Sean Conway

Log Planters that Salute America's Rustic Vernacular

Log Planters that Salute America's Rustic Vernacular

Almost everyone has heard of the Adirondack chair, but that design classic is by no means the only legacy of the rustic style that came into vogue almost a century and a half ago.

The "Adirondack style," known for its rough-hewn logs, often with their bark left on, twig detailing, and massive fireplaces made from local stone, remains the architectural touchstone for cabins, lodges and national park buildings throughout the United States.

Among its other merits, the Adirondack style lends itself to do-it-yourself projects using wood, stone and other materials you can gather locally or even on your own property. That, after all, was an integral part of the aesthetic to begin with.

Known mainly as a source of timber in the early 1800s, the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York later became a popular tourist destination for city dwellers. Long before the invention of air conditioning, the cool mountain air became a respite from the oppressive summer heat of New York City.

Wealthy businessmen built summer homes and family compounds where they could relax, host parties, and enjoy the wilderness. These "Great Camps," as they were known, were done up in a style that celebrated the country's growing fascination with the natural world in the late 1800s, but that also arose partly out of necessity. Building with local materials was a lot more practical than importing building supplies into this remote region.

Interior furniture such as beds, tables, nightstands, and armoires were designed with the same look and natural aesthetic. Wall coverings were made from birch bark. Mirrors and picture frames were bordered in twigs. This same look was repeated in the outdoor furniture used on the massive decks and porches of the Adirondack camps.

The popularity of this style soon spread across the country, and when Teddy Roosevelt set up the National Park system he decided that the Adirondack style would be a perfect fit for park buildings to illustrate the connection to the natural environment.

Adirondack style remains popular today. On "Cultivating Life" we decided to celebrate this American tradition by creating some naturalistic log planters that would look right at home in the Great Camps.

How to Make Your Own Adirondack-Style Log Planter

Garden writer Erin Frost showed me how to create beautiful planters using pieces of fallen trees and old, moss-covered logs.

Start with a 1- to 2-foot length of a tree trunk with a diameter of between 10 to 14 inches. The cut ends of the log should be flat. This allows the log to stand evenly on the ground, and it also makes it easier to hollow out the center.

Stand the log upright on a flat surface. Next, take an empty 8-inch diameter plastic pot, and center it, rim down, on the top end of the log. Using a pencil or marker, trace the circumference of the pot on the flat surface of the log end.

Using a Forstner bit (this is a drill bit that makes wide, flat-bottomed holes), drill successive cores out of the log, staying on the inside the traced line. Once you've drilled several holes, use a hammer and chisel to carefully remove the pieces of wood remaining between the holes.

Continue this process until the center of the log is removed to a depth that will allow the 8-inch plastic pot to slip down inside, hiding it from view.

The last step is to drill three or four drainage holes in the bottom of the log. Use a long drill bit to do this.

Any number of plants could be potted in the plastic pot and slipped inside the log cachepot, but I think ferns are particularly well suited to this type of naturalistic planter. The plastic pot helps keep fern's roots moist while keeping excess moisture in the soil from rotting the wood.

DIY Adirondack-Style Log Planters that Salute America's Rustic Vernacular

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