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Retro planter, Tassie style.

Huon pine cone planter

Welcome to our patio! Today in putting the cart before the horse: setting out my concrete cone planter. There’s so much I want to do out here (hey, walls and tile, I’m talking to you), but today I’m all about that planter. My house is never going to be a mid-century masterpiece, but I love these things.

screen door removal

Before I get into it, I want to mention a very quick update: removing the screen door. These diamond-mesh aluminum screen doors are common in my neighbourhood, and they always make me think of crime-ridden areas where houses have bars on the windows. They look mega forbidding, no? Since we’ve never used it or needed it as a screen door, I made an executive decision to just take it off. It didn’t even have a spot to latch into! So much for security.

Okay! Now I can talk about the planter.

cone planter, before updating

This killer retro planter (found at a secondhand shop, passing cat inspection) had been patiently waiting for a plant. I gave it a fresh coat of paint: matte spray paint for the base, primer+paint for the concrete shell, with a couple coats of satin poly on top for additional protection. So far so good, but what on earth could I plant in it that would match the awesomeness of the planter itself?! This had me stumped.

It had to be something sculptural, like a cactus or a snake plant. Naturally. But it would also have to cope with a shady location in our cool climate. And on top of all that, I also wanted something impressive and a little bit unusual. Something special.

huon pine tasmania
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(Huon pines growing along Gordon River; a sapling found on a bushwalk; a bowl made from its timber.)

Huon pine (Lagarostrobos franklinii) is a legendary tree. It’s a Tasmanian endemic that grows along riverbanks in damp conditions, and not only is it renowned for its rot-resistant, buttery-smooth golden timber, it’s one of the slowest-growing, longest-lived trees in the world. This little tree could very well outlive me, you, this house and all of western civilization. When the Australian continent bakes dry and Tasmania begins to sink into the sea, this tree might be there.

Huon pine needles
Huon pine in retro planter

I’ve been enchanted with the idea of having a tiny Huon pine of my own, so I picked one up from Plants of Tas Nursery. They put out these weeping branches and the trunk can’t catch up. It’s graceful, yet endearingly gawky. I’m not worried about it outgrowing its container any time soon.

potted Huon pine

As for planting it out, here’s the extra-detailed series of events:

  1. I inserted a mesh piece at the very bottom, so soil wouldn’t fall out of the hole.
  2. I lined the inside with a layer of coir peat, for water retention. (I got one of those coir bricks, stuck it in a wheelbarrow, poured water over it and let it expand.)
  3. I filled the planter with native potting mix, and then mixed in a generous amount of water-retaining crystals. Huon pines like non-compacted damp soil.
  4. I planted my little tree into the planter, watered it in well with Seasol, and added a generous layer of bark chip mulch.

black mondo grass

I also added a few black mondo grass clumps to keep him company. They’ll fill out, slowly.

patio full

He’s been in his pot for about a month now, and he looks happy enough! Happier in that pot than in the ground, I figure, given that we don’t live in the western Tasmanian rainforest. He gets a lick of morning sun and then sits in shade all afternoon.

(Knock on wood here, I really don’t want to tempt fate, but so far I don’t have any worries about leaving this planter outside in our neighbourhood. Citizens of Hobart, I believe in you. I also have photos and watchful neighbours, in case the unthinkable happens.)

Have you got any container plants you’re partial to? I’m curious about other native plants in containers, though I like anything pretty, really.

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3 thoughts on “Retro planter, Tassie style.”

    1. Thanks so much! All’s quiet right now because of Thanksgiving family time, but I can’t wait to share some photos from my time in Colorado.

  1. I love love love this blog!
    My husband is from Launceston, and when I lived with him for 12 months (2015) he took me to Strahan and I got to see these gorgeous trees growing along the river. It was great for him to be a returning Tasmanian, to sight see as an adult; and to show off his home state to a mainlander. Haha.
    For Christmas this year I want to buy him a Huon pine and create that rainforest environment for the little Huon- now that we live in Sydney, I think I may struggle. I have a couple of potential indoor locations, and it is certainly humid enough here for the little fella to survive, but I hope that it’s not too hot.
    Four years on, how is your pine going? Any tips you could share?

    Cheers, Jamie

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