Thursday, July 22, 2010

Leaning Shepherd's Crook

I have always tended towards avoiding hanging baskets in my garden primarily because it meant I would be required to water them during the hot summers.  But as I began to explore several garden blogs, I realized that there were plenty of low-water plants that would look very nice in a hanging basket.  So I decided to use a six foot shepherd's crook and create a Ghost Plant (Graptopetalum paraguayense) hanging basket.

But the weight of the watered planter slowly pulled the shepherd's crook over to a 45 degree angle - leaving the basket almost touching the plants below.

Hmpf.  Not exactly what I had in mind.  True to my blog title (i.e. "Lazy"), I tried to figure out the simplest fix.  Perhaps if I strategically positioned some stone and bricks about the base, it would have enough support to remain vertical.

But it was not to be, as over the days, the pole again slowly angled downward, pushing even the stacked stone down into the dirt and roots.  One would have thought all the plant roots and naturally occurring limestone would have prevented the penetration.

I wanted to avoid concreting a pole into the ground - I liked the flexibility of being able to move the pole about if needed (though I was presently getting more movement than I had anticipated!).  I thought I might could place a stouter pole in the same area and attach the shepherd's crook to it - thus removing the crook's flexibility issue.

I investigated various ground spikes that can be hammered into the ground and then bolted to a pole, but I could not find any spike shorter than 24 inches - and I knew it would never penetrate that far into my ground.  And none of the visited hardware stores had decorative poles (especially the square type which I preferred).  So I finally started visiting fence supply shops, and was able to get an eight foot by two inch square pole.  I had been hoping for something around 5 foot, but all I could find was four or eight foot lengths (and four was too short).  Maybe I could get at least 1.5 feet hammered into the ground - if not, I could always cut it off to a desired length.

I put it all together to see if reality and my imagination were at least on speaking terms - and was pleased with the appearance (especially if I could get the pole pushed down a foot or more).

Then came the next problem.  How does one hammer an eight foot pole into the ground.  Obviously a ladder would be involved.  And only having a long-handled sledgehammer, this could get interesting.  Would need a wooden board on top so as not to damage the pole with direct hammering, but how to keep it in place.  Duct tape to the rescue: tape a wooden block to the top of the pole, climb up the ladder and begin a game of whack-a-mole.

Okay - that didn't work.  I was actually able to drive the pole downward into the ground.  That wasn't the problem (well, it was a bit of a problem - there was an occasional balancing conundrum that required amazing gymnastic maneuvers).  But the main issue was that the pole only penetrated about 10 inches - then it refused to go further.

Measuring the original shepherd's crook showed it also was only going in that far.  And the shorter front bracket would slowly sink a few inches too - thus giving me my angled tilt.  Admitting defeat, I decided it was time for concrete (and the subsequent loss of future mobility).

Completely abandoning the shepherd's crook (perhaps it could be re-purposed to hold light-weight items like bird feeders or wind chimes), I decided to permanently put my large stout pole into the ground.  Digging down, I discovered limestone and large tree roots around 11 inches.

Hmpf.  This meant that my eight foot pole would be taller than desired. with its head!

And, of course, I now needed to purchase and attach a plant hanger to the pole itself.  After some searching, I went with a thick metal hanger which had a bird motif (thinner hangers looked a little lost on the thicker pole).

Next, I partially hammered four pieces of 12 inch rebar into the bottom and sides of the hole to give an extra bit of support (really didn't want this whole contraption to tilt and require me to dig it all up!).  Then the pole was positioned and the concrete poured.  Verifying that everything was straight, I added some temporary boards to maintain the pole's position as the concrete set.

After a couple of days, the pole appears to be solid.  The real test was to place a recently watered hanging pot on the hook and, given time, see if everything stayed vertical. 

Success!  Of course, I also have these two other hanging pots.  Hmmm...more poles?  Or more hangers attached to this one?  Will have to ponder...

 Gotta Get:


  1. You know, i'm quite surprised--getting out a ladder and then balancing yourself on top of it all to hammer a pole into the ground is not laziness. I would have probably just been like "eh, doesn't work, well damn." and left it at that.

  2. Well - the "lazy" answer was the bricks. Post-attempt, think I'd classify the ladder/sledgehammer solution as "crazy" (Crazy Shady Gardener also rings true!)

  3. Having a welding business I wouldn't have done it like that. However, not having all my stuff I don't really know what I would have done. I guess what you did. Isn't it amazing how such a little project can just go south so fast. Came out looking pretty darn good though.

  4. Bob: Having the right tools certainly does make life easier! Without proper tools, one has to rely on ingenuity and creativity. Now if I could only find where they sell those...

  5. My father used to say, "there is no such thing as an easy job".
    I'm very impressed witih your ingenuity and determination! congrats - it looks great.

  6. Look exciting. I can't wait to see the next happen

    Just like to share with you a beautiful quote...

    "You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life" - Albert Camus

    You can get more quotes about happiness at

  7. OMG! I bookmarked this with my 1000s of others and just couldnt find it again. I went literally one by one until I found it again. I have a 200ft drive that I plan on lining it with a few of these. With Solar lights, hanging planter baskets. Its a halfshade area in Quebec City mountains so what colorful beauties to add? hmm.. fun fun fun every year. These wont move after concreted. Also, in my area, the ground freezes and moves a lot so i pray this will be okay. Thanks so much!