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Folk art: Trash into Treasure 2

Folk Art: Making an Indoor Herb Garden

Well, so it was raining on New Year’s Day as New Zealand enjoyed (not) the tail end of something loud and clunky in Europe. I didn’t feel like writing. What I felt like doing was sitting in front of the TV watching something mindless and being with my family. Folk Art didn’t even come into the plan.


There’s a ‘but’ coming.

I can’t keep still. I’m the most frustrating, foot-bouncing, hand-wringing individual you’d ever want to share a sofa with. I’m told it’s like trying to relax sitting next to an electric eel. Often I knit ‘stuff’; usually knitted square things which don’t require peering at a complicated pattern and lots of tutting, which is equally irritating.

I didn’t feel like knitting but I did rather fancy sitting. What to do, what to do?

During a visit to Bunnings D.I.Y (Destroy It Yourself in our house) with Husband, I dug my heels in and insisted on buying a planter box.

He couldn’t see why I would want a very rustic, very splintery outside box for putting outside things in. I could see. I could see marvellous, wonderful, amazing things.

I had a plan. A Folk Art plan.


So he reluctantly stuffed it in the trolley and tried not to wipe people out as we pushed our sticking-out-thing to the checkout. After he’d paid and as he squished it into the boot of the car, I revealed my grand plan.

It was not going to be an outside thing, but an inside thing.

It was too late. The boot lid closed and I had my afternoon planned out. Afternoon, evening and as it turned out, well into the night. I did watch mindless TV which included a very late showing of the original Mel Gibson Mad Max movie because only party people are allegedly up that late, not women covered in varnish and brown paint…

So, The Grand Plan.


Our house is very open plan. We didn’t build it, we just drove past one day, liked it and moved in a few months later. We love everything about it but some parts of ‘open plan’ make my compulsive tendencies go into overdrive.

For instance, when you walk through the front door, you can see all the stuff drying on the draining board where ‘someone’ didn’t quite manage to put it away before they rushed out. If you sit on the sofa and screw your head round backwards, you can see all the stuff on the dining table AND the draining board. Now, if I lived alone, it wouldn’t be a problem because I would tidy up and not stop until it was all put away and every surface was smooth and clear like a white, minimalist house. But I would be dreadfully lonely and have never managed to squidge the planter into the car by myself.


So, the grand plan, short of redesigning the kitchen, which I’d love to do but Husband’s eyes would go wide with dismay at the thought, was to cover-it-up….

Back to the planter.

Despite the rainy day, Husband stood in his shed and cobbled together some sanding disks and produced this wonderfully smooth canvas for me.

He also hammered these sweet little feet into the bottom to lift it off the surface.


Our room is a pretty blue, but behind our kitchen units is a very dark brown, which matches the dark brown tiles and dark brown counter top. We had some brown paint left over so I slapped it on a few times. I painted the inside except the bottom because I knew it would bother me if one day, a section was suddenly empty and it looked all unfinished. It’s the stuff of meltdowns so I don’t even want to go there. A normal person would slap a bit on the inside in a scruffy kinda way and then cover it up with what I’m going to cover it up with and that’s ok too.

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I used Folk Art techniques to draw flowers onto the surface and tweaked them to suit the design in my head.

I love fonts and have painted a few things in our kitchen so used the same font to decorate my planter. I tried others out but garden themes tend to favour this stencilled look.


This was a planter which I bought at the Ngaruawahia Saturday market. My son made a lid from an old pallet and I painted it to match the kitchen cupboards. It serves the function of vegetable box.


My kitchen board will raise a smirk or two. We need boards because otherwise, family members will invariably ‘chop’ on any surface. But the messy, jagged, chopped surface can look rather nasty. I painted one side of mine but the other side can be chopped on, have hot pans dumped on it and kitcheny things happening all over it. When order is restored and the kitchen is all nice and clean, I turn the board back over to its nice side. It’s my compromise to family living and stops me feeling like I want to hide it away or run after people with carving knives when they leave gouges in the nice wood.


Back to the planter…

It had 3 coats of varnish. I like the water-based satin because I never seem able to get the brushes clean after using polyurethane products. I’m sure there’s a knack but my particular skill just seems to be ruining brushes.

Folk Art

I filled four kitchen bin liners with tub compost and planted my baby herbs. Actually, that’s not true. Husband stood outside and filled the bags in the rain and I did the lovely planting part. I love my herbs. I have herbs outside but am often too lazy to walk out the door, which is a bit shameful. So I keep my special varieties inside because I use them all the time and snatch tasty leaves as I walk past.

Folk Art

I haven’t planted things which will grow to the size of small trees or spread anywhere else. Hence, mint would be a terrible idea. I’ve also added coir to the surface to hold the moisture and prevent me over watering. There’s no way to see how saturated the plants are because I can’t let water run out of the holes in the bottom of the planter to self regulate.

I’m happy with my day’s work. Painting is like writing for me – it keeps me sane. Now I have herbs next to my sink and a showpiece to keep them in. Plus, I can’t now see what’s in the washing up bowl anymore.


I’d love to see what you produce.

If you want to copy this, feel free. Just make sure you show me.

This is the nearest kind of thing I could find on if you didn’t want to shop around. If I was painting this, I would leave the wood showing and stencil words onto the wood – er, yeah, before I put plants and mud into it. Stenciling is sooooo much easier than you think. It’s this easy.planter box

Open a word document on your computer and choose a font. Type the words you want and blow them up as big as required. Print. Use baking parchment to trace the words. Turn the paper over and scribble on the back in pencil. Trace onto your wood. Come on guys – you did this in school all the time. Did you think you couldn’t do it again when you were grown up? Good luck and remember, I want to see what you produce.



  1. saharafoley says:

    I love the idea of an indoor herb garden. I didn’t realize you were also a painter. Your herb box looks lovely.

    1. K T Bowes says:

      Mainly commissioned landscapes but I also love practical art, so when I paint for me, it’s usually Folk Art on something useful. Glad you like it. 🙂

  2. Shelby says:

    What a clever way to fix the dishes problem and also paint to relax. I love the part about “Destroy It Yourself” — I relate an embarrassing amount to that! Enjoy your tasty herbs!

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