Sunday, December 31, 2006

Use Mexican Painted Pots for Your Container Garden

Planning a container garden is a great way to have more garden with little space or to create a movable garden. These gardens will be able to go wherever they work best at a given time or place. Perhaps you want a plant on the front porch this year but will move it to the deck next year of even for the Independence Day party you are planning. If you have a container garden, then you want to try to make your containers interesting. While you can use basic metal cans, such as coffee cans, you also may want to spruce them up, no pun intended, so that your containers are as much of a discussion point and provide as much aesthetic appeal as the plants themselves.

One way to create cool containers is to use this basic painting technique to make Mexican painted pots. (Those of you who are less creative can do a toned-down version of this plan. Just skip the last step.) You will need terra cotta pots of any size although you may want to plan out the plants before you buy. For the complete gardening novice, terra cotta pots are those basic orange clay pots you see everywhere. They are super-cheap, which is why they are so popular, and they actually are pretty durable little pots for your plants.

You also will need to go to a craft store and pick up some brushes of various sizes. You probably can get a basic set of brushes for a few dollars. Just make sure that you have them ranging from brush heads that are an inch or so down to the tiniest 1/16 of an inch brushes. You also should get white undercoat; be sure that the bottle says it works for exterior use. Then you will need gouache paint, which is better than your basic craft paint and will withstand being outdoors. Get the colors that excite you the most; they mostly come in very bright choices. Finally you will need a polyurethane matt varnish and some masking tape (cheap is fine) for your pots.

Whew! Now that you have the supplies, it is time to get down to business. You should put the pots out in an area where you can paint. Put newspaper under them so that you do not make a mess. Once you are set up, you should put the masking tape in strips around the pots. If you get different widths of the tape, you can create more variation; another way to get the difference is to cut the masking tape strips so that some are narrower than the roll.

Once you have several circles with the tape, you will need to use your widest brush and paint the entire pot (masking tape and all) with the white undercoat. Allow the undercoat to dry and use brushes that are roughly the width of each section not covered with the masking tape. Paint each adjacent section and different color and allow the paint to dry. Then you should take off the masking tape to reveal the rings that are still terra cotta.

Use the fine brushes and undercoat to create little designs, such as stripes, polka dots, and stars in the painted sections. (This step would be the one you skip if you want something plain.) Once the undercoat dries, cover the pot with the varnish and allow it to sit for a day before using it for planting.

If you do not want the terra cotta stripes, you can try variations, such as painting the entire pot with the undercoat or a light hue of the gouache paint before you begin. Then you will get that color as your base. Just be sure that you allow each coat of paint to dry completely before you move on, or you will end up with the colors running together.

These pots are a great way to get your container garden started. They work particularly well with cacti, which are desert plants. The motif of the Mexican painted plants will go well together, and if you want to add more flavor, try putting the plants over a Mexican-themed throw rug when you display them.


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