By LESLIE LINSLEY Special to The Citizen
The other morning, I caught Martha Stewart's segment on The Today Show. It was incredibly brief and, as usual, everyone was talking over one another and way too fast. However, she demonstrated that the old Martha has given way to the new, and by this I mean speedy, ultra simple projects. On her own show, the old Martha would take all the time in the world to create a cake or a craft project that was shamelessly involved. Mere mortals would be hard put to recreate any of it. But it seems that even Martha has succumbed to the speed of our current means of communication, or at least acknowledging the fact that nobody has the time for lengthy creations.
So, if you missed this five-second television blip, here's what she demonstrated. Wash out a bunch of tin cans. Martha suggested eating the contents before doing this project. Once clean, poke a hole or two with an awl in the bottom of each can and paint the outside with latex paint. I would have said spray paint for a quick and shiny finish that will withstand the outdoor elements. She didn't even bother to apply a decorative finish. I would have said sponge-paint the outside with a color to match the plant you put into the can. Or, at the very least, add some squiggly lines around it to create interest. Dip a Q-tip in a colorful paint (acrylic will do) to create a row of polka dots around each rim.
This is what I mean about the new Martha. Can anyone forgive her for the simplistic suggestion that we should paint tin cans to use as planters? Really, Martha! Even in her worst moments she would have been ashamed to present such an idea and call it a craft project. Don't kids do this routinely in kindergarten? Then again, I have to admit I started rummaging through my recycling bin to retrieve the Progresso soup cans my husband had thrown away during his week binge of what he calls "the perfect lunch." A simple idea, even an old tried and true idea, is still a good one. And, of course, if Martha suggests it, legions of her followers will do just that, follow.
Her second idea was to use concrete blocks as planters to create a border of flowers along a path or around the deck. Martha did not suggest where to use the planter; that's my contribution. But I thought the concrete block idea was pretty good. I like using industrial materials for decorative uses. Plants with flowing tendrils like ivy or lobelia -- the tiny purple flowers are quite pretty -- would work well in the blocks. No weeding required.
The following are a few of my own ideas for creative planters:
• I was about to discard an old, rusted, metal mailbox when it occurred to me to revive it with a coat of spray paint. Turn on end with the flat-back side against a fence or the house, remove the front flap and it's a planter.
• Save a bunch of corks from wine bottles and create a plant trivet by gluing them together to make an 8-inch square. Lay them out on their sides in rows, rearranging them to fit into a square pattern. Then one by one glue them together. A hot glue gun works best for this project.
• Last year I picked individual stems of mint from my garden and stuck each in a green wine glass filled with water for a green and white table setting in my shop. Mint sprouts root very quickly and all summer I transplanted them to small individual clay pots to line my kitchen windowsill. Or, fill interesting glass bottles or mason jars with dirt and stick the mint into the dirt-filled bottle. The mint scents the air in a most refreshing way.
• If you can manage to talk your favorite liquor store owner out of a wooden wine crate, they make good-looking containers for pots of plants.
• One year I spray painted a child's wagon bright yellow and stenciled a black checkerboard border all around to make it look like a New York City taxi cab. Then I filled it with pots of bright yellow pansies. It's great because you can wheel the wagon to different positions on the deck, following the sun.
I'm working on a column about handmade crafts and I'd really like to hear from anyone who would like to share the best handmade gift they've ever received. It might be a school project made by a child or a finely crafted object that you received and treasure. And if the object was a gift to yourself, that'll work too. So let's hear from you. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leslie Linsley has written more than 50 books on crafts, decorating and home style. She resides on Nantucket with her husband, photographer Jon Aron, and has a store on the island that specializes in her one-of-a-kind creations. Her latest book is "Key West, a Tropical Lifestyle" (Monacelli Press), with photos by Terry Pommett.