Sunday, August 11, 2013

Romancing the Inexpensive Urn

My DIY adventure began when I fell in love with an urn from Charleston Gardens.
The container was new and lightweight--yet it looked 100 years old, with a lovely faux patina.
I winced when I saw the price.
So I decided to try my hand at faux painting.
I began with two resin urns and gave them a good cleaning.
In a moment, cleaning will seem counter-productive when you read about the unusual ingredient for "patina."
At K-Mart I bought 4 cans of "faux concrete finish" spray paint and several cans of Rust-Oleum (in white and off-white). Next, I unearthed sample pots of Sherwin Williams paint (Tricorn Black and a mossy green). 

I put on a mask, and I'm glad. Even though I was working outdoors,
fine bits of paint ended up on my camera. It's always a good idea to
protect your lungs!

Here are the urns after one coat of the "faux concrete" spray.

After the second coat.

I finished spraying with the 3rd can and part of the 4th, reserving the latter in case I goofed on the faux painting.  I also gathered a huge scoop of potting soil--that's right! Instant patina.
I'd read that Annie Sloan recommended garden soil as a way to age pots, in conjunction with paint,
though I could have easily misunderstood. Perhaps "garden soil" was a paint color!

I was curious, so I decided to give it a go.
I mixed several shades of green and dabbed the urns.
Next, I dipped the brush in soil, scrubbed the bristles in paint, and shook off the excess.
Because of the heat, I had to work fast--the paint kept drying. And I really needed a smaller brush to reach the crevices.

By adding layer upon layer, you can achieve a darker patina, if that's what you want.

Here is a faux copper look-in-progress.

For my house, I wanted lighter-colored urns.
My goal was to make them resemble concrete.

 I also used a lighter touch with the faux "moss."

The menfolk came outside to watch.
They were fascinated that I had begun with two perfectly fine urns and was doing my level best to make them look as if they needed to be power-washed.
I continued to layer, ignoring my aching back.

Will the dirt wash off?
Will the paint peel?
A better question might be: Where did I put the Advil?

Next, I touched up two small, white urns with a little off-white spray paint (not the faux concrete).
I put a Hefty bag over the plants, because that's how I roll.

I was tired and grubby, but I dabbed faux "moss" paint onto the urn, concentrating on the indentions.
Every now and then, I rubbed potting soil into the raised decorative areas.

Last night's rain washed away the exterior soil on this pot, but it looks older.
Dirty decorating has taken on new meaning. The urn has aged overnight. It looks like concrete, not resin.

You can see traces of soil on this pot.

After the urns dried, it was time to fill them.
I always use kitty litter in the very bottom for drainage,
then I added potting soil.
The "in progress" mess was horrific.
By the time I was finished, my DIY project certainly didn't feel like
a romance. I was covered with dirt, and my bones were crying out for a hot shower.

I dearly love autumn and couldn't wait to add mums. These were $6 each at Home Depot, Chrysanthemum morifolium or "garden mum."  I'd had a mishap the other day after I filled four containers. Take a peek HERE.   The photos are pre-mishap. And they lead to a major mishap.

I popped in a flowering vine. The tag says: Evolvulus: zonal geranium, snapdragon, and salvia.
Lemons add a summery vibe.
Later, I'll add small pumpkins.
The tall yellow perennial will eventually be planted near the garden path.
It's a Gaillardia aristata, and it loves heat, humidity, and drought conditions.
Ivy and Mexican heather filled out the little pot.

A mixture of vines were added to the large urns.

The urns are in place, guarded by twin rabbits, which I bought many decades ago in Watertown, Tennessee. They might get a dab or two of "faux" moss tomorrow.
I told you that I'd explain my earlier mishap. It involved a herd of pygmy goats. 
Here's what happened. The other day, I filled four urns. You may have already seen the photos; if not, click HERE.  Except for one urn, which held a mum and a vine-like lantana, all of those container plants have been consumed and digested by the Galloping Goat Gourmets.
 The very next morning, I opened the front door and saw overturned pots, spilled soil, and skeletal plants.  Some plants had been plucked out and tossed aside. I'd never seen so much dirt in my life.
One butterfly bush took a hit, too.

After the second attempt to spruce up the porch, 
we propped baby gates (which are reinforced by heavy pots, not pictured) in front of the steps.
The barrier worked last night, thankfully.

I made a protected area for the perennials. These are earmarked for the path garden.

 The miscreant goats missed this urn.
Or maybe they saved it for a future snack?
The vines have really taken off this week.

A closer look at my experiment with paint and dirt.

Decorating with Dirt was an adventure.

My husband begged me to take down half of these pictures because
of the goat-wrecked porch. The soil was ground-in.

"The porch doesn't need patina," he decreed. "Let's rent a power-washer. Then you
can take pictures."

No, I'm keeping it real. Dirt is part of life--certainly it's part of our lives.

Now, it's part of our urns. :-)

Our next projects:
Power-wash the porch and steps.
Re-pot small lavender plants.
Add patina to a favorite clay pot--then fill with late summer flowers.
Sand front doors. Would you stain or paint them? 

Thanks for visiting!
A Metamorphosis Monday contribution. 


  1. I have never thought of putting vines with the mums - it looks beautiful that way :-)

    1. Thank you, Vicki. I used a sprawling yellow lantana in the urn that the goats overlooked. That gave an instant spill. I couldn't find another that was shaped that way to replace the goat-eaten plants in the other pots, so I used what I could find at HD.

  2. What a project - you have more sticktoitiveness than I do!

    1. I have less and less as time goes by. :-)

  3. Love the urns. You did a great job on them. I am ready for mums too, but I have to say I felt your pain with the goats. You must have been so upset...but the baby gates add a certain touch for sure.....giggles.

    1. You should see the barrier that I set up in front of the plants. Oh my! lol

  4. I love those urns and from where I am sitting they really do look old. They are lovely! I will use soil from now on when I distress a pot. You can actually get moss to grow on a pot (or most anything else) if you take a paint brush and dab it in buttermilk and then dab it on the pot, repeat until moss appears, once the moss begins to grow just keep it moist and it will take off and spread like molasses. Plain yogurt will also do the trick. They work great for stepping stones too.

    1. I bought paint brushes tonight on the school supply aisle at the grocery. If it doesn't rain tomorrow, I'll probably tinker a little more with the pots. I've tried buttermilk on clay pots. It looks great!

  5. GREAT job!

    I cannot imagine for one second worrying about goats, haha, that's too funny. Poor butterfly bush!
    Baby gates, haha, snicker, snicker - also brilliant!

    Not sure about front door. Mine's painted black and I love it.

    I love black painted things, though.

    Have a wonderful week.

    1. Michele, thanks for the suggestion! I love black painted doors, too. Hmmm, I have a lot of Urbane Bronze in SW's Duration.

  6. The urns look terrific! I'd never heard of faux concrete paint. Love the aged patina you gave these urns. Had to laugh when I say your gated stairs. Too funny! If you have a solution for pesky squirrels, let me know.
    Love those front doors. Stained or painted ~ either way they will be gorgeous.
    Soak in a hot bubble bath and get some rest! ~ Sarah

  7. The urns turned out beautifully with the faux concrete paint and I agree, you did a fantastic job making them look old. I couldn't help but smile about the goats. They probably thought you filled the urns with mums just for them.

  8. A beautiful transformation, Michael Lee! LOVE the new look of the urns. Those naughty goats!!!! It is such a shame... but it does make a funny and cute story!

  9. I think you did a great job on them. Hope the baby gates keep the goats out. Have seen the concrete look paint, but never used it. I have some pots that need paint or something - just never got around to getting it done.
    Have a great week.

  10. Wow, what a great job you did! I would be ticked beyond belief if those goats got to my garden or planters! I'm sure they are cute to see...but....!
    People around here complain about the deer but they don't mess things up like that. Love the mums...I bought some at Home Depot last year too and was impressed with the pricing!

  11. I absolutely love your project!! It looks great!! I may have to try your technique on some black pots sitting on my front porch that desperately need a make-over. I understand pigmy goats... before we moved from our beloved farm ours ate 29 rose bushes, a plumaria and a meyer lemon tree. Cute animals but a real pain in the bum!

    Have a great week!!

  12. Wow! I love these! I think I'm going to have to Pin this for later on. I like the rabbits too~

  13. I'm going to have to go and get some of that spray paint. (I already have the dirt!!). I love how your pots turned out. I promise, my Hubs will not understand either. That's ok, huh? Lori Lucas

  14. so enjoyed watching you play in the world of green, huge smiles from me! the slippers crack me up, girl get yourself some garden clogs, i won't step foot outside without them! you stay waterproof, you can stand on barb wire, rattlesnakes or poison ivy and you won't even know it! some very fashion forward, or scary, depending on your point of view, colors too. i still have mine from 30 years ago, you just get new liners ;-)

    you remind me of me when i first got into gardening, a gorgeous, wondrous world to play in, and for me the passion never dies, you can enjoy something green where ever you glance, its a hobby you can love forever. your mossy touch is delightful~

    baby goat gate, oh my that is hysterical! must discourage jehovah witnesses too ;-)

    the end results are fab!

  15. These look wonderful, but I don't think I would like those goats much. Lynnete Jennings, who used to have a TV show on the Discovery Channel, show us how to do this technique with the urns, which I did once, but had forgotten about. Hope you have better luck with this batch.

  16. LOL! Galloping Goat Gourmet! I remember the Galloping Gourmet! Wonder if he's still alive? Anyway, your urns look wonderful. You are just the most creative one! :)
    Your goats are so cute.
    be a sweetie,
    Shelia ;)

  17. I just repainted an urn and plinth to match each other. I did one color and then 2 others. I tried the dirt but not quite in the same way that you did. I ended up having my brother-in-law repaint them for me. They're still not quite what I wanted, but better than what I had done.

    I love the kitty litter! I should have done that! I may have to dump them out and do that.

  18. Love your blog. I just followed you and hoping you'll follow back :)

  19. Love how the urns turned out...they look wonderful.

  20. Very brilliant! They look great! I can't believe you already found and planted mums! The goats are adorable, you just can't get mad at them!

  21. So funny! The urns look fabulous. We have deer eating everything in sight. I haven't seen a bloom from my daylilies in two years and it's supposed to be "deer resistant". My husband says that means deer can't resist it.

  22. I love how your pots turned out. Too bad about the goats.

  23. My back was twinging with sympathy pains at all your planting and painting but the results are SO worth it! They look wonderful! I had read about adding soil or moss to paint, thank you, I have to try it and refresh and distress some pots this fall when the humidity is not 93%! I laughed out loud at your baby goat gates! Tell those goats that potted plants are off the menu :)

  24. I feel your pain! We live on a farm too and have a cattle guard at the entrance to our yard. Occasionally, a steer will brave it and walk across the bars into the yard. Recently, we awoke to find such a visitor. He enjoyed eating the sweet potato vines in my planters and literally mowed off a beautiful fern with 4-ft. fronds. The steer was relocated to another field but my poor plants will take a long time to recover.

    Your pots are wonderful. If the dirt washes off, I might try artist paint in burnt umber. It can be dabbed into the recessed areas with a brush or a rag. Just an idea!

  25. Lol - I'm doing the exact opposite - changing my urns from stone to black. :)

  26. Suzanne of Simply Suzannes at Home

    I love your urn tutorial, but most of all . . . I love how you've clustered the urns on your steps. It's so beautiful! You've inspired me.

    Have a beautiful day,

  27. These look GREAT! I have been searching for two good looking urns for the front door and cannot believe how expensive they are. I will have to try this.

  28. Amazing! I've never heard of faux concrete paint before. I've got to get some of that! Your urns look terrific.

  29. Just did a fantastic job and they look so gorgeous on the porch!

  30. Great job on the faux concrete finish. I have a bunny like yours too, but I think yours are concrete..mine is plaster.

  31. Hi went to the store yesterday to get that "faux concrete" paint. Is it actually called "stone"? Also the one I saw says on the label "for indoor use only". I live in Oregon and it's always raining here so just wondering how it held up.

    1. A year later, the paint has held up beautifully. The brand is Rustoleum. When I applied it, I sanded parts of the urn, and I haven't seen any chipping. However, the rain in Oregon might be a problem. You might want to test a small pot and see what happens. Good luck and thanks for stopping by!

  32. Hi there,
    I know this post is a good couple of years old, but I was hoping you could tell me where you got the two black resin urns from?

  33. Post is several years old now, but, could you please tell me the name of the concrete paint? I notice in your photo you have all the cans turned to the rear so the brand is not visible.

    1. Hi, Chintzgirl. I used Rustoleum Ultra Cover as the base color (I chose an off-white--these are the cans that are turned away from the camera). For the faux concrete, I used Rustoleum American Accents Stone.
      See Part 2, if you want to add faux moss and "dirt":