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The Planter Project

September 14, 2009


Finished patio planters newly planted with succulents

The project began after purchasing the three upright planters in the picture above. They’re 3-feet tall, solid concrete, extremely heavy, with a stained patina. I found them on craigslist for a great price. My plan was to use them to delineate a patio area that would be created during the rancho’s front yard re-do. Once the patio was finished, however, it seemed more patio definition was needed so I turned to craigslist again.


Fiberglass troughs, left; painting steps

And, I found something! Two 8-foot long by 2-feet wide horse-watering troughs were being sold in nearby Moreno Valley. They were the perfect size (and shape) to fit between the upright concrete planters and although they were not a complementary color, I figured I’d deal with that later. First I had to get them. After bargaining with the seller, and enlisting the aid of my longsuffering brother-in-law, Jose, we picked up the planters and brought them home. Great, except one was white and one was a color that can be best called distressed. Whatever, I knew I could make them work. I decided I could paint them to match the concrete planters, so I studied them to figure out the color combination I’d need to achieve that. After careful looking, I bought 5 different colors of paint that I thought would reproduce their color and patina. I used Behr all-in-one primer paints from the Home Depot. I started with a base-coat of deep brown, followed by a beige-y tan, rolled on loosely (center pic). I followed that with brighter yellowish tone (right), followed by a watered-down moss green I rubbed on using damp rags. Finally, a blue-green color, also watered down and applied the same way, went on.

Planters in place; after color adjusting

The trough/planters looked pretty good, so Paul and I moved them into position. They fit just right in their new spots. Perfect! Then a vague dissatisfaction set in and I realized something was off. Compared to the concrete planters they seemed really too blue (left pic above). Drat! I decided to let them sit for a while so that I could ponder my next step. I studied the concrete planters again for a few weeks and then it hit me: the missing color was a dull brick red. I mixed up a batch using acrylic artist’s paints and using a barely-damp rag I began to rub the new color on in the same sort of random way it appeared on the concrete planters and it worked! In fact, it worked so well that at least three separate times people in the neighborhood asked what the troughs were made of and how I found planters that matched the concrete ones so perfectly.

As an artist and painter, I know that most things are not a single solid color. Usually what we perceive as a single color is made up of layers of colors that mix in our minds. Using six colors on these troughs took some time and study but it was worth it in the end. My horse trough planters look great!

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Juan Quintanar permalink
    September 23, 2009 3:56 am

    You have a way of making something so simple look so complex and beautiful. Well done, it’s no wonder I heard so many wonderful things about Rancho Reubidoux!

    • reubix1 permalink*
      September 23, 2009 10:48 pm

      Thanks, Juan… maybe you and Blanca can come by sometime; I’ll talk to Julie and set that up.

  2. Sheeba permalink
    September 24, 2009 6:40 pm

    That is really looks fantastic…yes it does look like they are all one set & I had no idea so many layers of color go into making something look so rustic, so simple, so lovely…clearly I’m no artist but hey I’m in great company!!
    I really love how you have written this blog, makes me almost believe (ALMOST!!) that I could do the same thing. I think I’ll do us all a favor & stick to admiration:)



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