Planter Selection

Planter selection is critical for successful landscaping and gardening on hardscapes like patios, balconies, and rooftops, especially of condo towers, as these environments have unique challenges.

Rooftop garden in urban context

Planters on a green roof building in urban context

This blog will help you select the right planter for your project by making you aware of  issues surrounding planter design and function and offer simple, straightforward solutions. Gardeners can make high-density urban environments not only more beautiful, but also more eco-friendly with low-lifecycle-cost, sustainable green roof projects.

Planters allow plants cool roof decks

Planters allow plants cool roof decks

Residential and office condo towers are increasingly prevalent in dense urban and coastal areas, and contribute to the formation of “heat Islands” and global warming by adding heat-retaining surface area, unless they can be landscaped.  In addition, according to the American Institute of Architects (AIA) , buildings are the leading source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. According to estimates in the AIA’s Architects and Climate Change report, buildings represent 48 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, with transportation and industry representing 27 percent and 25 percent respectively.

The Green Roof movement is great, but the ratio of wall-to-roof area is much greater on high-rise buildings.If Architects designed balconies with drainage and water spigots built into their clients’ high-rise buildings, it would make it easier for residents and offices to help offset their impact to a far greater degree, both in terms of cooling and exchanging oxygen for carbon, and absorbing other pollutants.

When I was developing a condo building in Miami, where my wife and I now live after years at sea, I wanted to create a livable rooftop with lush landscaping. Frustratingly, we were unable to convince the city building department, in 2004, that green roofs were insulation in and of themselves, so we were unable to have a grass roof.  I realized, however, that the roof surface area of a condo tower was a much lower percentage of the building surface area than the walls themselves.  Therefore I began a search for large lightweight planters that had a high ratio of surface area to weight to use both on the roof and balconies.

At the same time, I wanted to avoid problems associated with built-in concrete planters located on the roof, such as leaking and creating expensive structural damage to the building.In addition to being immovable, there are limitations on where built-in planters can be located, they are impractical on cantilevered balconies, and they impart heaviness to the building design that I wanted to avoid.

While lots of great looking pots exist, large surface area planters were scarce. Also, as I was soon to learn, pots had serious drawbacks for use up on buildings, especially on sunny south and west facing exposures.  As I proceeded through the sourcing process, I eventually assembled a list of attributes that I felt was important in these planters:

  • ·Large surface area
  • ·Aesthetically pleasing
  • ·Variety of dimensions and materials
  • ·Durable, with a low lifecycle cost
  • ·Low impact on the environment
  • ·Lightweight
  • ·Thermal protection for roots
  • ·Drainage control
  • ·Stability in high winds
  • ·Easy to water

Ultimately, I could not find what I was looking for, so I started my own design and manufacturing company to create customizable planters and created 6 proprietary  aluminum extrusions, including the Mariner leg used as our trademark, to address all these issues.

Click Here to skip the detailed issues and go straight to the solution for all your planter needs

Mariner planter aluminum leg detaii

Mariner planter aluminum leg detail

I found solutions to my issues and, in the process, discovering valuable resources for planters, irrigation systems, and drainage control, as well as some dead ends that I will share. I hope that my readers will contribute their own innovative ideas and experiences in creating a green roof, roof garden, and landscaping a balcony or patio so that we can green up these new high-density vertical neighborhoods sprouting up all over, and minimize our environmental impact.

Using the services of a Landscape Architect is highly recommended to shortcut the process of creating a pleasing space integrated with your lifestyle and goals. Keep in mind that, as in any profession, many practitioners have found what they consider to be tried and true practices and may not have kept up with changes in the industry, so you need to be informed. A true professional will welcome your respectful input because the ultimate goal should be your satisfaction. Don’t be intimidated; share your ideas and feedback with them.

You may be unfamiliar with many of the resources I list, as they are sources used by Landscape Architects; however, the quality of products found using these resources are of a professional grade, and thus the impact on the environment, and the lifetime cost of these products is far lower than many “consumer” products that literally define planned obsolescence and a harmful throw-away society.

Challenges and Solutions:

Foremost among the problems I faced in sourcing large planters with substantial surface area was finding any large planters at all, let alone contemporary planters in a variety of styles and sizes that provided protection from soil overheating on south- and west-facing exposures, water drainage control,stability in high winds, ease of watering, and portability.

Challenges:

Large surface area: Large planters, especially attractive ones, were surprisingly hard to find.While there are lots and lots of pots of various sizes, they really do not provide the large surface area to plant trees, hedges or vines necessary for the shade and privacy screening that I wanted for larger areas and rectilinear balconies.

Aesthetic:

Planters that I found with large surface areas looked more institutional or commercial in design and were more appropriate for a parking lot.They simply did not possess the appropriate design attributes of architectural planters for a residential project.

Variety of dimensions and materials: Again, none of the ready-made large planters that I was able to find were available in custom sizes to fit all the niches and variety of areas that I needed planters for.While there may have been a choice of color, there really was not a choice of materials that would impart varying but compatible looks as one finds in pots.In Landscape Architect terms, these large planters fall under the “site amenities” category and are really more appropriate for streets, parks and parking lots.

Each type of material used in construction has its advantages and disadvantages, which vary greatly with construction and design:

Ceramic and cement are not waterproof, and cement planters have steel re-bar at their core. Steel, which expands to 20 times its size as it rusts, cracks the cement, leading to complete failure.If a concrete planter is appropriate for your project, ask the manufacturer to add Xypex® to the mix before construction to retard this process for as long as possible. add Xypex® to the mix before construction to retard this process for as long as possible.

Issues with Cement Planters

Cement planters are very heavy to take up elevators and stairwells, and they are just as much work to remove.You may need a crane. There are some lightweight concrete planters coming onto the market now that may do a better job if they can be adequately waterproofed.

The ratio of surface area to weight, and lack of controlled drainage limits large cement planters to the ground.  Light color cement planters of great mass offer some protection from solar gain, although they hold heat well into the night.

large concrete planter

large concrete planter

large cracked concrete planter

large cracked concrete planter

large cracked concrete planter

large cracked concrete planter

cracked pottery planter

cracked pottery planter

cement planter drainage

cement planter drainage is hard to hide

Planters that have no means of drainage control leave a mess.

Issues with Ceramic Planters

Large ceramic planters have some of the same drawbacks as cement, although thinner walls make them lighter and more fragile, at least they do not have steel at the core.  While they provide some protection from solar gain through evaporative cooling when wet, more than a couple of hours of sun will dry them out.  There are no large surface area ceramic planters that I am aware of.

ceramic planter with peeling paint

ceramic planter with peeling paint

ceramic planter with peeling paint

ceramic planter with peeling paint

Ceramic planters should not be painted as they will peel immediately.

Issues with Wood Planters

Initially I was drawn to the wood planters you see at street cafés all over Europe, but every planter I saw was falling apart. With my experience in yacht maintenance and rebuilding, I could see that existing wood planter designs were not built to last for decades. Available wood planter construction techniques fastened wood to wood, and planters would tear themselves apart with the expansive forces that wood exerts through repeated wet and dry cycles but not DeepStream wood planters.

DeepStream Wood Planters with aluminum frames

DeepStream Wood Planters with aluminum frames have a Lifetime Structural Warranty

For centuries, wood dowels have been inserted into holes drilled into rock, then soaked with water. The expansion force of the wood is thus harnessed to crack blocks off marble and granite for construction, even though the blocks are hundreds of times thicker than the thin wooden dowel.

Since every wooden plank is cut from a different part of the tree, it has its own differential rate of expansion and warping when wetted.  This makes dimensional stability using standard wood-on-wood construction in two dimensions impossible to maintain over time, and shipbuilding techniques are far too costly for planter construction. In addition, most wood planters lack adequate isolation from the soil and the deck or sidewalk, which promotes fresh water rot.

Carpenter built wood planter

Carpenter built wood planter

New wood planters constructed by traditional carpenter methods.

Carpenter built wood planter details

Carpenter built wood planter details

Traditional carpenter built construction warping after just a few months.

Carpenter built wood planter details

Carpenter built wood planter details

Horizontal to vertical separation pulling fasteners out, panels separating.

Carpenter built wood planter details

Carpenter built wood planter details

Carpenter built wood planter details

Carpenter built wood planter details

Raw wood feet on deck absorb water.

Carpenter built wood planter details

Carpenter built wood planter details

Carpenter built wood planter details

Carpenter built wood planter details

Vertical wood grain splits, warps, & rots

Carpenter built wood planter details

Carpenter built wood planter details

Vertically exposed end grain, and non-tropical hardwood quickly succumbs to rot and splitting, even using heavier bolted construction

Carpenter built wood planter details

Carpenter built wood planter details

Unsupported and exposed liners are problematic and unsightly.

While wood will go grey over time just like your teak garden furniture, unless you spend time varnishing them often, tropical hardwoods have been used for centuries for shipbuilding, boardwalks, docks, etc. If you like the character that time imparts to wood, as I do, a planter constructed using my techniques can last for decades.

Garden Planters with Trellis

Garden Planters with Trellis

DeepStream Designs horizontal planked tropical hardwood planters are constructed with aluminum frames and legs properly isolated from wet decks and soil. Rugged waterproof liners are properly supported, easily watered, with proper drainage.  DeepStream Planters can look good for decades providing the lowest cost of ownership over time.

Aged Deepstream wood planter

Aged Deepstream wood planter

Issues with Plastic, Fiberglass, and Foam Pots

Plastic and resin can be excellent materials if the materials incorporate UV stabilizers.High-quality resins should be able to last for at least 10 years, but even then the surface will get chalky over time. Fiberglass can be waterproof if the proper marine resins are used or a barrier coat has been applied, but like resins and plastic it will develop a chalky surface over time. Proper marine resins and barrier coats are very expensive, if a Fiberglass pot is cheap is will not last but just because one is expensive does not mean it is well made. Personally, I really like the ones that incorporate materials such as copper in the epoxy resin so that the patina improves over time.

The major problem with all these pots in a sunny location is lack of protection solar gain, even more than than size, shape, and longevity.

While there are many cheap plastic pots from home stores, I have never seen one large enough to be called a planter, and I can’t resist a word of caution. All of those cheap pots are too thin, contain no UV filters, and they quickly get brittle and break down. Many have painted exteriors that will soon fade and peel.

One particular series of plastic pot found at a national home store chain actually has a two-part construction that can fool you into thinking that they are of higher quality than they actually are. After a couple of months, they separate and the thick top rim falls off.Others are constructed of cheap foam covered with other materials, which quickly break down, and fall apart.

cracked plastic pot

cracked plastic pot

cracked plastic pot

cracked plastic pot

cracked plastic pot

cracked plastic pot

cracked plastic potHome store chain pots a year old, note the roots growing through the drain holes splitting them apart.

Tap root cracked plastic pot

Tap root cracked plastic pot

While ok if shaded, another shortcoming of plastic pots, aside from a short life, is that available pots are too small for larger plants and the taproot grows out of the hole on the bottom, ripping the pot and making it unstable.  Note the surface degradation of the foam core plastic pot, even in the shade.

Just getting some of the plastic and foam core pots from the large home store back home without breaking proved impossible.Their design and construction was totally inadequate, sacrificed in the quest for the lowest initial cost to lure in suckers like me! When I calculate the time and effort expended to select, buy, return, buy, return for credit, and then start the process over again, the cost of that lesson was very high indeed. And that is without all the hassle and mess of planting and unplanting. So much for value at the low end of the spectrum.

peeling plastic pot

peeling plastic pot

peeling plastic pot

peeling plastic pot

More examples:  relatively expensive foam core pots, above, show typical surface degradation in just a few weeks.

Issues with Fiberglass Planters

damaged fiberglass planter

damaged fiberglass planter

damaged fiberglass planter

damaged fiberglass planter

Contrary to popular belief most fiberglass construction is very prone to breakage

damaged fiberglass planter

damaged fiberglass planter

While most fiberglass planters are light, at the expense of strength, they may not be durable enough for certain location.  Currently most fiberglass planters manufacturers are competing on price, skimping on materials.  Most of the planters built in India, China,and even the US only carry a warranty of 1 to 3 years. DeepStream has a Lifetime Structural Warranty on the planters built with wood or recycled plastic lumber.

damaged fiberglass planter

damaged fiberglass planter

damaged fiberglass planter

damaged fiberglass planter

In addition fiberglass planters are almost all single-walled and prone to solar gain. White or light-colored ones would be better in sunny locations.  They do not have drainage control, nor do they hide drip irrigation lines.  The expensive large ones above are installed in Miami’s downtown area and while shaded by buildings, they are not really rugged enough for the streetscapes in which they are installed, nor do they have much surface area.  Believe it or not, these planters are just 1/8″ thick painted skins of chopped fiberglass sprayed into a mold.

Issues with Metal Planters

Metal planters have various issues depending on the metal and the design.  There are very few large surface area metal planters, and most are forms inappropriate for windy locations. All metal passes solar gain rapidly and is not appropriate on long sunny south and west exposures unless there is a separate liner inside.  Steel, iron and all forms of ferrous metal rust, including stainless steel.  Cast aluminum and bronze can have great longevity depending on the alloy.  Zinc and copper patina nicely, but the seams will soon leak if there is no liner. Again, there are very few large surface area metal planters, as the metal is thin and non-structural.

tippy leaking metal planter

tippy leaking metal planter

tippy leaking metal planter

tippy leaking metal planter

Metal planters leaking with rusty seams and rust through pin holes

Thermal Protection:

From the plants’ point of view, thermal gain is as deadly as over- or under-watering. Pots and most existing planters also lack insulation qualities to protect the soil from solar gain. On a sunny 80º day, the sun can heat a dark single-layer pot to a surface temperature of 120º, and on a 90º day, the surface temperature can measure 140º or more, with the soil measuring 110º+ on the sunny side of the pot.

measuring planter solar gain

measuring planter solar gain

planter solar gain

planter solar gain steams roots

Within minutes of moving a fiberglass pot into the sun the surface temperature climbed to 125 degrees on a 84 degree day, while the “liner within a planter” concept in the wood planter behind it keeps the soil no warmer than the temperature of the air.

No matter how much water we gave plants with hot soil, they didn’t do well. Pulling a plant out of a dark pot I found that the roots were literally being steamed! Unless there is a thermal break between the wall of a planter and the container for the plant, the solar gain is transferred to heat the soil. A proper thermal break will keep the soil no warmer than ambient air temperature and prevent both thermal shock and steaming the root system.

dead palm stem in plastic pot

dead palm stem, foreground, in plastic pot

Palms exhibiting thermal stress

Palms exhibiting thermal stress

These newly planted palms already show signs of stress in limited morning sun. The edges of the leaves turn brown and over- watering rots the heart out of the palm closest to the sunny side so it is lost.  Sea Grapes are much heartier, but will eventually succumb.

Palms exhibiting thermal stress

Palms exhibiting thermal stress

Only true low solar gain Low-E glazing, which is expensive, can block solar gain. Tinted glass is not enough on south- and west-facing exposures as you can see from these plants dying on a balcony and on the streets.

Palm in plastic pot exhibiting thermal stress

Palm in plastic pot exhibiting thermal stress

Palm in plastic pot exhibiting thermal stress

Palm in plastic pot exhibiting thermal stress

Even the browning palm (above top) in the ceramic pot, which has some measure of evaporative cooling when wet, suffers heat stress.  The Robellini palm (above bottom) had no chance of survival.  It has lost the two east facing trunks even though the fiberglass pot is in the afternoon shade of the parapet wall.

If you are using a single wall planter in an exposed sunny location and not getting good results then try to place it behind a barrier to solar gain as you see in this picture.

ceramic dish planter

ceramic dish planter

Here you are looking south west so the building shades the planters in the morning, then full sun for about 2 hours and then the low parapet shades the planters all afternoon.

Drainage control

Is important for several reasons:

  • If planters do not drain properly, plants drown or develop root rot.
  • If drainage is too easy, then water is wasted, which can be problematic when faced with water and/or time restrictions and nutrient wash out.
  • Very few condo, converted loft or apartment buildings have drainage built into the balconies for planters or pots.Having dirty water overflow from balconies and run down the side of the building or drop onto unsuspecting pedestrians and autos is usually not an option, and may be a violation of your condo rules as well as local city codes.

Condo Boards and building management are understandably reluctant to let residents have more than a pot or two outside on a balcony that can be brought in when it rains.While rooftops generally have drainage, it’s not usually where you need it, so they too have issues when creating a landscaped or green roof, even on a limited scale.

Drainage that is limited to a hole on the bottom, even covered with drain board and filter geotextiles, is especially prone to quickly repeated blockage that requires a lot of effort to restore.

DeepStream addresses the issues with a drainpack that helps prevent roots and lose soil from blocking the drain holes and waterproof plastic liners have a threaded drain hole to attach drain hoses to direct water to a desired location.

rugged waterproof planter liner with drain and drain pad

rugged waterproof planter liner with drain and drain pad

rugged waterproof planter liner with drain

rugged waterproof planter liner with drain

planter drain attachments

planter drain attachments

For more detailed information on how to best install planter drainage click on the following link for much greater detail:  Garden Planter Planting Instructions

Ease of watering: 

This challenge is more complicated than it initially appears but easily solved with DeepStream planters, liners, and drip-irrigation:

  • First there is the issue of meeting watering schedules imposed by many municipalities, which may include watering at night.
  • Watering large planted areas, or a great number of planters, with a hose is very expensive in terms of time.
  • Many large planters can be landscaped with plants that have varying root depths.
  • Planters that have a reservoir system only water to one depth, so planting flowers or bushes to surround trees is impossible without additional water sources. Even then the deeper-rooted plants can be over-watered and drown without great care in watering and plant selection.
  • There is also the challenge of providing automatic watering systems without interfering with the aesthetics of the overall project. None of the planters designs shown above have a way to hide drip irrigation lines except DeepStream planters.

Low lifecycle costs, low impact on the environment:

These two issues really go hand in hand.

Most developers want to create a “look” without costing a lot of money because the object is to sell the project for the most money while spending the least amount of money delivering that look so that profit is maximized. Resident owners may be limited by their budget but are, in general, looking for the lowest possible cost over time.

Quality almost always delivers the lowest cost over time. A well-made product that costs more, but last three times as long costs less money over time and exacts less of a cost on the environment. It also takes far less effort on the purchaser’s part, reducing acquisition and delivery costs, as well freeing up resources for other uses.

Often the cost of the product is confused with quality. The quality-cost equation comprises not only materials and construction, but also thoughtful design, careful purchasing, manufacturing, distribution, and sales cost. While two planters of equal aesthetic appeal and surface may cost the same amount, to truly evaluate value you need to compare the longevity of the design and material.

The lifecycle cost of a product greatly affects its environmental cost. Every material used in construction exacts a toll on the environment. I’ll not argue the relative merits of plastic over fiberglass, or cement over wood, or aluminum over steel. Figuring out the true costs of the energy used by each process, the damage to the earth, and the recyclability of each material is beyond the scope of this forum.

In general terms, products will have a lower impact on the environment if:

  • They are aesthetically pleasing, but not trendy, so that you can enjoy them for a long period of time;
  • They have a modular design, constructed with replaceable parts so that they can be easily repaired instead of discarded should they suffer a mishap;
  • High-quality, long-lasting materials appropriate for the intended environmental conditions are used in construction;
  • They are made from distinct materials that can each be easily separated and recycled;
  • They use materials from renewable resources;
  • The company you purchase them from invests more back into conservation than it takes from the environment.

Light weight: 

Many of the large surface area planters I found were made of cement, which may be too heavy for balconies, and even for roof loading, at the expense of soil depth required for the plants.

Form is key to stability in high winds: 

While the weight of cement has an advantage here, proper design can greatly increase stability. Many planters and pots are not appropriate for outdoor use because the bases are smaller than the top and the surface of the soil may be so high that they are top heavy. If they are blown over, many may break or worse. In many locations, wind can routinely be in excess of 20 mph and may well exceed 70 in gusts. You need to consider: If my planter is blown over will it blow off my roof or balcony?

planter form affects stability

planter form affects stability

Even light gusts tip pots

Solution:

modern copper and slate planters: Click for more info

modern copper and slate planters: Click for more info

modern copper and wood planters

modern copper and wood planters

All in all, finding lightweight, attractive, large volume planters with drainage control that provide a thermal break with an appropriate design aesthetic in a variety of sizes proved to be impossible, let alone planters that would also stand up to the test of time and the rigors of the property maintenance team.

Existing Solutions:

I started landscaping my building in 2004 with the SeaCrest series of large planters from Tournesol Siteworks  as a good plastic planter solution. Every planter available at the time had some compromise, so despite the institutional look imparted by the roto-molded plastic construction, they answered most of the other challenges.

I ordered and installed more than a dozen of the 48” round and 72” rectangular planters for the rooftop, where we were able to engineer in the load capacity to hold their fully wetted weight of at least 2,300 lbs for the cylindrical planter and 1,500 lbs for the rectangular planter. We planted the round planters with 6’ high 3-stem Robellini palms.We planted two Jatropha bushes in the rectangular planters.

I highly recommend this company and their planters if the look of their products is appropriate for your venue.They make many of the liners we use in our planters, especially when we need custom sizes and forms to fit custom projects for customers.

While the SeaCrest planters are designed with self-watering reservoirs, we found that it was better to put them on drip irrigation (more about that later), but the double wall design for the reservoir planter provided just the thermal break that has allowed our plants to thrive despite the baking Miami sun.

The drainage is a bit iffy, but if you take the extra steps I outline below you should have good results. One other issue with the long 72” rectangular planter that arose is that the middle of the planter tends to bulge from the heat of the sun combined with the pressure from the soil, which creates a “creep” in the plastic.I understand that Planter Technology may have added a baffle in the middle to prevent this. I think that “creep” could be a problem for almost any single wall planter made from non rigid material like plastic, resin, and even fiberglass as the thickness required without a “web” for large planters is cost prohibitive.

A New Planter Concept:

Since I found that there were really no planters on the market for the balconies and rooftop deck on my project that fit the demanding criteria for large modular planters, I created DeepStream Designs to create commercial planters of a Landscape Architect grade that would meet the complex design criteria I listed above.

I’m not going to recreate the commercial DeepStream Designs.com website here, but since a picture is worth a thousand words so you may want to give www.deepstreamdesign.com site, a quick look over so that the information below has some context. You may notice that at this point I have only designed rectilinear forms.

Ultimately, to create planters with the large surface area and aesthetics that I was looking for, along with an unlimited variety of dimensions and materials, I had to create two different planter systems:  The Mariner Planter for the special challenges of wood and the Audubon Planter that allows planters to be constructed using any other material suitable for outdoor use. Both designs rely on the science and engineering of DeepStream’s “Liner within a Planter” concept for the ultimate health of the plantings, while providing the lowest life-cycle cost for the planters.

Mariner Planters

Designed exclusively to overcome the challenges of constructing wood planters that will last decades while showcasing my favorite material. This is a modular system that allows the wood to expand and contract within the slot of a heavyweight marine anodized aluminum leg without destroying the structural integrity of the planter box. The planking is free to expand, but held at the ends by the legs.

Mariner-rectangular-wood-planter

Mariner rectangular wood planter

Mariner-planter-aluminum-leg-detail

Mariner planter aluminum leg detail

Audubon Planters

DeepStream’s unique modular frame system that allows planters, or façade systems of any size, to be made from panels of any suitable material.

modern-rectangular-planter

modern rectangular planter

Modern Planter with 3Form Bear Grass UV filtered resin panels

modern-planter-aluminum-leg

modern planter aluminum leg

DeepStream’s unique frame system allows the use of any appropriate material

modern-square-slate-planter

modern square slate planter

modern-slate-planter-with-trellis

modern slate planter with trellis

modern copper planter detail

modern copper planter detail

Copper or any appropriate metal or laminate can be used.

Shared Design Features

In theory, only the length of available wood planks for Mariner planters and panel material for the Audubon planters would limit planter size; however, with intermediary legs, the size of either system can be expanded to infinity.

In practicality, the size of a single Mariner or Audubon planter box is limited to 72” in any one horizontal dimension. Dimensions over 72” require that a planter box become a facade that hides a planter liner, or a series of liners, which rest their weight on the building instead of being suspended by the planter box legs. Practical considerations include not only available wood plank lengths, or material sheet size and stiffness for the Audubon planter, but also available planter liner sizes and the combined weight of the soil and plantings.

DeepStream’s two-part “Liner within a Planter” design is not only a solution to solar gain and planter longevity, it is also a key component in drainage control while making watering easy, efficient, and attractive. Every liner can be fitted with an optional drainage system that uses a fitting placed through the liner wall about an inch-and-a-half above the bottom, a filter, a valve, and a hose that can be hooked up to a variety of drainage systems.

Rugged Waterproof Liner and Wood Planter Box

Rugged Waterproof Liner and Wood Planter Box

liner drain attachments

liner drain attachments

The threaded drain, fitted to the wall of the planter liner, is more protected from blockage common for bottom-mounted drains.  Although seldom required the drain can be fitted with a valve to provides space for water to accumulate in dry periods to reduce water use and promote plant health. It is a water storage space that can be increased by closing the valve during dry seasons or periods of watering restrictions. The valve allows the drain to be opened during heavy rains to prevent dirty water overflowing from the top of the planter. During heavy rains, the rain will wash away filtered water even without a drainage system hooked into the building’s storm drain system.

Rugged Waterproof Liners constructed from High-Impact Polystyrene and Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE) are a key component to DeepStream’s planter design. The separate planter liner is a critical design component, providing a thermal break between the planter box, which absorbs solar gain, and the roots, thus ensuring that the soil is never warmer than the ambient air temperature.This design feature is crucial for plant health on rooftops and southern exposures and cannot be overemphasized.

rugged waterproof garden planter liners: click for info

rugged waterproof garden planter liners: click for info

The liner rests on an aluminum frame attached to the aluminum legs,  this keeps the edge of the planter hidden, allows air to circulate, and no leaves or dirty water collects.  Drip irrigation lines can be attached to the frame keeping it out of sight and run up to the planter hidden between the liner and the exterior planter box.

planter liner marine aluminum frame

planter liner marine aluminum frame

The separate waterproof liner also is the key to preventing contact between wet soil, wood, and metal. This design feature ensures greater durability of all materials, thus providing the longest product life, the lowest possible lifecycle cost, and the lowest impact on the environment.

DeepStream’s two-part “Liner within a Planter” design is also a key component in drainage control while making watering easy, efficient, and attractive. Every liner can be fitted with an optional drainage system that uses a fitting placed through the liner wall about an inch-and-a-half above the bottom, a filter, a valve, and a hose that can be hooked up to a variety of drainage systems.

Rugged Waterproof Liner and Wood Planter Box

Rugged Waterproof Liner and Wood Planter Box

liner drain attachments

liner drain attachments

The drain, fitted to the wall of the planter liner, is more protected from blockage common for bottom-mounted drains.It also provides space for water to accumulate in dry periods to reduce water use and promote plant health. It is a water storage space that can be increased by closing the valve during dry seasons or periods of watering restrictions. The valve allows the drain to be opened during heavy rains to prevent dirty water overflowing from the top of the planter.During heavy rains, the rain will wash away filtered water even without a drainage system hooked into the building’s storm drain system.

Reservoir planters may be mandated by existing building design in some public areas due to complexities of providing a water source. However drip irrigation, with a timer and rain sensor, along with DeepStream’s drainage control system, which eliminates drowning the deeper-rooted plants, has proven to be the best way to water plants on our building.

large range of plastic reservoir planter liners

large range of plastic reservoir planter liners

Drip irrigation provides a natural top-down watering of the soil using a combination of drip emitters, spray heads, and misters that are best for simple and complex plantings with roots systems at different soil depths. Drip irrigation systems can be run off a low pressure “rain barrel” or the building’s high-pressure water system. Unlike single wall planters or pots, DeepStream’s two-part “Liner within a Planter” design hides drip irrigation lines that must run visibly up the outside of single wall planters or pots.

Materials:

Durability, modular design with replaceable parts, low lifecycle costs, and minimizing impact on the environment all go hand in hand. To ensure that planters are durable enough to last for decades DeepStream manufactures its wood planters using recyclable marine-grade anodized aluminum and stainless steel fasteners assembled with a special dielectric paste to prevent electrolysis between the dissimilar metals. Aluminum is the world most abundant mineral and it also uses the least amount of energy to be recycled.

The feet on DeepStream’s planters keep the wood from the wet deck, preventing rot induced by wood resting in standing water. They are made from HDPE, a recyclable marine plastic that will not scratch decks and will not absorb water. Our planter liners, constructed from High-Impact Polystyrene and Low Density Polyethylene, are recycled and recyclable.

Tropical hardwoods have been used for centuries in shipbuilding, dock, boardwalks, railroad ties and other extreme outdoor uses because their oil content makes them insect- and rot-resistant.Even so, these tropical hardwoods are not rot-proof and they can warp, twist, check and split, which to my mind adds character that is missing in today’s mass products. Our system will minimize all these aspects and contains the wood planks in a structural package for decades. If a plank should need replacing, the modular design means any plank or part of the planter can be replaced.

All of our wood is purchased here in the US so that it meets all environmental import source standards. Additionally, for every planter DeepStream sells, regardless of the construction materials, we plants 50 trees in Brazil.This is done in the name of the customer through a donation to  Trees for the Future

Recycled Plastic Lumber (RPL)  In keeping with our mantra “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” DeepStream has been offering Commercial Planters & Recyclers built with HDPE planks made from recycled milk jugs.  We stock 5 colors of this Green material and it is growing into a major part of our business due to it s low maintenance and the 50 year warranty by its manufacturer.  Unlike wood RPL is non-structural and DeepStream has pioneered special construction methods to ensure that structural integrity of large planters is maintained.

large planter for trees: Click for more info

large planter for trees: Click for more info

large rectangular recycled plastic lumber planters

large rectangular recycled plastic lumber planters

Almost any other materials can be used in the Audubon Planter system and each has its own characteristics, longevity curves and environmental impact.For instance, there are fantastic looks in new UV-resistant resins from 3Form and Reynolds Polymer, just to name a few, that use natural material in the design and can be recycled. The primary laminate backing material for translucent resins is recycled and recyclable expanded PVC.

modern marble planter

modern marble planter

Tried and true marble or stone of any type, which can last for centuries, is given a new twist when we laminate it to ultra-stiff lightweight honeycomb aircraft aluminum panels so that a 42” planter box is lighter than wood, weighing in at about 52 pounds instead of hundreds of pounds. This allows marble planters, even with 18” of soil, to be used on a balcony or roof project. Even our largest 72” Mariner wood planter weighs only 112 pounds with a 16-pound liner. All of our planters can be shipped assembled and still go up an elevator or stairway easily, or they can be shipped flat and assembled in about 20 minutes with a Phillips head screwdriver.

Stability in high winds is a function of form, height and leverage.In high-wind situations, a square planter has better stability than a rectangular one, and a low planter has better stability than a high one. Of course, a low bush is going to impart less leverage than a tall thick clump of bamboo, while a high palm may allow the wind to just blow through.

Planter Dimension Considerations, although we often get requests for high planters our standard leg heights are 21″, 31″, and 42″ plus a 1/2″ for the foot. This height allows for the standard height of the liner to accommodate 16-17” of soil, plenty for most plantings, while keeping the center of mass low. Aesthetically, it also allows the plant to be the focus of attention, instead of creating a wall of top-heavy looking planters. Lower heights also keeps costs down. If the intention in adding height is to screen a large space, our modular design includes a trellis accessory that combines rugged aluminum uprights and rustproof stainless steel mesh that will stand up to hurricane force winds, yet is not top-heavy.

Here in Florida, it is not possible to bring all the planters in off our large roof deck when a hurricane approaches. We have clips that can be mounted to the fasteners that hold the feet in the legs thus allowing the planter to be bolted to the deck. Many people, however, want to have the ability to move them about, or have rules or conditions that do not allow them to be bolted down so in extreme winds they may be blown over.

Because of these hurricane conditions, I have designed the planter liner to rest on aluminum straps suspended within the planter box. These not only ensure there is no funky accumulation of dirt or water to soil the deck under a planter, but if a planter should blow over and the planter liner blow out, the planter will not sail off the roof as it would if it had a solid bottom.

Call Sheila at DeepStream Designs, 305-857-0466 for a 32 Point Checklist to ensure that your project is successful and help you solve any technical issues your project may encounter ahead of time.

Additional Resources:

Books

Roof Gardens: History, Design, and Construction
Theodore Osmundson (FASLA)
W.W. Norton & Company, 1999.
“A wonderful resource for large green roofs in general and waterproofing, with a table of information about weights of materials (p. 296).”

Magazines

Fantastic sources of professional landscaping resources:Landscape Architect and Specifier News (www.landscapeonline.com)

Landscape Architecture (magazine of the American Society of Landscape Architects – https://www.asla.org/

Garden Design (www.gardendesign.com)

Drainage

DeepStream Designs Drain Pads with Biobarrier root protection

Variflow Technologies, Inc. (www.Varicore.com) Multi-Flow professional drainage systems with very good information on drainage and preventing blockage using coarse grain sand. Their products are great for large drainage areas.

High-quality GFRC concrete planters

High-quality FRP fiberglass planters

High-quality aluminium planters

Drip Works Irrigation

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Planter Drainage modern solutions

Planter Drainage: water in, water out.  Simple, right? However more plants die from lack of planter drainage than underwatering and it’s an expensive, time-consuming, waste of time to deal with poorly draining planters that ultimately have to be dug up and remedied.

Planter drainage is often the weakest link in the delicate balance of nature required to maintain planters and container gardens. This article on planter drainage will present the simple physics, costs, and benefits of advanced drainage system alternatives you should know before installing plants in planters.

For those of you who have not had the benefit of  walking the trade show floor at a Landscape Architect conference, or who did so without this aspect in mind, I will introduce a “high-tech alternatives” that I am incorporating as options into planters I design for DeepStream Designs.  Click: for printed instructions on drainage.

Planter drainage is critical to healthy plants

DeepStream: modern planter drainage critical to plant health

As a Developer and Property Manager who has had to deal with planter drainage problems in large built-in concrete planters, and properties with lots of medium-sized stand-alone planters, I can tell you personally it is an expensive, time-consuming, and demoralizing task to deal with poorly draining planters that ultimately have to be dug up and remedied.

As prevalent a role as solar gain-induced thermal shock to root systems plays in stunting or killing container-grown plants, the lack of efficient planter drainage is a far more common reason for failure, at least in rainy climates.   Water-soaked roots from a lack of proper planter drainage can kill a plant in less than 24 hours, whereas baking and steaming roots in a single-wall planter or pot can take weeks, or even months, before the plant finally succumbs.

Here in Florida, storms can dump 6″ of rain in just a few hours, so it is easy to overwhelm a poor planter drainage system, and you can literally see containers overflow the top.  However, long periods of drizzle and gray sky, conditions found on the west coast, combine low evaporation with soaking soil which also subtly builds up fatal water levels in containers without an effective drainage system.

The primary reason for water build up is a malfunctioning watering system, combined with a drain clogged by dirt or roots, NOT too small a drain.  Given that a planter filled with nothing but water 6″ deep will drain at the rate of about a cubic foot per minute through a 3/4″ opening, no amount of rain alone will overwhelm a properly functioning planter drain.  Single-point drains of this size are convenient to use for inconspicuous controlled planter drainage systems on balconies, rooftops, and courtyard patios.  The key to making this work over the long-term is technology and design.

waterproof roto-molded plastic planter liners with modern planter drainage

DeepStream’s commercial liners incorporate modern planter drainage, a key factor in growing healthy plants

Proper planter drainage is the element that the container industry is least likely to talk about, because it is relatively complex and is not readily “packaged” for sale.  Making potential customers of larger pots and containers aware of drainage issues is seen as a negative sell, so it is brushed off with instructions to “Drill a couple of more holes in your pots.”   This is an area in which I believe DeepStream can bring great added-value to its customers.

With that said, the advice to drill more holes falls into the “Just because they said it doesn’t make it not true” department.  It is, in fact, the most cost-effective approach for smaller, easily re-potted plantings that you can lift out, in pots which slope evenly outward as the pot wall moves towards the top.  This simple classic form facilitates the removal of the plant to clean out blocked drainage holes without damaging either the pot or the plant.  Essentially, you are pre-planning for blockage by increasing the size of drains that will be clogged.

When considering drainage for larger planters, and which planter forms to purchase, the first step is drain location:  Realize:  YOU WILL HAVE TO DIG UP YOUR PLANTERS SOMETIME! 

Yes, that’s the dirty secret.  It is inevitable.  The question is: how long can you go between major events.  Does 10 to 15 years sound good?  Then  read on.  Even though drainage issues can often be fixed with the plants in place if the planter liner is properly designed, as DeepStream’s are, it is much more convenient to avoid them, and less costly over the long run as well.

If you have read the Blog article on Planter Design, or looked in-depth at the DeepStream Designs’ website planter section, you may remember that the reason I ended up designing free-standing planters was to avoid the structural problems associated with built-in planters:  waterproofed planters built into buildings with poured concrete will at some point succumb to settlement cracks,  as well as drainage issues.  Even the best sprayed, rolled, or troweled-on concrete liner systems I have seen will leak at some point in time, and digging in them doesn’t help.

So if you have plans for specimen plants, or are planting trees that will grow too large for workers to lift by hand, make sure you have crane access to lift the trees, or some way to get fork lifts or other types of equipment like tripods in to lift the plants out of the planter for repairs, or to bring in new ones should major plants die.  Avoid building or buying planters or liners with drains in the bottom where you will have to remove large plants to get at them.  Install a vertical 2″ PVC pipe up to the final soil level, with a removable top to keep soil out, before filling the planter with soil so that you can pump water out in an emergency before the plants drown.

When considering free-standing planters, and larger planter liners hidden behind a decorative facade, keep them small enough to work on.  Break the planted area up using multiple overlapped liners, rather than one big liner with one point of failure and lots of plants to remove to find the problem, or to die in the event of a catastrophe.  It is not just the cost of the plants to consider, but also the considerable disruption and effort to find and remedy the problem.  There is also the mess to clean up, and the potential for cosmetic damage to the building by workers during the process.

The second step in drainage is starting with the right soil mixture, both for the plant as well as for the building weight limits, as we often find on rooftop and balcony projects.  You are looking for soils that will hold nutrients, PH, and moisture within fairly specific ranges that best suit what is being planted, while at the lowest possible weight.  Very seldom is “dirt” just dumped into a container.  This soil selection process, done right, eliminates much of the problem caused by “fines”, the small clay-like particles that block filter membranes.

The third consideration is filtration and root blockage.   A planter is really just a shaped French drain.  Small particles of clay (fines) are carried by the gravity-induced water flow downward towards the drain.  Unfiltered, these fines will block any filter membrane in a remarkably short time.  The standard way to create a rough filter well area is to fill the bottom of a planter or pot with a few inches of gravel over a bottom drain.  One of the key design factors of the DeepStream planters is that it uses a liner, within a decorative facade, that not only prevents solar gain, but also hides drip irrigation lines and the drain.  This is important in aiding filtration because the drain does not need to be limited to the bottom of a pot.

DeepStream’s liners locate the standard 1/2″ drain a couple of inches up the sidewall creating a “well” below the drain.  Fines tend to settle down into this “well”, as water flowing towards the sidewall drain tends to be very slow under most circumstances, so most fines gradually work their way to the bottom.  The well also acts as a small water reservoir for the larger roots.

DeepStream’s standard drainage system includes a 4″ by 6″ drain board (think of a thin, uncrushable egg crate covered with geo-textile covering) to increase the drainage surface area.  The drain board comes hot-glued over the drain.  When adding the plants to the planter, be sure not to compress this drainboard against the side of the planter wall with a force or a hard root ball, or it will act as a perfect seal against the drain and stop all water flow.  Additionally, there is a roughly 2 sq ft piece of weed block fabric to be folded over and placed over the drain board as further protection against penetration by roots.

DeepStream commercial grade recycled plastic liners, drainage board, weed block, and Bio-Barrier combine to create a modern solution to planter drainage problems

DeepStream commercial grade recycled plastic liners, drainage board, weed block, and Bio-Barrier combine to create a modern solution to planter drainage problems

DeepStream Designs commercial grade recycled plastic liners with drain well and threaded outlet, solve planter drainage problems before they start

DeepStream Designs commercial grade recycled plastic liners with drain well and threaded outlet, solve planter drainage problems before they start

Weed Block, as geo-textile is often marketed,  is a misnomer.  The “30-year commercial landscaper” variety you see at the large home centers will have roots growing through it in less than 2 years.  That said, it still helps delay the inevitable, and DeepStream still provides it with the standard drainage kit.

It is highly recommended that the geo-textile fabric is kept in place by the very important filter of at least a 2″ thick covering of very clean, very coarse sand of between 1 and 2 mm particle size.  For reference, the wire of a medium paper clip is 1 mm.  While very coarse sand is hard to find, it is the best filter, although it does nothing to block root penetration.  Masonry or playground sand is too fine and will compact and prevent drainage; pea gravel lets too many fines through, and they will block the filter fabric.

One good and available material, though not perfect, is Paver Base found at Home Depot.  Most of the grains are large enough, but it still has a lot of fines in it.  The well in DeepStream’s commercial grade planters is plenty deep to handle this without clogging the drain.

While not ideal, paver base is available nationwide at a large home store and is a reasonable planter drainage material to slow the water flow given that DeepStream Designs planter liners have a sump below the drain to catch the "fines"

While not ideal, paver base is available nationwide at a large home store and is a reasonable planter drainage material to slow the water flow given that DeepStream Designs planter liners have a sump below the drain to catch the “fines”

Technology Enhanced Filtration:  Two Steps

The most important aspect of new drainage technology is in preventing root blockage.  DeepStream now offers an optional  root control fabric, BioBarrier (TM) with a plastic-embedded non-systemic herbicide, with a lower toxicity than table salt or aspirin, that creates a 2″ thick root deflection zone around the drainage material by preventing root cell tip division.  The product, guaranteed effective for 15 years, has been used as a weed control system for more than 35 years in agriculture to prevent weed growth between row crops.  Now, with proper filtration, one should be able to go 15 years without digging up a planter, usually a job performed every 2-3 years in heavy rainfall areas.

Giant sports stadiums and golf courses, with millions of dollars at stake if drainage failsm use high-tech crush-proof mats of plastic tubing covered with geo-textile to ensure a large drainage area and directed water flow to prevent damage to grass and delays in play caused by flooding.  DeepStream now offers this same advantage in its single-point directed flow system uniquely adapted for balconies, roof gardens, interior courtyards and other areas where drainage control is required.   This is lighter, more effective, and allows for deeper planter medium than less effective gravel systems.

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Planting Mix vs Dirt

DeepStream Designs knows from projects with Landscape Architects across the country how important using the appropriate planting mix is when growing perennials, trees, and bushes. Replanting these heavy items with complex root systems will be problematic.  Getting it right the first time is well worth the effort.

Often clients use their “Landscaping Contractor” for this work. This may be a good solution if the contractor has extensive experience with container gardening and knows the value of selecting the correct planting mix. Otherwise it could be a mistake.

Why?  Many Landscapers are not familiar with using a planting mix as they are usually planting in the earth. By using “dirt” or “soil” it may make the planter too heavy for the load on a roof or balcony.

Dirt, or an improper planter mix, will prevent drainage if it contain clay fines that can block drains, may hold too little or too much moisture. Additionally, dirt might not contain the correct PH and initial nutrients for the plants that you’re going to use.

Garden Planters: using the correct planting mix allow your plants to thrive

Garden Planters: using the correct planting mix allow your plants to thrive

There is no universally correct planting mix, as area microclimates must be taken into consideration.  Selecting a planter mix requires an intimate local knowledge of the complex relationship between all the competing factors for beneficial plant growth and maintenance.  Therefore, it is essential to ensure that you have a reliable source for your planting mix.

We have posted a blog on the long-term cost benefits of using a Landscape Architect for even small commercial projects but you still need to ensure they have container gardening experience.  Another reliable source may be the nursery where you are sourcing the plants.

Whatever you do, don’t assume that your Landscaper or other source has the knowledge necessary to provide the planting mix.  Before starting, ask about their experience with container gardening and what mix they propose to use.  Vague or generic answers should be your clue that you need to investigate further before proceeding.

By all means, make certain that whoever does the planting follows DeepStream’s instructions regarding planter drainage using drain pads and filter material.  Many “old timers” fall back on gravel and holes in the bottom which will soon clog.

Remember that most of DeepStream’s stock planter liners come with just one threaded drain hole. This is only the minimum, since some installations are inside and require the hole to be plugged or drain pipes attached.   One hole means one point of failure with no backup.

DeepStream will drill additional drain holes required by your installation at no charge.  Tell us where you want additional drains installed, and we will do it before shipping.  You may also add them in the field with a hole saw.  Deepstream can supply screw together flange fitting to add straight or 90 degree hose barbs to new holes you add.

Posted in condo living, container gardening, garden planters, Gardening, Green Roofs, Issues & Solutions, planters | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Environmental Stewardship

Sea levels continue to rise faster than predicted just a few years ago making environmental stewardship important to coastal communities. DeepStream Designs has created a full range of sustainably designed garden plantersgreen wall grids, and hanging planters to make it easier.

Planters help reduce global warming by providing more environments for plants to absorb carbon and release oxygen while reducing both water usage and the solar gain that heats building walls, roofs, and surrounding pavement.

Plants significantly reduce the energy needed to cool buildings. This is a virtuous cycle of environmental stewardship that reduces the fossil fuels used in electricity generation used to provide artificial cooling to the same buildings.

Environmental Stewardship can be as low tech as container grown plants cool to roof decks and balconies

Environmental Stewardship can be as low tech as container grown plants cool to roof decks and balconies

According to the American Institute of Architects (AIA), buildings are the leading source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. According to estimates in the AIA’s Architects and Climate Change report, buildings represent 48 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, with transportation and industry representing 27 percent and 25 percent respectively.

Environmental Stewardship can be as low tech as railing mounted planter box on parking garage walls

Environmental Stewardship can be as low tech as railing mounted planter box on parking garage walls

Science deniers argue global change is normal state, that there is no proof of human impact on climate change, it is just a normal process humans have no impact on.

Climate change may have normal cycles, but there is nothing historically normal about the human population explosion and the impact that their energy consumption and pollution has on the earth’s bio systems.  Many independent thinking people believe that the individual CAN make a difference.  However, working in conjunction with Architects we could do a lot more.

Not only do high concentrations of people in mega-buildings concentrate greenhouse gas, but building these high-density buildings also increases the surface area on, if not of, the earth that can absorb heat.  It is not just office towers; residential condo towers are creating increasingly dense urban and coastal areas that contribute to the formation of “heat islands” and global warming by adding heat-retaining surface area.   Any city resident knows that it is often 10 degrees warmer in the city than the suburbs or rural areas around them.

Environmental Stewardship can be as low tech as growing living green walls to cool entire buildings

Environmental Stewardship can be as low tech as growing living green walls to cool entire buildings

 

The Green Roof movement is great, but the ratio of wall to roof area is much greater on high-rise buildings.  If Architects designed balconies with drainage and water spigots built into their clients’ high-rise buildings, it would allow residents and offices to help offset their impact to a far greater degree both in terms of cooling and exchanging oxygen for carbon and absorbing other pollutants.

 

Successful landscaping and gardening on balconies and rooftops, especially of condo towers, has many challenges that residents with terrestrial gardens in homes don’t share, especially if the building Architect is not on the same page.  Balcony and rooftop gardening, however, can help offset the greenhouse gas emissions and despite the difficulties in cooling these heat islands. Environmental stewardship is a worthy endeavor within the grasp of individuals using low tech, renewable resources.

Posted in Environmental Stewardship, garden planters, Gardening, Green Movement, Green Roofs, Issues & Solutions, sustainable design | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Garden Planters for Privacy

Garden planters for privacy on rooftops and balconies can also hide unsightly objects and provide a windbreak.

DeepStream, your planter expert, sells Garden Planters for Privacy factory direct and back them with a Lifetime-Structural-Warranty.  DeepStream’s trademark proprietary marine anodized aluminum extrusions accept wood planks, aluminum slats, plastic panel, or even glass and set up quickly.

DeepStream custom garden planters for privacy can be made with high backs out of wood, aluminum slats, 3Form© resin panel, or even glass to provide privacy or to act as a windbreak on windy rooftops and balconies.

DeepStream custom garden planters for privacy can be made with high backs out of wood, aluminum slats, 3Form© resin panel, or even glass to provide privacy or to act as a windbreak on windy rooftops and balconies.

Using DeepStream’s large wood garden planter for privacy screen, and matching wood trash bins, these owners have made a cozy Manhattan rooftop patio that will endure for decades.

Using DeepStream's large wood garden planters for privacy, and matching wood trash bins, these owners have made a cozy Manhattan rooftop patio that will endure for decades.

Using DeepStream’s large wood garden planters for privacy, and matching wood trash bins, these owners have made a cozy Manhattan rooftop patio that will endure for decades.

The wood planter boxes are protected by the rugged waterproof plastic liner which keeps the soil from contacting the wood.  Drip irrigation lines can be hidden between the liner and the planter box.

Long runs of planters are easy and cost effective to erect even on urban rooftops.  Modular design allows each section to be set up in 10-15 minutes, all you need is a Phillips screwdriver and a 7/16″ wrench.  All parts are replaceable at direct factory cost should a part ever be damage.

Large Garden Planters with rugged waterproof plastic liner

Large Garden Planters with rugged waterproof plastic liner

Because the planters are pre-assembled using an inner frame and legs of marine anodized aluminum there is no messy installation as with carpenter built wood planters and less materials have to be moved to your roof or balcony.

The modular design also mean that you can use the elevator or even stairs to move your plantes to the roof, not cranes.

Using DeepStream's large wood garden planters with privacy screen, and matching wood trash bins, these owners have made a cozy Manhattan rooftop patio that will endure for decades.

Using DeepStream’s large wood garden planters with privacy screen, and matching wood trash bins, these owners have made a cozy Manhattan rooftop patio that will endure for decades.

Condo owners with a balcony can also use planters for privacy by anchoring a full screen wall.

DeepStream planter for privacy on balcony

DeepStream planter for privacy on balcony

Posted in condo living, container gardening, fiberglass planters, garden planters, Gardening, Green Movement, Green Roofs, Issues & Solutions, large planters, planters, rectangular planters, Restaurant Patio, Sidewalk Cafe, site amenities, wood planters | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Modern Fiberglass Planters

Modern Fiberglass Planters offer a variety of modern designs and are a cost effective medium term solution for Garden Planters.

As a national distributor of Tournesol Siteworks products for the past 15 years we have had a very good experience with their entire modern fiberglass garden planter line. Tournesol has an extensive product line of very high-quality commercial planters that have been used by Landscape Architects and commercial landscapers for more than 30 years and back their FRP Fiberglass Planters with a 3 year warranty.

Modern Fiberglass Garden Planter Urban-Tall

Landscape Architect quality Fiberglass planters distributed by DeepStream

DeepStream’s own wood and recycled plastic lumber planters are created using the principles of sustainable design which give excellent value for money, and with a Lifetime-Structural-Warranty, reduce the overall effort and time that goes into bringing vibrant gardens to barren urban spaces in need of their beneficial cooling and air quality enhancing properties.  

Fiberglass Garden Planter-Wilshire

Landscape Architect quality Fiberglass planters distributed by DeepStream

However if you need more options in terms of form and style, three of the best alternatives to wooden garden planters are fiberglass planters (fiberglass reinforced plastic FRP), glass-fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC), and Aluminum. However, products manufactured with these materials run the scale from virtually worthless to the quality that Landscape Architects specify for signature projects.  

There are a lot of considerations that go into choosing the right planter for a particular location including: form, root ball heating, and drainage, as well as the inherent limitations of materials and construction methods.  You will find a detailed discussion of the issues with a lot of supporting pictures in my earlier blog entry, Garden Planter Selection, so I’ll not repeat them here.  

Fiberglass is an excellent lightweight material with which to create interesting modern planter forms.  Fiberglass planters that have the outer gelcoat infused with metal, which oxidizes over time, have long been a favorite of mine for their understated elegance.  You will find a myriad of forms and sizes available on the DeepStream website, and while there are four metal finishes, my favorites are the copper and bronze.

Large Modern Fiberglass Planter

Landscape Architect quality fiberglass garden distributed by DeepStream

The Fiberglass planters we distribute are manufactured by Tournesol with expensive polyester-based fiberglass like we use in yacht construction, where the hull has constant exposure to water. This Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic, FRP, is fiberglass sprayed into molds that have been prepared with gel-coat.

Modern round fiberglass garden planter-Aquarian

Landscape Architect quality fiberglass garden distributed by DeepStream

Fiberglass is a lightweight, strong material made up of layers of polyester resin alternated with woven fiberglass mat.  The strength and durability of fiberglass depend upon the number of layers of resin and mat, and the weight of the mat. Because these planters are designed to withstand being outdoors, Tournesol typically uses the heaviest mat available and applies at least one layer more than most other fiberglass manufacturers.  To ensure the longevity of the planters, they are waterproofed with an additional layer of black gelcoat resin inside.

Here are large rectangular commercial grade moveable Modern Fiberglass Planters provided by DeepStream Designs to the restaurant operator at New York City Rockefeller Center.  They rest on caster bases so that they may be rearranged to meet the operators changing needs and so that they may be rolled away to storage to change the area back into the famous skating rink for the winter. 

large movable fiberglass planters on casters

Rockefeller Center: large movable fiberglass planters on casters provided by DeepStream Design

large movable fiberglass planters on casters

Rockefeller Center: large movable fiberglass planters on casters provided by DeepStream Design

large movable fiberglass planters on casters

Rockefeller Center: large movable fiberglass planters on casters provided by DeepStream Design

 large movable fiberglass planters on casters

Rockefeller Center: large movable fiberglass planters on casters provided by DeepStream Design

large movable fiberglass planters on casters

Rockefeller Center: large movable fiberglass planters on casters provided by DeepStream Design

Posted in condo living, container gardening, Environmental Stewardship, fiberglass planters, garden planters, Gardening, Green Roofs, Issues & Solutions, large planters, planters, rectangular planters, Restaurant Patio, site amenities, square planters, sustainable design | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Sustainable Garden Planter Design: Adaptability

A key component of sustainable garden planter design is adaptability: good design allows for the replacement, or reworking, of components to preserve the value and materials of an earlier design when a situation requires it.  Even if that situation arises early in the life cycle of a design.

Nowhere is the need for the design adaptability aspect of sustainable garden planter design more apparent than when an error has been made on large complex projects. Simple miscalculation between initial measurements and “as-built” dimension means that components ordered months earlier in a project do not fit when finally installed.

You can see in the example of sustainable garden planter design adaptability below, exactly how DeepStream’s modular planter design allowed us to cut down the lengths of planks in the middle section of a multi-section planter to accommodate an unrecorded change in dimensions at very little cost in dollars, labor, or materials.

While the wood will take a week or so to fade to the match the color or the original wood, the same design feature allows for replacement of parts, or further adaptation, for the decades long life of the planter.

sustainable garden planter design modular rectangular wood planters

Ooops! Sustainable Garden Planter Design allows for low cost corrections

Was it an error on the plans or an installation variance?  It won’t matter who was to blame when the adaptability of DeepStreams sustainable garden planter design makes it quick and easy to make even major changes.  DeepStream is American craftsmen hand building custom planters that reduce your stress and allow for a successful project to come in on budget and on time.

sustainable garden planter design modular rectangular wood planters

Sustainable Garden Planter Design                                         modular rectangular wood planters joined by a new infill section

 

As an experienced condo developer and GC, we designed our products to make it easy for you to specify our sustainable garden planter designs.  Just call Sheila at (305) 857-0466 and enjoy a successful stress free out of your garden planter, screen wall, or custom fixtures.  As the hands-on president of Deepstream, with thousands of product installations, Sheila and her team are a vast wealth of current industry knowledge and resources.

 

Sustainable Garden Planter Design waterproof plastic planter liner inside wooden planter box

Sustainable Garden Planter Design                                    rugged waterproof liner inside wooden planter box

All of DeepStream’s sustainable garden planter designs use a rugged waterproof plastic liner inside of the planter box, resting on marine anodized aluminum frames and legs, to ensure that planters last for decades.  There is no paint or powder coating to fail.

Unlike carpenter built planters DeepStream planters  carry a Lifetime Structural Warranty and all parts are replaceable and available at factory cost under DeepStream’s unique “Core Replacement Program”.

This type of liner inside of a wooden planter box, sustainable garden planter design also prevents solar gain from overheating the planter root ball which affects any single wall planter or pot. This design also creates a space to run drip irrigation lines and directed drainage.

planter solar gain

measuring solar gain on the exterior of a planter

To find out more about how the principal of Sustainable Garden Planter Design can work to make your project stress-free and successful go to www.DeepStreamDesign.com

 

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Selecting Planter Liners

Selecting planter liners with the features your project requires will save you time, money, and effort.

The first consideration when selecting planter liners is the shape of the planter and drain placement

  1.  Selecting planter liners with a tapered shape makes for easy repotting and saves money shipping.
  2.  Rugged commercial grade 3/16″ walls from UV-stable, 100% pre-consumer recycled low-density polyethylene will last decades and unburden landfills.
  3.  Side wall, not bottom drain, aids drainage and is threaded for proper drainage and drainage systems accessories required by some locations.
  4.  There is a water reservoir below the drain for the tap root while providing a place for “fines” or clay to settle to prevent drain blockage.
  5. When selecting a planter liner the depth should be determined by the requirement of the plants you have selected.
Selecting planter liners

Container Gardening: commercial grade garden planter liners

The second consideration after selecting planter liners   is starting with the right soil mixture

  1. You want your container to drain well and be moist but not hold water, do not use “dirt” and any material with clay which will block drains.  Perlite is a good light weight additive as is very coarse sand if you need weight to prevent toppling in high winds but not fine “beach” or “mortar” sand.  Remember many plants have specific soil PH needs.

The third consideration is filtration and root blockage

  1. Geo-textile fabric and drain board to provide filtration and space over drain.
  2.  BioBarrier (TM) with a plastic-embedded non-systemic herbicide, with a lower toxicity than table salt or aspirin, that creates a 2″ thick root deflection zone around the drainage material by preventing root cell tip division. The product, guaranteed effective for 15 years, has been used as a weed control system for more than 35 years in agriculture to prevent weed growth between row crops.  Drainage pads place it over the drain hole.
  3.  To prevent clogging you need to slow the water so that the fines in the planting medium settle to the bottom and not onto the filter medium. When selecting planter liners pick one with sidewall drainage, not on the bottom. This is an integral part of the drainage system as it allows the “fines” to settle to the bottom below the sidewall drain. Traditional pea gravel is too large and the water will flow rapidly to the drain and clog it with fines.  Fine sand will flow too slow and form an impenetrable layer clogging with fines.

It is best to use a 2 to 4 inch thick covering of very clean, very coarse sand of between 1 and 2 mm particle size mounded over the drain filter.   For reference, the wire of a medium paper clip is 1 mm.

“Paver Base” is an acceptable readily available alternative from most large home improvement stores and will work in our planter liners with a side drain as the well below it provides a place for fines to settle.  Rubber mulch may also work.

Container Gardening Video: selecting a garden planter liner

Container Gardening Video: preparing and planting a garden planter liner

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Choosing a garden planter

There are several issues to consider when choosing a garden planter.  An early choice will be the aesthetics of the planter and how you wish it to function.

In some difficult situations such as high winds where stability is paramount, or south and west facing locations with intense sun where there needs to be a air gap between the planter surface and the planter liner to keep the root ball from overheating, you will have less options when choosing a garden planter.

Choosing a garden planter Large Wood Sidewalk Cafe Planter

Choosing a garden planter Large Wood Sidewalk Cafe Planter

You also need to determine the types of plants you want and what their soil, drainage and watering requirements are. Local Landscape Architects, landscape maintenance companies, or your local nurseries can give you good advice.

 

Choosing a garden planter Large Rectangular Wood Restaurant Patio Planter with glass windbreak

Choosing a garden planter Large Rectangular Wood Restaurant Patio Planter with glass windbreak

Your choice of plants determines soil volume, sun and watering requirements, which directly influence the planter liner depth and width so that your plants grow well as they mature and will not require a lot of extra maintenance.

If you’re thinking of planters that require a waterproof inner liner, pick a planter with a stock molded liner size first, otherwise you may find yourself limited to more expensive custom-welded liners.

Another consideration will be the initial cost of the planter, as well as the lifetime cost of the planter in terms of maintenance, replacement, and plant health.

Choosing a garden planter Long Wood Planters for for a rooftop herb garden

Choosing a garden planter Long Wood Planters for for a rooftop herb garden

Follow this link to review the attributes of the various planter types, including wood, fiberglass, concrete, metal, ceramic and plastic: http://planterblog.com

Choosing a garden planter Large Square Recycled Plastic Wood Planters for Trees

Choosing a garden planter Large Square Recycled Plastic Wood Planters for Trees

Functional considerations for choosing a garden planter and plants, to name but a few, include:

  • What are the dimensions of the space you have for planter placement?
  • Do you need long planter runs or individual planters?
  • Will the planters be placed on the ground, or on a building level that has weight restrictions?
  • Will they be placed on a hard or soft surface?
  • Will they be in a sheltered or windy location? Stability is a function of form.
  • Will you be planting annuals or perennials?
  • What is the planting volume (liner size) required for the plants to thrive?
  • How will you water your plants, by hand or drip irrigation?
  • Drainage: what happens when they drain or overflow? If they are used outdoors, the size quantity and placement of drainage holes depend on heaviest rainfall amounts in your area, while if placed indoors you may require no drains or “directed” drainage.
  • Will the planters be located where they are easy to install and maintain, or will you be moving everything through lobbies and elevators where permission will be required and other residents inconvenienced by your installation and repeat installations should your planters need to be replaced in a few years?
  • Will you want to add accessories like a trellis, windbreak, or casters?
  • Are sustainability, replacement parts, and a Warranty important to you?
  • Delivery time
Choosing a garden planter Large Rectangular Wood Planter

Choosing a garden planter Large Rectangular Wood Planter

For assistance in choosing a garden planter, or answering these and any other questions you might have, feel free to call DeepStream at 305-857-0466 and we will walk you through our 32 point check list designed to save you time and money or go to www.DeepStreamDesign.com

Posted in condo living, container gardening, Environmental Stewardship, fiberglass planters, garden planters, GFRC concrete planters, Green Roofs, large planters, planters, rectangular planters, Restaurant Patio, Sidewalk Cafe, site amenities, square planters, sustainable design, wood planters | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

GFRC Concrete Planters

GFRC Concrete Planters,  fiberglass reinforced concrete, are a durable solution for streetscapes where additional weight is required.

GFRC Concrete Planters, at six to seven times heavier than fiberglass planters, are lighter than concrete planters with problematic steel rebar reinforcement and a lot more durable.

GFRC concrete garden planter

GFRC concrete garden planter distributed by DeepStream Design

GFRC Concrete Planters are created by adding long-strand glass fibers and woven mat to concrete. This strengthens the material, decreasing the required thickness. Fiberglass decreases the thickness by 60% (from typically 3” in cast concrete to 1” in GFRC Concrete) directly reducing the weight by the same amount.  

GFRC concrete garden planter

Landscape Architect quality GFRC concrete garden planter distributed by DeepStream Design

More importantly the fiberglass eliminates the steel rebar that eventually rusts and breaks the planter apart from inside through a process called spalling as the rusting metal expands as you can see by following this link: Planter Selection

GFRC concrete garden planter

GFRC concrete garden planter distributed by DeepStream Design

There are two primary reason to choose GFRC Concrete planters.  First, they are very strong, heavy, and rigid.  Second, they offer the aesthetic choice of the two different finishes – travertine and acid etched.  The travertine finish has a rustic, puckered appearance.  The acid etch has a consistent, fine sand texture.  All colors are integral to the material and will effectively hide chipping and scratching.

GFRC concrete garden planter

GFRC concrete garden planter distributed by DeepStream Design

As a high volume national distributor of Tournesol Siteworks products for the past 15 years DeepStream has had a very good experience with their entire modern GFRC Concrete Planter line. Tournesol has an extensive product line of commercial grade planters that Landscape Architects and landscapers have used for 30+ years. They back their GFRC Concrete Planters with a 3-year warranty.

Click the link below to see more information on GFRC Concrete Planters and place orders.  DeepStream Designs

Posted in Concrete Planters, condo living, container gardening, garden planters, Gardening, GFRC concrete planters, Green Roofs, large planters, planters, rectangular planters, Restaurant Patio, Sidewalk Cafe, site amenities | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment