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Before & After: A Cool Twist

December 21, 2012


Beautiful, aren’t they? These wall-mounted succulent gardens exist because a.) I have an unquenchable desire to collect rusted industrial elements and b.) a friend named Vickie Perez. It’s because of the former that our deck is loaded with rusty ol’ bits and bobs from machines that stopped running ages ago … some so antiquated we’re not sure what function they served. And it’s through knowing Vickie that I was able to imagine these vintage rotary fan covers as planters. I first posted about Vickie’s amazing work turning old toys and other items into planters here, and reviewing that post inspired me to create the project. (Luckily, I have a piece of Vickie’s here to study; that was a huge help, too.) Anyway, I hope she approves! Here’s how I made them …



I bought these rotary fan blade covers at Stephen Penn’s super picker’s yard on Jurupa, and at the time I had no idea why I needed them. I just knew I loved their rusty caginess and vaguely moderne faces. The smaller of the two once made a General Electric fan’s face safer and the larger one had graced an Emerson. They’re in the company of the other major project components: small gauge metal mesh, moss dirt cover and tiny succulents from a big box hardware store.



To begin, I laid the fan cover right-side-up on a length of mesh to be sure it would cover completely. Then I flipped it over, and using the design on the cover’s face, traced the area the planter would encompass.



I cut the planter shape out of the mesh using regular scissors and placed it onto the backside of the fan cover to make certain it just fit. Satisfied, I used this shape to cut out another for the planter’s back wall. Ultimately, these wire mesh shapes, and another for a bottom, will create a basket-like container for the planter’s soil.



I couldn’t use the mesh in its shiny, silver state so I painted the cutouts with a rust colored spray paint. While waiting for the paint to dry, I cut short lengths of floral wire, doubling and twisting them for strength. When the paint was dry I used the floral wire to anchor the mesh securely to the fan cover frame, wrapping it in and out upon itself.



I did the same wire wrapping at two more spots (see circles in left photo). With all three anchors in place, I now cut out a thin length of mesh to provide a bottom for the planter. Satisfied that it would just fit, I painted it with the same rust paint as the other mesh shapes.



That completed, I took a longer length of floral wire and doubled it, making sure that it was long enough to encircle half the fan cover. Then, beginning at the first wire-wrapped anchor, I began weaving it in-and-out, making sure that the planter front and the planter bottom were attached to the fan cover’s frame. Lashing complete, I painted all of the green floral wires with rust paint and allowed it to dry.



The basket completed, I noticed that it would be very deep at the tallest point. So, to break up that surface, I added two cut-outs that would allow me to plant vertically. Using metal shears I cut out a triangular and a square-ish opening (see above).



Now, the fun part! Using sheets of moss of the type used to cover the soil in floral arrangements, I pressed them into the planter basket. I made sure the moss covered the inside of the planter completely, pressing it against the mesh walls tightly.  Then, using a cardboard box to stabilize the planter as I worked, I spooned cactus mix soil into the planter’s cavity. Once filled completely, I used an assortment of common succulents to create a pleasing arrangement. With everything planted into the top of the planter, I laid it flat and planted draping succulents into the openings in its face. Finished, I mounted it on a nail for a first look … Hmmm … I took it down, moved some plants around and put it up again. Aside from some fallen donkey tail sedum bits, I loved it! Now, for the smaller, simpler planter …



The basket area of the smaller planter was not as deep, so I didn’t cut shapes out of its face for planting. I merely planted the string of pearls succulent close to the basket’s edge and allowed it to drape over. It, like the donkey tail sedum, is delicate to handle despite its colorful name, but I love the look they add to the planters. For height, not to mention a shock of color, I couldn’t resist adding a piece of pink/orange “sticks on fire” from the garden. (In the first planter I used a sinuous and grass-like Albuca cicinata x spiralis for height and interest.) Because the fan cover is an open cage they should be able to grow unimpeded.


I loved these projects and enjoyed channeling Vickie’s thought process creating them — Thanks, Vickie!


W I S H I N G   Y O U   H A P P Y   H O L I D A Y S ,   R A NC H O   R E A D E R S !

39 Comments leave one →
  1. December 22, 2012 2:23 am

    Love it!! I am a “fan” of succulents to begin with and to utilize the fan covers is such a great idea. Merry Christmas!!

    • reubix1 permalink*
      December 22, 2012 2:25 am

      Thanks, very much! Happy holidays, Catherine

  2. December 22, 2012 2:27 am

    Half planted was a good choice — those are too cool to cover up entirely. I predict this post is going to be up there with your classics, like the painted sofa. Brujo magic at its most powerful!

    • reubix1 permalink*
      December 22, 2012 2:28 am

      Thanks, Denise! I was pretty proud of the outcome … Happy holidays to you and MBM!

  3. December 22, 2012 6:02 am

    Lovely idea ! Happy Holidays for you too !

    • reubix1 permalink*
      December 22, 2012 6:03 am

      Thanks, Gwen, best to you, too!

  4. Vickie Perez permalink
    December 22, 2012 7:13 am

    One of the things we have in common it the ability to seeing a second use for our rusty
    finds. I’m glad that you are starting to create again. And have to admit to have thought
    of the fan covers but they were still attached to the fan. Going to have to try to get out to that place of finds. Best of the season to you and Paul. And to all the folks that speak

    • reubix1 permalink*
      December 22, 2012 4:14 pm

      Hi, Vickie, meeting you and Tom, and seeing your creativity hanging all around has been one of the high points of our moving to Riverside. Have a terrific holiday, and expect a visit soon — Best from Paul, myself and the poochies!

  5. December 22, 2012 8:20 am

    Reblogged this on Feeling Arizona and commented:
    hello readers. are you still there?
    it’s been a long time, quite selfishly i have been absorbed in other things and have forgotten making time to post here about what is going on. while you wait with bated breath for the latest arizona instalment check out these adorable hanging planters – so cheap and cheerful – how easy do succulents make it?
    xox arizona

  6. December 22, 2012 9:46 am

    Magnifique !!! bravo !!!

    • reubix1 permalink*
      December 22, 2012 4:17 pm

      Merci, Willow! Joyeux Noël

  7. December 22, 2012 3:44 pm

    Love it… and, as usual, I’m inspired. I’m disapointed that I didn’t make it out to Vickie’s house the day that all of you went, I know I would have loved it. Wishing you, Paul and the pooches, everything Merry and Bright. I’ll see you next week.

    • reubix1 permalink*
      December 22, 2012 4:18 pm

      Thanks, WF … Can’t wait to get together next week. Happy holidays to you both!

  8. December 23, 2012 8:14 pm

    I really love these, especially the cascading bits of donkey’s tail and strings of pearls. Such a cool idea. Thanks for sharing. Happy Christmas!

    • reubix1 permalink*
      December 23, 2012 8:55 pm

      Thanks so much! Miss you … I hope you have a terrific Christmas, too!

  9. December 24, 2012 4:26 am

    Love them!

    • reubix1 permalink*
      December 24, 2012 5:47 am

      Thanksamillion! Happy holidays!

  10. December 24, 2012 7:41 pm

    Oh, WOW, Reuben, they’re like miniature landscapes. EXTREMELY appealing. Just dropping by to wish you, Paul, Frito, and Inky a wonderful Christmas and a happy, prosperous, and healthy 2013! –John

    • reubix1 permalink*
      December 24, 2012 7:57 pm

      J.A., thanks — All of us here wish the same for you!

  11. December 31, 2012 11:45 pm

    These are delightful planters — I envy you the climate that permits leaving many succulents outdoors year-round. Not so in my Zone 7/8 garden on Vancouver Island — but give me a few years and I hope to learn enough about these to not mistakenly plant the more tender with the more hardy varieties. The ‘Hens and Chicks” do fairly well here despite cooler, wetter winters, as do some varieties of sedum. I’ve only just started to incorporate succulents in my garden plans and container plantings, and appreciate stumbling upon ideas such as this.

    • reubix1 permalink*
      December 31, 2012 11:50 pm

      Thanks, Gail … it’s always a delight hearing from readers in other climates, if not countries! Best of luck with your succulent endeavors … they’re worth it!

  12. Thyme2be permalink
    January 30, 2013 11:18 pm

    Gorgeous! I used to walk Mt Rubidoux once a week, when I lived in Redlands. I am getting a little homesick especially with all your lovely garden inspiration. I miss my SoCal gardening days.

    • reubix1 permalink*
      January 31, 2013 2:00 am

      Thanks for the compliment and for commenting … sorry about your homesickness but I hope you’re gardening where you’re at!

  13. May 15, 2013 5:23 pm

    I love this idea! I’m in SoCal and will have to do this.

    • reubix1 permalink*
      May 15, 2013 5:29 pm

      Cool, I’d love to see a pic of your finished project. Send a pic!

  14. May 20, 2013 5:14 pm

    I love love love this! Sharing it with my readers today and sending them over here for your full tutorial. Thanks again for sharing with us!

    • reubix1 permalink*
      May 20, 2013 5:30 pm

      Jesse, thanks! I hope your readers like this project as much as I did … Reuben
      (Awesome cat name, btw! 😉 )

  15. emily permalink
    June 10, 2013 9:22 pm

    Love these! Me and my mom are looking to do them but don’t know where to find wire mesh?

    • reubix1 permalink*
      June 10, 2013 9:23 pm

      Thanks, Emily … I found my wire mesh at Lowe’s, but I’m sure any hardware store would have it. Ask for it … and send me a pic!

  16. June 1, 2014 5:30 pm

    Hello, how do you water the plants?

    • June 2, 2014 12:22 am

      I have a small watering can I use to water both the top AND back of the soil … taking care not to over-water always! Thanks for your question, Yiannis


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