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January 29, 2007, 11:15 am betterhomesgardens
Paint a picture with living plants and make your garden a gallery.
Combine a minimum of carpentry and gardening skills to make this living work of art that is bound to cultivate the imagination. Construct the tray first and then attach a layer of chicken wire to help contain the garden bed. Add a decorative frame to really make a show of the garden. Try old fence palings, window architrave, tree branches or as here, use a shapely treated pine balustrade mounding available from the hardware store.
E Split battens(3) 500 x 90 x 22mm Treated pine decking
Gradtoveria 'Debbie' (8x 140mm pots)
Drill a series of 4mm clearance holes 150mm apart and 20mm from the edge of the plywood back (A). Use silicon and drive 20mm galvanised screws through the clearance holes to attach a border of tray side pieces (B,C) to one face of the backing. Build up a second layer of tray side pieces alternating the lengths to create staggered overlapping joints at the corners. This time use 32mm screws and silicon to attach them from the front through clearance holes.Step 2
On the rear of the tray use 45mm screws to attach a split batten to each edge (see box on making split battens). Having a batten on each edge allows the frame to be easily lifted on and off a wall and rotated every couple on months as the succulents grow toward the sunStep 3
Apply a generous coat of water proofing solution to the inside of the tray. Drill a 8-10mm drainage hole through the back 20mm in from each corner.Step 4
Cut a 600mm square of chicken wire and staple to the front of the tray. The wire will need to be stretched tight now otherwise it will stretch and sag on the wall with the weight of the garden it contains. Staple one side and them move to the opposite and pull wire taught with your finger tips before stapling. Repeat process across the other two sides. The stretching process may result in extra wire protruding from the edges of your frame so just trim these off.Step 5
Now you are ready to start the gardening. As there is only the bare minimum of soil in this garden bed it's important to use top quality potting mix to maximise its effectiveness. Tip premium potting mix in through the wire. Shake the tray to settle the mix into the base of the tray and continue until the tray is full. Press down on the wire to compress the soil and pull up on the wire to shake in the excess. Then give the tray a watering down to settle the mix and add more soil as necessary.Step 6
To plant the succulents use any of the low growing varieties to create your composition. We started with the Aeonium 'Short Blacks'. These should be prepared a couple of days before constructing the project by cutting a number of single stems from the main trunk and leaving them out in the sun. This will allow the fresh cut to heal and form a callus, to help prevent the stems from rotting in the soil. Start the composition of the succulent picture in the centre of the frame using the Aeoniums, to form a central crown. The succulents can be pushed between the wire straight into the soil by first poking a hole in the soil with a stick or old screwdriver. Once in the hole push the soil back around the stem. This is all that is required as most succulent stems will soon strike and form new roots.Step 7
Continue the composition with rows of Echevaria 'Black Prince' to create a cross pattern that leads out from the central crown to the corners of the tray.Step 8
With the Echevarias you do not cut and dry the stems. Completely uproot the entire plant, pull the soil away from the root ball along with the small roots and them plant the main root into the soil. A small section of the chicken wire will need to be cut away to accommodate the size of the remaining root ball. The remaining four sections of the composition are filled in with a combination of the 'Crassula var. Dubia' and the 'Grapoveria', planted the same way as the 'Black Prince'.Step 9
Install the frame pieces to complete the assembly. They are made of pre-primed LOSP balustrade bottom rail profile. By adding a hard straight edge with simple detail to the outer edges of the tray you create a balance with the soft graphic forms of the succulents. Use a mitre saw to cut the ends of the frame pieces at 45 degrees. Check the chamfered edge finishes up on the inner edge of the frame.Step 10
Prepaint the pieces charcoal grey or black the enhance the graphic effect and then screw the pieces to the front of the tray, carefully feeding them under the succulent leaves. Reinforce each mitre with a single screw driven in from the outer edge of the frame. Fill and touch-up screw holes. Leave the tray horizontal until the roots have a chance to re-establish and knit together the soil. This process will take 6-8weeks. During this time the tray should be left in a sunny spot and watered regularly. Do not leave it sitting on your lawn however as it will kill off the lawn underneath.Step 11
When your frame is ready to hang make sure you choose a wall that is strong enough to take the weight. A masonry wall or fence is ideal. If fixing to a framed wall pick a spot where you can fix to two wall studs. Screw the wall half of the split batten to the wall studs checking that it is level. Then just hook one of the battens on the back of your frame over the wall batten. Every six to eight weeks rotate the frame by 90 degrees to keep the growth even.Split Battens
Split battens are great for hanging objects on walls. These are pairs of battens cut at 45 degrees along their length with one screwed to the wall and another on the frame. The frame then simply hooks on, and if there is one on each side, can be rotated to ensure even plant growth. If you have a power saw cut the split battens from a 1.5m length of 90 x 22mm treated pine decking by setting your saw to 45 degrees, fitting a fence. Run the saw along the centre of the timber, splitting it in two. Then cut into 500mm lengths. You can also cut them with a handsaw, but it does involve more effort.Tip Succulents are drought resistant so they don't need much watering however when they are hanging on a wall they will tend not to gather water naturally from rain and dew so they will need to be watered a bit more often than usual. Use a fine misting nozzle on your hose and water regularly on permitted water usage days.