Are you looking for imaginative and fun summer projects to help you share your love of herb gardening with children? Here’s a whimsical little pot lady–we call her Hattie–that kids and adults alike will enjoy creating.
Hattie is made from those old or extra or slightly damaged clay pots that pile up in the garage. Once you’ve positioned her in a comfortable spot on the ground among your herbs or on a garden bench, she’ll use her personality and charm to beckon children of all ages into the garden. No, she’s not having a bad-hair day–that’s Roman chamomile growing out of her head.
Easy to make, all Hattie demands is an hour or two of your time and a little rope, a few clay pots, a low-growing herb such as chamomile, prostrate rosemary, or creeping thyme, some potting mix, and sphagnum moss. Paint a face on her, add granny glasses, garden gloves, or an apron, and you’re done. Don’t forget to give her a name. With a little help putting her together, even a child can make a pot lady, and caring for her “hair” might just cultivate his or her interest in herbs.
Made with the pot sizes given below, our finished pot lady is a little over a foot high when she’s sitting down. Use whatever size pots you like; you may substitute plastic pots for clay ones if weight is a consideration.
• 3 medium clay pots (5 1/2 inches top diameter) for body and head
• 14 small clay pots (2 3/4 inches top diameter) for arms and legs
• Acrylic paint
• 10 feet, 1/8-inch-diameter rope
• Soilless potting mix
• Sphagnum moss
1. Gather your materials close to the spot in the garden where your pot lady will sit because she’s awkward to move when assembled.
2. With a pencil, draw a simple face onto one of the medium pots. The widest part of the pot will be the top of her head. Paint her eyebrows, nostrils, eyes, and mouth. (We outlined the eyes and mouth in black, let the paint dry, then filled in the mouth shape with red paint and the eyes with blue.) You also could use colored permanent markers to draw the features.
Head and body
3. Cut five 2-foot lengths of rope. Tie three overhand knots, one right on top of the last, at one end of each piece of rope. Thread one rope from inside to outside through the drainage hole in the head. The knots should keep the end of the rope from slipping through the hole. Thread two ropes from inside to outside through each of the two remaining medium pots. One pot will form the upper body and arms; the other will form the lower body and the legs (Figure 1).
4. Thread the rope coming out of the head from outside to inside through the hole in one of the medium pots and from inside to outside through the hole in the other pot. The upper and lower pots should be right side up and the middle one, upside down. Stand the pot lady on her head. Tie a loose overhand knot in the rope protruding from the lower body, work it toward the hole, and tighten it. Tie two more knots above it and trim the rope to 1 inch (Figure 2).
Arms and legs
5. Lay the pot lady on her back. For each arm, thread one of the ropes from the upper body from outside to inside through the hole in each of three small pots, linking them together loosely (see Figure 3). Tie off the end of each rope with two overhand knots and trim the end to 1 inch. Repeat these steps for the legs, using four small pots each. Leaving some slack in the ropes allows the overlapping pots to bend at the elbows and knees. Stuff sphagnum moss into the gaps between pots.
6. Place your pot lady in her designated spot, perhaps propped against the corner of a swing or bench or against a garden wall. Fill her head with a porous potting mix and plant it with the herb of your choice. Clothe and accessorize her as you like. Of course, you may just decide to name your pot person Fred and dress him in more masculine attire.
7. Figure 4 shows how to make a garden apron like the one we made for Hattie. Vary the measurements according to the finished size of your pot lady, and use whatever scraps of fabric you have. Ours is about 13 inches wide and 10 inches tall with 13-inch neck straps and 8-inch waist ties. A sewing machine makes quick work of hemming the edges and stitching the pockets, or you may prefer to cut the edges with pinking shears and leave them unhemmed or fold the edges under and secure them with fabric glue.
A Living Scarecrow
Scarecrows may not keep birds and animals out of the garden, but children love visiting them, dressing them, naming them, even talking to them. Making a scarecrow can be as easy as tying two broomsticks together, stuffing a pillowcase or burlap sack with straw for the head, then dressing him up and sticking him in the ground. But to make a garden denizen that will be the toast of the neighborhood, try this living scarecrow created by Suzanne Frutig Bales and featured in Ready, Set, Grow! (Macmillan, 1996).
This lady scarecrow has a dress made out of chicken wire stuffed with a mixture of sphagnum moss and potting soil. Vining plants such as nasturtiums or scarlet runner beans will climb her skirt and decorate her throughout the summer. Other, nonvining herbs can be planted in holes in the chicken wire to cover bare spots. Here’s how.
Anchor a central pole, such as a broomstick, in the ground. Shape a large piece of chicken wire into a tepee for a skirt, cinching it around the pole at the waist. With four smaller pieces of chicken wire, shape the arms, bodice, and head. Stuff the entire form with a mixture of sphagnum moss and potting soil. Plant a ring of nasturtiums or other climbing herbs around the base of the skirt and insert other favorite herbs into the arms and torso where the climbing herbs won’t reach for a while. Keep the scarecrow lady well watered.
Audrey Scano, an assistant editor for The Herb Companion, plans to adorn her Loveland, Colorado, garden with a whole family of pot people.