Urban Ore: Berkeley salvage yard with unexpected plantings

Remember the upcycled metal pieces in landscape designer Mat McGrath's Berkeley Hills garden (read post here)? Many of them came from Urban Ore, a salvage and recycling yard/warehouse in Berkeley. Opened in 1981, it's become a beloved institution: a year-round flea market, vintage store, and treasure trove for artists and homeowners alike. As this 2017 article says, "[the owners are] probably singlehandedly responsible for much of the boho chic, eclectic and worn aesthetic that pervades thousands of homes around the East Bay."

I decided to check it out myself last Saturday, focusing on the outside area to see what I might find for the garden. I was hoping to unearth some rusty pipe sections tall and wide enough to plant in. No such luck, but I did buy a few things. Read on to find out what.

I could (and should) do an entire post about all the stuff waiting to be discovered at Urban Ore, but today I want to focus something unexpected: the plantings outside the warehouse and along the parking lot perimeter.

Over the years, one or several plant-loving souls at Urban Ore have beautified what is otherwise a pretty drab lot with a variety of flowering and non-flowering plants growing in all kinds of repurposed containers. I'm sure the plants were pass-alongs brought from home or received from friends. The pots, bowls, bathtubs, wheelbarrows and other “planters” probably came straight from the salvage yard. Except for potting soil, I bet not a dime was spent.

Nothing about these plantings is fancy, but they add beauty where there would otherwise be none. A giant Agave americana in an old bathtub may not be your cup of tea, but I bet it's put a smile on many faces. And that's a wonderful thing.



And here are my finds:

The openings in these clay pipes are just under 4 inches in diameter. I'm sure I'll find some hardy succulents to plant in them.

I think these are for candles, but I'll use them as plant stands. I love the Victorian/steampunk vibe.

I haven't given up my search for rusty metal sections, and I'll make it a habit of stopping at Urban Ore when I'm in the Berkeley area. Urban Ore is conveniently located just a few blocks off I-80 so it doesn't take much time to swing by.

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  1. Oh to have a clawfoot tub - or two or three - to plant in! As to your purchases, nice finds!

  2. Nice way to charm up a parking lot. Must be a fun place to shop! Looking forward to see what you do with your finds.

  3. Anything holding a plant automatically makes it and it's surroundings better. The bathtub specimens are truly impressive. Those tubs used to be so easy to find now they command $$.

  4. Well that's just fun, what a great place to shop...wish I could drop by today!

  5. Love the bathtub planters!
    I bet it's easy to lose yourself in that warehouse, looking for cool finds and letting your creative juices flow.


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