At shows and events, I’m regularly asked “where do you get your containers?” I’m the first one to admit that a lot of the more memorable ones are serendipitous. Old aquaria, old computer monitors, modified shipping containers, and all sorts of strange things show up at the door. If they’re reasonably water-resistant or can be made so, if they can hold soil, and if they can admit sufficient light for photosynthesis, they’ve all got a shot. The trick is finding them. Thrift stores, pet shop closeouts, estate sales…there’s really no telling.
By way of example, I’d been wanting to do a series of very small but still practical container arrangements, using small carnivores such as Drosera spatulata and various bladderworts as the main focus. The problem comes from finding the right container. You need a glass or strong plastic container with a mouth wide enough to admit plants and potting medium, that can accept water and the occasional fruit fly, and doesn’t look cheesy. Tough order, especially with the number of food and beverage companies moving to cheaper plastic containers to save weight and corresponding shipping costs. The best bottles for the job are liquor bottles, which can be a problem for someone who can’t drink.
In this case, sometimes the best surprises are themselves surprises. A couple of months ago, the Czarina was in a mood to wander around estate sales, and we came across a small yard sale on the way. The guy holding the sale was apparently moving to Seattle to “do something in music”, so he had a lot of music equipment that simply wasn’t of interest to anybody else. However, he had a thing for a particular brand of Japanese whiskey with distinctive bottles, and he thought he’d throw a couple into the sale for 50 cents each. When I bought both, he brought out a whole box full of them, and I bought the whole lot for $2. The Czarina thought I was insane, but that charge has been leveled at me before.
The reasons for grabbing these bottles were threefold. Firstly, they were good thick glass, meaning that the bottle wasn’t going to crack or break if someone looked at it cross-eyed. That’s a major consideration for any plant arrangement: moisture will actually encourage the expansion of cracks in glass, so it’s better to start with something that can handle the weight of plant and soil. Secondly, the mouth was more than big enough to admit plants, soil, water, and various tools without trouble. Thirdly, the bottles had two distinctive flat panels on each side, intended to hold the labels, that gave big clear panels for viewing the plants inside. How could you lose with that combination?
Well, apparently a lot of Texas Frightmare Weekend customers agreed with me, because a lot of them went home with new sundews. I suspect that both plants and keepers are going to be happy with these for a very long time.
And before anybody asks, yes, I’ll try the same thing with Crystal Head Vodka bottles, but only if you supply the bottles. Either that, or I find an estate sale where the deceased was VERY fond of Crystal Head.