM on July 30, 2019 [8 favorites]

Pride flamingos go with everything, I am just saying.
posted by bile and syntax at 11:58 AM on July 30, 2019 [8 favorites]

My family hails from the US Midwest, so the obvious answer is concrete garden gnomes and a concrete goose with a seasonal wardrobe.

NB: concrete ganders exist and wear a slightly larger size.
posted by momus_window at 12:08 PM on July 30, 2019 [6 favorites]

If you're a gardener, you could fill with sand and store garden tools (shovels, rakes, hand tools) upright in them.
posted by 10ch at 12:26 PM on July 30, 2019

Garden dragon?
Fish in the Garden?

If you don't want to order online, I see a lot of this kind of garden art stuff at the summer art fairs around me - maybe you could find something local?
posted by Sabby at 1:31 PM on July 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

There may be a design solution!

Brick walls against against timber walls are terrible but I've been asked for solutions to this several times and I usually install something like this, when I can't get anything else - or better this These drain water down the inside of your planter enabling a more normal garden while keeping your wall dry. Links go to web pages

These systems go by names like:
vertical drainage board\fabric

Dimple board

this shows (google image search link) how dimple board can be affixed, I usually staple it as I line timber planters with it to stop leaking and timbe rot, but industrial tapes, or glue beads will hold it to brick.
posted by unearthed at 2:05 PM on July 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

Curb appeal - are you selling? One winter I put put sticks from the yard in my plant pots, added fairy lights. Pretty and kind of arty. Big pots of grasses would be nice, whatever you do, fairy lights help.
posted by theora55 at 4:30 PM on July 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

OMG! Can you build a river??? It's actually not as big a production as it may sound. You get a liner, and a pump to pump it back to the start, then you add rocks to make it look nice. Probably lots of cinder blocks under the liner to support it. cost estimate: $400 to $800. You'll have a larger electrical bill. Will have to replace the pump every 5-7 years, for $200. Maybe have just some overhead foliage for anole habitat?
posted by at at 4:37 PM on July 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

Or you could go a bit wilder; a lizard and some succulents with riverstones and gravel*, I put href="">this strange creature together when I started landscape. I could imagine doing something more 3D with lumpier rocks.

* Which need almost no water, and could exist entirely in pots sunk to surface level .
posted by unearthed at 6:45 PM on July 30, 2019

My family hails from the US Midwest, so the obvious answer is concrete garden gnomes and a concrete goose with a seasonal wardrobe. NB: concrete ganders exist and wear a slightly larger size.
posted by momus_window

Oh, the seasonally styled geese are adorable!

Also, with that long raised bed you can have the faux canine exercise track of your dreams. Think "championship dog agility trials" and go from there -- even better if you have a dog statue to nail down the theme.

What I would not do is add gravel or rock unless I was sure that it was a permanent solution. Dirt and sand are much easier to dig in and remove.
posted by TrishaU at 9:01 PM on July 30, 2019

Florida plant guy here. You could totally get away with planting established agave plants there. They hardly require water and thrive in blasting sunlight and will survive extremely long bouts of shade.
posted by caveatz at 6:35 AM on July 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

Rocks, gravel, and sand are all going to act as a heatsink, absorbing heat during the day, releasing it at night. So I might consider filling the space with bubble wrap, which is often available free on, and making plywood lids that could be decorated with mosaic tile. I've done countertops in broken tile/ crazy-paving, and it's cheap, fun and can look good to great. Bubble wrap is mildly insulating.
posted by theora55 at 6:52 AM on July 31, 2019

I'd use fake plants; a lot of them look really good these days.
posted by metasarah at 8:09 AM on July 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

Any reason you couldn't put plants inside the planters, but keep the plants in a plastic liner/pot without holes? So there would be no moisture seeping back into your walls? Or i am missing something obvious here?
posted by PardonMyFrench at 12:30 PM on July 31, 2019 [3 favorites]

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