Colour your garden in your very Favourite Tones With a Quick Lick of Paint Here’s How to Get Great Results
Painting and spray-painting are great ways to create a unique container – you can choose just the right shade and texture to suit your planting scheme. And a little bit of expert know-how will help you get the best results.
PREPARE YOUR PLANTER
Always clean your container thoroughly first to create the best surface for the paint or spray paint. Run the container under water and scrub lightly with a dish-washing brush or pot bristle brush to remove all the dust and dirt. Terracotta pots can build up a crusty white residue over time, due to salts and other chemicals that are often found in tap water. This is not an ideal surface for painting, so give it a more thorough clean first (see panel on the right). Check that your container is completely dry before you paint it, especially terracotta pots, which readily absorb moisture. Put your containers in the sun to speed up the drying process. You can also use a paint primer first, which lays a good foundation for the paint, gives a smoother finish and improves the paint’s durability. There are primers suitable for different materials, including metal, wood, terracotta, stone and even plastic.
Buying paint, especially for larger containers, can be expensive, so purchase some tester pots first to see if you like the colour and effect it creates. You can use a wide range of exterior paints on wooden containers such as troughs, boxes and crates. Try ordinary exterior emulsion and oil-based gloss paint. For metal containers, it’s best to use gloss paint or a proprietary metal paint. Terracotta pots can be painted with non-toxic acrylic or emulsion paints or spray-painted. Concrete or stone pots can also be painted with emulsion or a specialist masonry paint suitable for exteriors. There are also outdoor stains available for wooden containers. Note that these are affected by the colour of the wood you’re staining. Always place your container on a dust sheet or newspaper first to protect your working surface.
How to clean a terracotta pot Got an old pot encrusted with white residue?
Here’s how to get it looking like new, ready to paint.
1 Use a dish-washing brush or pot bristle brush to clean as much dirt and old potting mix from the inside and outside of the pot.
2 Soak the pot in a solution of water and white vinegar. You’ll need about 250ml (1 cup) of vinegar to every 750ml or 1 litre (3 or 4 cups) of water. Submerge the pot in the solution. The vinegar will start working on the crusty build-up.
3 After about 20–30 minutes, see if you can wipe or scrub off the residue. Leave for longer, if necessary, and use the brush to scrub firmly to remove the residue.
4 Finally, put the pot in the dishwasher on the quick wash cycle. This will clean and disinfect the pot ready for planting. Alternatively, scrub the pot in warm soapy water and rinse well.
WHAT TO DO
Start by applying a base coat using a household paintbrush or try a foam brush for a smoother result. Apply second and even third coats, depending on the type and colour of paint you’re using, as well as whether you want any of the container to show through. You don’t need to paint the bottom or inside of the container, although you can paint the top inch or so that won’t be covered with potting mix. To spray-paint a container, work outdoors or in a well-ventilated space.
Hold the can about 30cm from the surface and spray in a steady back-and-forth motion. Slowly rotate the container as you spray. Try to keep the spray can the same distance from the container to ensure an even coverage. Wait a few minutes before applying a second or third coat, and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Allow the container to dry thoroughly before planting up. This may take some time, especially if the container is made of terracotta. To avoid the paint chipping or cracking, you can apply a matt or gloss varnish to seal the paint, following the manufacturer’s directions.
JUST ADD PLANTS
There is a useful phrase to remember when you are designing a container scheme: ‘thriller, filler and spiller’. This can be helpful when you’re working out the design for a container and how to compose your plant combinations. For example, if you have a large container, you might want some tall plants at the back to provide height (the ‘thriller’ or focus plant) and then some shorter plants to fill up the middle area of the container (the ‘filler’ plants). To finish the planting, you could choose plants that trail over the sides (the ‘spiller’ plants).
It is important to ensure that all containers have a drainage hole or holes in the bottom. Most plants dislike sitting in very wet soil, so excess water needs to be able to drain out of the container to prevent the potting mix becoming waterlogged. Although most containers already have drainage holes, recycled items such as metal buckets or wooden crates probably won’t. However, it is easy to make holes in these with a hammer and heavy-duty nail Just turn the container over and hit the nail hard with the hammer to make a series of holes in the bottom. You can also use an electric drill to make the holes. Containers made from stone, terracotta or ceramics cannot be treated in this way. Planting up an upcycled container.
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