Using Faux Bois in the Garden

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While visiting the Nashville Antique and Garden Show this year, faux bois was one of the key items featured in the garden dealer booths. These items were all sold early on Friday, proving their popularity. All these were made of concrete, included moss patina, and most were brought back from Europe by the dealers. Faux bois details are great in many gardens for this contrast of cottage and modern. There is also many different ways you can add it to your garden.

Collection of antique Faux Bois planters seen at the Nashville Antique & Garden Show - More images and details at Thinking Outside the Boxwood

 

CONCRETE FAUX BOIS

One of my favorite garden containers I own is the faux bois planter next to our back door. It is my favorite for a few reasons. First the story of when and where we found it. (It was on a detoured state route in rural Wisconsin on our trip back from the PPA symposium in Minneapolis, MN. It caused us to u-turn in the middle of the road and strapping down luggage to get it back to Ohio.) It is also my favorite for the mix natural wood graining in the rough and raw texture of concrete. The fact it needs leveled with pennies, missing a small chuck in a foot, and an amateur repair on side adds to its charm.

Faux Bois Planter over the season - how to incorporate faux bois into the garden - more at thinkingoutsidetheboxwood.com

Our container at home at a few different seasons. This is placed at our back porch against the black portion of our home which makes both the container and plantings pop.

 

Faux Bois fiber cement table top planter filled with succulents - more at thinkingoutsidetheboxwood.com

This is a small concrete planter belonging to a client that is planted with succulents. The smaller sized containers look great on outdoor or indoor tables and do not require a crew of people to move.

 

Faux Bois planter filled with ferns seen in Preston CT. - More on Faux Bois at Thinking Outside the Boxwood

We saw this faux bois planter in Preston, CT over the summer filled with ferns. Something this size is extremely heavy but its heft is scale and weight gave it the realistic feeling of a carved out tree trunk.

 

Outside of planters, faux bois can be added to the garden in furniture. There is antique furniture and contemporary designers still crafting in these designs today. Carlos Cortes is the most recognized craftsman, (see article from Martha Stewart here). Other designers include Branch Studio, Husson Studio, and  Marcella Marie.  Outside of using concrete you can also find cast iron benches with faux bois details.

 

RESIN FAUX BOIS

Besides our concrete planter, we have had a wood stump planter that was painted at one time to look like a real wood stump, but over the past few years has chipped off. This is a much more manageable size to use and moves around from inside to outdoors. This one is made of a mystery resin and was purchased a long time ago at auction with no maker marks. Even up close this planter looks very realistic compared to the concrete versions.

Using Faux Bois in the Garden, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

 

CAST IRON FAUX BOIS

Cast Iron Faux bois is another antique item you can use to add to the garden. From benches, hitching posts and ornaments, the cast iron stands up to wear and tear. Oddly enough we saw no cast iron faux bois while at the Nashville antique and garden show.

Faux Bois in the Garden - Cast Iron Hitching Post at Moss Mountain Farm. More at Thinkingoutsidetheboxwood.com

This cast iron hitching post is from Moss Mountain Farm, the home of P.Allen Smith. Painted black it is the perfect fix of form and function.

 

Using Faux Bois in the garden - Metal Edging that evokes bent branches. More at thinkingoutsidetheboxwood.com

Here are two runs of metal edging that evoke the look of bent branches. Adding these are a subtle nod to natural elements in the garden while serving a function creating edges to different areas.

 

 

SEWER TILE FAUX BOIS

Another antique faux bois planter belonging to my in-laws collection is made by sewer tile craftsmen. These are made from the same material as the tile, so have the color of the red clay used. These are American made but are equally expensive as their European counter parts for their rarity.

Using Faux Bois in the Garden - 20th Century Sewer Tile Faux Bois Planter - More examples on Thinkingoutsidetheboxwood.com

This planter is about 2 feet tall and 3ft wide and crafted using clay used to craft sewer tiles. This planter was purchased in Southern Ohio and was most likely made by a Ohio craftsman.

 

 

BOARD FORMED CONCRETE

Finally, the most contemporary way of adding faux bois to the garden is using board formed concrete. This could be in retaining walls or in fireplaces, really any were you would use poured concrete. These are created using wood boards that have been sandblasted to bring out the graining in the forming process. HERE  is a great post about how it is accomplished.

 

Faux Bois in the Garden - Board Formed Concrete from Howells Architecture +Design from Dwell. More uses at Thinkingoutsidetheboxwood.com

A board formed concrete wall from Howell Architecture + Design via Dwell.com This method can be used for fire pits, walls and raised beds.

 

 

Here is a round up of some faux bois planters that don/t require visiting antique shows , France or farm auctions.

Using Faux Bois in the Garden with containers - More at thinkingoutsidetheboxwood.com

 

(1) Martha Stewart for QVC 19 inch Planter

(2) Capital Garden Products Driftwood Planter

(3) 910Casting Concrete Faux Bois Planter

(4) Pennoyer Newman Tree Hallow Planter

 

I ordered the Martha Stewart QVC 19” planter, and will let you know what I think about it when it arrives in March. Also, this spring I am planning on selling some of our antique garden items. I have held on to stuff for too long and it’s time to pass along and make room for new items. Will keep you posted, but I know metal edging is going to be up for grabs.

 

Selecting Containers: Size and Scale

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Here is my third installment on container gardens with selecting a container based on size and scale. This post has taken me over a week to write as I found explaining scale outside a specific environment tricky.  You see images of amazing containers, but its difficult to judge the exact size of  a container based on the size of plants alone. Since you want the investment in your vessel last for years, getting the right size is important. Hopefully below I am able to give some guidance in selecting a good size.

Selecting Containers: Size and Scale, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

 

First, in selecting a container there are four features to evaluate, including size. All of these are factors you need to evaluate before you start with the artistry in building the plant pairings for your container.

 

  • MATERIAL. There is a wide range of materials to select from including metal, wood, pottery and composites. The choice of material will also depend on where you live and if the containers need to remain outdoors year round in addition to personal preference.
  • STYLE. From modern to Victorian, rustic to mid century there are no shortage in container style choices. These can either reflect the architecture of the surrounding buildings/gardens or be chosen for a distinct contrast.
  • PLACEMENT. The beauty of containers is their ability to be placed anywhere. Given their dramatic quality, containers are often used to highlight key areas like focal points and entrances or hide other flaws.
  • SIZE/SCALE. This is the trickiest factor in selecting container, especially when ordering from a thumbnail.  Larger containers allow you to add mature plants and more plantings compared to smaller containers. They also take up a bigger footprint so are harder to place. You need to consider the depth and opening width of the container and if it will work with the planting style you like.

 

For size you have to evaluate both the WIDTH and HEIGHT of the container.

WIDTH: Start with measuring the area you want to place the container. If next to a door, this would be the landing or steps. You are often limited with space on porches so the width will need to stay with in this area. If on the edge of a patio or large area, you have more range in the size you can use. Pick a width that allows some movement around the container to accommodate traffic.

 

HEIGHT: There is more flexibility in the height of a container. Look for a height that will be noticed in your chosen location, low bowls next to doors might be outside visitor’s sight lines. (Note that you will fill with plants so the height will be even taller). Also consider the best depth for the root structure (trees like deeper containers).

 

 

Here is a comparison of eight different containers next to a standard door (the door to our nursery). Using a standard door, you can see how the size of each container compares. If you have a specific container in mind, you can compare against these to see what it will look like next your door.

Selecting Containers: Size and Scale, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

 

Here are two items to keep in mind while selecting the container: 

A MINIMUM SIZE: Generally, I stay clear of containers smaller than 12″ wide. The smaller containers require more frequent watering and do not make a big impact on their own. If you are looking to make an impact, look in the 20″ wide range or bigger. You can then add smaller containers to make a grouping, but I recommend starting  with the main focal container first and then add on with the smaller containers.

 

RULE OF THREE: If you are going to make a grouping, aim for three containers in three different sizes. The three containers will make a bigger foot print. Play with three different heights and a mix of shapes or material.

 

 

 

GOOD RESOURCES: Here are some great resources for purchasing containers if you are looking for vendors that are easy to order/purchase and have a great selection of quality and unique containers. There are also great to the trade resources that are available at your local garden centers, but the five listed below are accessible to everyone and a good place to start your search.

 

Crate & Barrel: I have used personally and for clients containers from Crate & Barrel. The feature modern shapes, and from year to year include some larger scale containers. They also offer a range of materials. It is also nice since you can see these often in person at a local store before purchasing.  This photo features Crate & Barrel containers purchased a few years ago.

Selecting Containers: Size and Scale, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

This is a series of six Crate & Barrel containers purchased three years ago that are placed along a low retaining wall in a pool area. 

 

West ElmI like West Elm containers for the same reasons as Crate & Barrel; modern, range of sizes, can see in person and range of materials offered at great prices. This season in particular I really like the shapes and range of sizes offered. I have also used these at home/clients and they have lasted season to season.

Selecting Containers: Size and Scale, Thinking Outside the Boxwood, Monstera deliciosa- Swiss Cheese plant

We planted a Monstera deliciosa in this West Elm container, and bring in doors every winter. He has been happy in this container for the past three years with his in/outdoor lifestyle. 

 

 

Detroit Garden Works: This is my go to resource for unique and quality containers for clients. We make the drive north 1-2 times a year to buy something for a client. Deborah and Rob have an amazing eye for finding the best items from the USA and Europe. We are really fortunate to have such a great resource close by. They ship across country, but their site is a great resource for window shopping for types of containers you like.

Selecting Containers: Size and Scale, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

Here a photo is the same container from Detroit Garden Works in the summer and fall that is planted with a Japanese Maple Tree and grouped with smaller containers. The scale of this planter very tall (about 10 feet with the tree), but matches the scale of the home. The clustering of smaller seasonal containers gives freshness, for the year round container design.  

 

 

Restoration Hardware: I have used Restoration Hardware containers for both clients and currently at my in-law’s home, and the quality for metal containers is really great. We can leave these containers outdoors year round (with below freezing temperatures) and they hold up for going on 5 years. The styles offered are more traditional and come in very large scale sizes that are often needed depending on the scale of the home.

 

Selecting Containers: Size and Scale, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

This is a pair of the Restoration Hardware Estate Zinc Paneled Planters flanking the front stairs of this home.  These are the Large size at 28″ sq., 28″H. We planted with a tall banana to bring the height of the container in line with the front door that is four steps higher.  This sizes also allows us to fill with plenty of under plantings to keep the container full. 

 

Terrain: Terrain carries the vintage and exclusive containers that showcase the, Oh I have had this container forever (but really just purchased). They are also plants people so offer a range of containers for different plants and uses. If you are privileged enough to live near the Glen Mills or Westport locations, you have the added benefit to build your container with plants while you are at the store to take home and plant.

Selecting Containers: Size and Scale, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

Here is a pair of 16′ x16′ Fiberclay Barrel pots designed based on the difficult to come-by (unless you want to pay $200 plus) zinc Dolly Pots.  I have had great luck with Fiberclay pots holding up to our freezing temperatures from year to year, and at $78 for the large is a good value. 

 

I hope you find information on scale and size helpful in selecting a container. It’s most important to select something you love and will enjoy, and if that breaks all rules who cares.

15 Fresh Greens for Holiday Decorating

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The week after Thanksgiving is a rush to get our clients homes decorated for the holiday season. Even though the week is busy, we look forward to flexing our festive creative muscles. I shared photos of a few projects on instagram throughout the week (NickMccland),if you want a preview. There were questions about the types of greens we used and thought I would share a list of all the different types of fresh greenery we use as a info graphic for quick reference. These are the greens that work well in Ohio’s December climate or we use only indoor (such as pepperberry). There are infinite combinations you could make with these greens, highlighted with ribbon, ornaments, pinecones and branches.

 

15 Fresh Greens for Holiday Decorating Containers, Wreaths or Garlands from Thinking Outside the boxwood

 

 

One of our favorite tricks is using a variety of these fresh greens tucked in a standard Frasier Fir wreath or graland. The fir provides a dense base for tucking in other greens for distinctive texture and color. You can purchase greens from florists or take clippings from your own backyard. The dense fir wreath will hold the green’s branches with in the existing wiring, or use paddle wire to secure to the frame. This trick provides you with a nice fresh wreath, that is unique to only your home without the custom made cost or time.