A Perfect Place to Pot

Toddlers have their Little Tykes kitchens. I have my potting counter, a grown-up place to play in the dirt.

It was designed in 2001 as part of a carport – tool shed – potting place – greenhouse unit that stands where once there was cracked blacktop encircled by a chain-link fence.

The potting counter is the ideal place to stir up homemade container mix, and it’s just the right height with just enough shade from the Campsis radicans (trumpet vine) overhead to plant seeds, transplant seedlings, and tend to unhappy specimens.

The feature that visitors seem to like the best is the row of nails from which to hang wet gloves. Seedlings of Amaranthus caudatus (love-lies-bleeding), both red and green, are growing from Burpee seeds in the small pots.

In the shed, wall racks keep the shovels and rakes organized, a pegboard holds small tools, and shelves store bottles, bags, and pots. There’s room for a wheelbarrow and two bicycles.

The 6 x 8, twinwall plastic greenhouse is just big enough to hold the potted plants that deserve to be over-wintered. From October to mid-May, they hibernate in 55-degree, fan-circulated air, and I tromp in there about once a week, carrying two heavy watering cans. I sometimes kick myself: we should have gone up a size, to 8 x 10, and made sure it had year-round running water. It’s pretty bleak in there until April, when everything bursts into bloom—all by itself. Another miracle.

This 6 x 8-foot Lexan greenhouse was built from a kit from Charley's Greenhouse Supply, Seattle, WA. The spider plants are from cuttings from Mom's garden in Inglewood, CA (see "My Geraniums," below).

Right now, the greenhouse is empty, but the shelves above the potting bench hold decorative pots, my collection of abandoned birds’ nests (robins love to make nests in the carport and under the deck), and the everyday tools of spring and summer, like rooting medium, string, clippers and scissors.

An extra-long chain is suspended from the pergola so I can work on hanging baskets at eye level. In the foreground, Pelargonium x hortorum 'Black Velvet Rose' hybrid geraniums, grown from Park seeds.

About writedesigner

Graphic designer, writer, and gardener Ellen Shapiro is based in Irvington, New York. A frequent contributor to design blogs and magazines including Print, Imprint, Salon.com, Communication Arts, and Etapes, she writes about trends, issues and personalities in design, illustration, photography, and visual culture around the world.
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