Simple past, present progressive: What I did and am doing

Built a planter box out of an old crate and volunteering at the Deep Roots Habitat Gardens Tour

I haven’t posted in a while because not much was going on, but now so much is happening I’m having trouble selecting what to tell you about. I’ve decided to focus on two events, one in the past and one in the future.

Building a planter box out of an old crate

I turned some crates I found at an estate sale into planters. I waste a lot of time going to estate sales, but this one was special. For years I’ve passed this house, called Westvue, on the corner of 55th and State Line, and wondered what it was like inside.

Almost every window has a view of the spectacular, park-like grounds, designed by Hare and Hare. I wish I’d taken pictures, but I’ve linked to the description from the National Register of Historic Places, which contains several.

Image of the C.C. Peters Residence, from Missouri Valley Special Collections

The house is currently for sale, so all this could be yours for just six million dollars.

The previous owner ran an event-planning company, and had multiple everythings—trays of glassware, table decorations and, curiously, scissors, hundreds of pairs. These plywood boxes, twenty-inch cubes, were used to transport punch bowls.

I envisioned them transformed into something along the lines of these planter boxes at Versailles.

Château de Versailles Planter from Jardins du Roi de Soleil

I love this green color. However, my husband persuaded me to paint them the same brown as our house’s trim.

We’re one of those couples whose taste doesn’t align exactly, but I think this was a good idea,—even though the photo isn’t very dramatic. This was a fun project for someone with little carpentry skill. I added some castors, painted the boxes, and drilled holes in the bottom for drainage. We’re still going to add some metal trim on the corners, and I need to waterproof the inside. One idea is to paint the interior with a waterproofing sealant like Liquid Rubber. This could be an easy solution, depending on what plants will go inside. Waterproofing planters is a suggested use on the product’s website—but for inedible plants. However, I may use these to grow vegetables.

Okay, these aren’t vegetables, but you get the idea – from

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that my fantasy is to have lush, symmetric borders, like at a British estate. My goal for this year is to make our backyard gardens more artful and pleasing—using plants we already have. As part of this re-design, I rehomed some non-natives and dismantled our rotting raised bed. I still like growing salad, though, and thought I could use these planters for that. That means Liquid Rubber is out. Instead, I’ll probably staple in some heavy-duty plastic as a liner.  

Lush, symmetric borders at Bramdean House, Alresford, Hampshire. Image from the National Garden Scheme:

Deep Roots Habitat Garden Tour

Reconfiguring my borders amounts to a lot of work. Ideally I’d dig up everything and move it all around at once, putting things in their new places, just like I would new plants. I won’t be digging this coming Saturday, however, because I’m volunteering at April’s Deep Roots Habitat Garden Tour. Last week I was able to preview the three gardens featured this month, wonderful woodland gardens with so many special plants. Many were unfamiliar to me, like Uvularia grandiflora (Yellow Bellwort) and Sanguinaria canadensis (Bloodroot).

These exquisite flowers are growing among the daffodils and bluebells beneath the shady canopy.

When we bring home a tiny plug in its box of dirt, new-ish gardeners like me may struggle to envision how the plant will look when it matures. These tours are a fabulous opportunity to see many special plants, shrubs, and trees in a residential setting. Since my own garden is mostly sunny, I’m excited to expand my plant knowledge beyond Rudbeckia and Echinacea purpurea. Native plants are more than prairie plants!

The tours will feature three gardens every month on the second Saturday. The first one is this weekend, Saturday, April 13, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. I hope to see you. Thanks for reading!


Jardins du Roi Soleil Château de Versailles planter

Natural Cedar Planter Box with L-trellis

National Register of Historic Places Registration Form

Postcard of C.C. PETERS RESIDENCE / Missouri Valley Special Collections

Image of Bramdean House

Deep Roots Habitat Garden Tour

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