Several weeks ago, I was sent a link to an amazing set of potted gardens, which use broken pots to create tiered mini landscapes bursting with creativity. I was blown away by how beautiful these creations were and by they possibilities they posed for having a bit of a garden indoors or on balconies for those of us who live in cities.
As chance would have it, shortly after receiving this link, I was wondering what to make for my mother’s birthday. My sister is currently studying abroad in India, and my mom’s been worrying about her, so I thought maybe I would try to work with her to do a photo album – something to bring a little of the experience back to this side of the world. Or maybe I’d do some plants for her garden or the balcony. Which is when it hit me that I could combine the two, using a potted garden to recreate a little bit of the area my sister had been to through the help of some emailed photo references. In discussing this with my boyfriend, he decided he also wanted to do one for his mom’s birthday.
If you are like us, and you don’t have a plethora of broken terracotta lying about, I recommend a dremel with a diamond wheel and your local home improvement store (we used Lowe’s and Home Depot). You can pick up pots much cheaper at these places than at most garden stores and they have potting soil along with a pretty spectacular array of succulents which is what we used to plant them with. The diamond wheel can be used to score the pots along the line where you want it to break. If you do a nice deep score then tap a nail in along the crack you can get some very nice clean breaks. When you’re cutting make sure to wear a mask and safety goggles – cutting terracotta creates a lot of dust. We also had some success minimizing the dust by soaking the pots in water before cutting.
The fun part of this project is going to the store, picking out the size of the pot you want, and all the plants you want to populate it with. We used two different sizes, a 12″ standard pot, and a 14.5″ azalea pot as our bases, but had a couple smaller pots that we practiced cutting on which eventually became tiers in our final projects. Once you’ve got these, draw a line on the pot where you want to cut it (pencil works well on terracotta) then score with the diamond wheel and tap out with a hammer.
Once you’ve cut the main bit out you can crack it into smaller chunks with a hammer or use pieces from smaller pots. You want to arrange pieces of pottery into levels within the main pot. We used a combination of epoxy and hot glue (the pots have to be dry and warmish for the hot glue to stick and it’s not as strong as the epoxy) to hold the pieces in place. Here are two of the designs we did, before adding soil, everything just held in place with glue.
After you’ve figured out where you want everything to go, it’s time to fill your pot up with dirt and plant it! The one’s we did mostly contained succulents with a few indoor plants. The nice thing here is that the different tiers can be watered differently, so if you have some plants that need more water than others just make sure to separate them with a level. This is particularly true if you use smaller pots and actually leave most of the pot intact, creating a barrier that runs all the way down to the base.
Now, you may be wondering where the Indian inspiration has disappeared to since the beginning of this post. And the answer is it went to the printers. I got my sister to send me photos of two of her favorite buildings that she’d visited so far which were two monuments in the Lodi Gardens. I signed up for a great, free, 3D modeling program called tinkercad. It’s a little simpler than some programs but it’s very beginner friendly which was nice. I found a free model of the Taj Mahal, which had the domed room and curved doorways I was looking for. I was able to use these elements and the CAD program to model each of the buildings my sister sent, then I used 3dhubs to find a fairly inexpensive local printer who was able to print my items within just a few days. I incorporated these models into my potted garden for an overgrown jungle effect which I’m hoping my mom will love