Last year, there was a project on Apartment Therapy’s site that made the rounds online–a super cool, industrial-looking planter made out of cinderblocks. From the moment I saw it, I knew I would do this project myself, but there were parts of the directions I didn’t like (cutting cinderblocks? No thanks!). So, I roped in my Hunky Foreman and our crew, and everybody had input into how this thing got put together. Let’s start at the end and move backwards, shall we? Here’s what we came up with:
- Chicken Wire
- Wire cutters & gloves
- Weed block fabric
- Succulent soil
- Variety of 4″ potted succulents
- Variety of topdressings: decorative rock, gravel, tumbled glass
We used old and new cinderblocks, and most of them were full-sized, but we did get some that were half-sized to fill in odd spaces. We put this planter wall together at the Hunky Foreman’s house in his backyard–he had some really unsightly above-ground electrical outlets by his hot tub that we wanted to shield from view:
And we started building the wall. Every so often, being almost as random as possible, turn a cinderblock out to create the “drawer” into which plants will go. Be sure to stagger the seams of the cinderblocks (like with brick-laying) to ensure stability of the wall.
Carlos and Alfonso were really helpful in figuring the layout, but it was the Hunky Foreman who came up with the Amazing Shortcut. The original project suggested cutting pieces of cinderblock and using Liquid Nails to glue them into the bottom of the openings to create the little cubbies for planting. But 1) Jenny doesn’t cut cinderblock, 2) drainage holes would still need to be drilled through the cinderblock you just cut and glued, and 3) that seemed a bit too fussy for me. So the Amazing Shortcut is this: cut pieces of chicken wire several inches larger than the bottom opening of the cinderblock and carefully (don’t be like Alfonso–wear your gloves, for pete’s sake!) stuff it down into the bottom of the opening.
Then cut a square of landscape or weedblock fabric, also slightly larger than the opening, and lay that over the chicken wire. Now you have a finished cubby for planting that provides great drainage for the succulents.
We left some cinderblock unplanted in order to insert candles–if you do this, prepare the cubby just as you would for planting (chicken wire, fabric, soil); just omit the plant. The add tealight candles in small clear glass jars and set atop the soil. The glass jars will keep the flame from blowing out if there’s a breeze at night. This was such a fun project, and once we got going, really only took us two afternoons. I’d love to recreate this for a client (ya hear me out there?)–it’s a perfect project for a small space since the foot print only takes up about 1 1/2′ D x however long you want your wall to be. Since it’s modular, it can be any height or length.
Wouldn’t this be cool if the cinderblocks were painted a funky color (lavender, sky blue, orange) for an artsy look? If you use all new cinderblocks, the effect will be more sleekly contemporary, whereas mixing up old and new like we did will give you more of a shabby chic kind of look. I do hope you try this project for yourself–it’s easy, it’s inexpensive and fun!
*Construction Disclaimer: This wall was constructed for personal use, not at a client’s, and although we simply stacked the cinderblocks in our construction, you will probably want to consider reinforcing this wall with rebar and mortar. This would be particularly important if you have children that would be playing around this wall and might want to climb on it. Although the cinderblocks are heavy and are not likely to tip over without some effort, safety concerns should always come before aesthetics.