OOTS: My Guerrilla Planter

It's always really hard buying presents for my mother-in-law nowadays, ever since she's been in a care home because she's not in need of a lot of stuff. This Christmas was no exception, especially when we found out my brother-in-law had already bought the nice top and houseplant we'd come up with as ideas for presents.

So I was mulling over what else could we buy V and came to the conclusion that the best present we could really give her is a better view out of her window. Currently all she has is an expanse of lawn, a couple of rather bedraggled trees plus the birdbath NAH's aunt bought her a year or so ago. It's no wonder her chair's usually turned away from the window.

Now transforming V's view and the rest of the care home's landscaping to something a bit more exciting is a major project which will probably take some time to achieve, but I came up with a quick win that I hope will bring some cheer over the next few months. I've put together a guerrilla planter: a garden pot stuffed with bulbs and plants which should bloom from February to around June and can then be planted out into a permanent position later on.

You can see its main ingredients in the above picture:
  • A lightweight, but frost resistant Eco Friendly Fibreclay pot to match the birdbath (and thus merge with the scenery) @ £12.99
  • 2 packets of bargain tulips bought on Christmas Eve (yes, inspiration struck rather late in the day!) @ 99p each (Tulipa tarda to bloom March/April and lily flowered Tulipa 'Maytime') also from our local garden centre
  • 1 packet of Allium 'Purple Sensation' - a Garden Club freebie which I was planning on guerrilla gardening somewhere, but hadn't got around to yet
  • A few Violas left over from doing my winter pots - they needed trimming right back, but that's fine, the pot should be well established in its new home (and therefore part of the scenery - it's all about stealth establishment, so I didn't want anything too flashy at the outset) before they fill out the planter and start flowering profusely around February time

I already had plenty of compost and slate chippings in stock to fill and top the planter respectively. I started by putting an inch thick layer of broken polystyrene (aka styrofoam - also to hand and used to reduce the final weight of the pot) in the bottom the planter, then added a base layer of compost to about half its depth. Then went in the Alliums (x5) covered with compost. Next a layer of 'Maytime' tulips (x8) and more compost were added and finally a top layer of the Tulipa tarda bulbs (x15) at about 3 inches depth. I then squeezed in 5 Violas at the top of the pot, infilled with more compost, then topped off the whole lot with the slate chippings. The pot is about 9 inches in depth and 8 inches wide.

Once that little lot's finished blooming, I'll be able to plant them outside V's window for year-on-year flowering and refill her pot with some summer interest plants ready for further guerrilla planting later on in the year. I plan on repeating this until the care home's woeful landscaping is dealt with properly.

And what did V think? She loved it!


  1. How perfect, VP! I'm sure she and others were thrilled with the planter. Sort of last minute shopping, on Christmas eve? Still an excellent gift. :-)

  2. What a lovely daughter in law you are to think of such a visual treat I am sure she will not only enjoy looking at it but take pride in knowing you did it especially for her.

  3. What a great idea? Can other residents see it to enjoy it, too?

    My mother's independent living facility has a lovely courtyard with some interesting plantings. I've only seen in in the off-season, though, so I'm curious to know what it will look like in summer. Hopefully, there will be lots of bulbs. If not, I'll have to stel your idea of a guerilla planter.

  4. What a wonderful present idea!

  5. This is a great idea, VP! It's so hard to buy presents for someone at that stage in their lives, but this is something she will enjoy for a long time. Who knows--you may have inspired the families of other residents, and one day maybe there will be dozens of planters brightening up the view outside!

  6. what a great gift! my parents are retired & across the country, so they end up with books & (for my mom) puzzles. all of which they can take down to the second-hand book exchange when they're done to get 'new' books & puzzles out.

  7. What a brilliant idea VP - and V isn't the only one who'll benefit from it either :)
    Brownie points for that one!

  8. Fantastic! I always feel bad for residents of facilities who've had to leave their garden and don't get to do any gardening or see any beautiful gardens. It's going to look lovely, and it will give her something to look forward to, which is a rare commodity in such places. Maybe your guerilla gift will inspire the management or even just relatives of other residents to emulate your effort.

  9. What a wonderful, thoughtful idea, VP. And it will keep on looking good for a long time.

  10. I love it too. You are so thoughtful. I hope someone is as nice to me when I am in the "home." Happy New Year!~~Dee

  11. Frances - yes, I'd tussled with the problem for absolutely ages and only come up with a box of chocolates as an alternative present (also bought). I'm glad inspiration struck just in time!

    Joanne - thank you. Sadly V has dementia so probably won't remember that I did it, but it certainly won't stop her from enjoying it. Good gardens are most important for dementia sufferers, so it saddens me that the home is very poor in that respect.

    Susan - the other residents which have rooms around that courtyard will also be able to see it. I'm hoping that with time, the courtyard will also have interesting planting just like your mother enjoys, even if I have to transform it myself!

    Debbi & Angelcat - thanks. And good to see you both again :)

    Rose - I spotted that one of the other residents now has a birdbath/feeder outside their window, so it looks like my aunts previous gift has inspired others. It would be great if this does spark something off, though I'm sure others won't realise its guerrilla credentials ;)

    Petoskystone - those sound like great gifts :)

    Nutty Gnome & Colleen - thanks, but I wish we could do so much more

    MMD - I do hope so.

    Dee - I'm hoping it never gets to us having to live in a home, but yes, it would be good to know that nice things do happen at them sometimes.

  12. Hi, I am visiting all of the Gardening by letter participants to say Hi and a big Thank you for all of the beautiful gifts and cards I received.I enjoyed reading your blog, planting guerrilla pots sounds a great idea

  13. Hi Peggy and welcome! So glad you enjoyed all your cards and gifts :)


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