Going vertical: the next frontier

Space was the final frontier for the starship Enterprise. My aim is not quite as lofty, although my eyes are directed toward space. I'm beginning to moving up: quite literally up, off the ground. It's the only way to go since I'm running out of horizonal space on terra firma.

With four California bay trees in the backyard, there are plenty of places for hanging planters. Finding one I like was the hardest part. Macramé lovers have plenty to choose from (the 1970s are destined to haunt us forever), the rest of us not so much. I finally stumbled on something that spoke to me: rusty metal, a decent size, and reasonably affordable. Best of all: a large frame that doesn't interfere with the plants as much as the rope or wires of a traditional hanging planter would.

Here's the project in three photos: two planters attached to two different bay trees.

Big thanks to my wife for her creative thinking and her help installing these planters.

To suspend the planters from the trees, we used hammock tree straps with D rings and carabiners. The strap is looped around a branch overhead and the hook of the planter assembly is attached to the D ring and carabiner. The planter on the right is attached much higher than the one on the left (about 12 ft above the ground) so we connected an adjustable rope hanger to the hammock strap and hung the planter hook from that. As a bonus, the planter can be raised or lowered as needed.

Here is one of the hanging planter assemblies in its entirety—let me tell you, it is rusty!

I filled the planter bowls with colorful bromeliads—“colorful” referring to the leaves, not the flowers (there aren't any at the moment):

The plants are either aechmeas or billbergias, two closely related genera.

Bromeliads like aechmeas and billbergias are borderline in our climate in terms of hardiness. To make things easier, I will probably just bring both bowls inside for the winter.

Clockwise, starting bottom middle: Aechmea chantinii 'Ebony', Billbergia 'Catherine Wilson', Aechmea 'Reverse Ensign', Billbergia 'Bruddah Iz', Billbergia 'Novena', Aechmea nudicaulis 'Albomarginata'
I continue to be amazed by the enormous variety of leaf patterns in both aechmeas and billbergias. There's so much hybridization going on, it's virtually impossible to keep track. Maintained by the Bromeliad Society International, the Bromeliad Cultivar Register lists thousands of cultivars in dozens of genera (857 entries for Aechmea and 1154 for Billbergia alone!).

Clockwise, starting bottom left: Aechmea chantinii 'Dark De Leon', Billbergia 'Poco Más', Billbergia 'Groovy', Billbergia 'Limestone', Billbergia 'Helios', Billbergia 'Titanic'

Here are the Aechmea and Billbergia cultivars I used (mostly as a record for myself):

left container:
Aechmea chantinii ‘Dark De Leon’
Billbergia ‘Poco Más’
Billbergia ‘Groovy’
Billbergia ‘Limestone’
Billbergia ‘Helios’
Billbergia ‘Titanic’

right container:
Aechmea chantinii ‘Ebony’
Billbergia ‘Catherine Wilson’
Aechmea ‘Reverse Ensign’
Billbergia ‘Bruddah Iz’
Billbergia ‘Novena’
Aechmea nudicaulis ‘Albomarginata’

It's quite possible that some of them may get too large over time and may need to be removed. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Beyond the bromeliads, you might have noticed a bundle of brown leaves hanging from one of the bay trees:

It's what's left of a recently planted Dryandra nervosa (now Banksia alliacea) that didn't like the full sun in the front yard. I was inspired by this “jelly fish” in my friends Troy and Vicki McGregor's garden. They used a dead dryandra for the body and dry ponytail palm leaves for the tentacles; I'm waiting until I can harvest some from our own ponytail palms.

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  1. I love those ! They turned out great and are perfect for the broms. I don't see that you drilled drainage holes, but I guess this time of year it doesn't matter and if you are going to bring them in over winter all will be well.

    1. Thank you, Kathy! Each planter already had a nice-sized drain hole; it's hard to see in the photo. The one on the left is aligned just right so excess water runs into the large pot below it.

  2. They look great, Gerhard. I hope you're better than I am at watering hanging planters.

    1. I have a 75 ft. stainless steel hose that makes watering a pleasure :-).

  3. Your new hanging planters look great. From small snippets of the backyard in your photos your remake looks cool and tropical so the planters fit right in. I have also found a dearth of interesting hanging pots so similar to yours have used the base of a worn out wok. Holes drilled in the sides allow a chain to be attached. Looks pretty good with it's assortment of dangly succulents.

    1. An old wok! That actually sounds great. It's not so different from this planter, and cheaper, too.

  4. As you know I’m a fan of hanging planter s whenever one can find (or make) a suitable style, well done!

  5. Love the look of these. The planters are wonderful! Thank you for the link. I'm working on putting together an all black and white collection of Bromeliad, Cryptanthus, etc. They will look marvelous in a rusty planter in the air!

    1. Oooh, black and white cryptanthus etc. sounds wonderful. That particular genus has striking patterns!

  6. What brand of stainless steel hose do you have? I would love one, but some look to have really crummy reviews. I assume that some are made better than others. I had no idea they existed!

    1. Tonja, I looked up my orders, and it turns out I have three different brands of stainless steel hose (see below). I use them side by side, and frankly, I notice no difference between them. They've all been great; I don't have a single complaint.




  7. Aww, bummer about the Dryandra. :(

    Cool hanging planters--they look great!


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