Wooden Planter Design

DeepStream Planters will last decades while Carpenter built planter construction  will only last 3 to 5 years. 

DeepStream's Commercial Wood Planters have a hidden aluminum frame

DeepStream’s Planters are a 3-part engineered system modular assembly of replaceable parts which incorporates DeepStream’s trademark marine anodized aluminum legs, tropical hardwood or maintenance free recycled plastic lumber panels, and sturdy aircraft aluminum frame that supports a food safe, 100% recycled LLDPE waterproof liner.

Don’t confuse these planters with carpenter built planters that will fall apart in 3 to 5 years. Deep’Streams engineered system internal aluminum frame supporting the liner, with advanced drainage solutions, allows for a Lifetime Structural Warranty. The aluminum frame also allows you to add accessories like casters, screen wall, trellises, and more.

If you’re an owner or manager of a property where a wooden planter will be placed give serious consideration to planter construction techniques. Consider what it will mean in terms of cost and disruption to go back and replace or repair carpenter built planters, especially on rooftops and balconies, every 3 – 5 years.

Click to see more info on DeepStream's 3-component engineered commercial planter system with a hidden aluminum  frame supporting a waterproof liner from trademark marine anodized legs.
DeepStream’s 3-component engineered commercial planter system with a hidden aluminum frame supporting a waterproof liner from trademark marine anodized legs.

With DeepStream’s wooden planter design all parts are replaceable making maintenance, refinishing, and repairs quick and easy.

DeepStream-7 year old unmaintained pre-refinished planter in place with liner removed
DeepStream-7 year old unmaintained pre-refinished planter in place with liner removed
DeepStream 7 year old refinished planter back in place
DeepStream 7 year old refinished planter back in place after sanding off .014″ and applying Ipe Oil.

Even stainless steel fasteners are galvanically isolated by using a proprietary dielectric paste so that they may be removed easily years later to replace parts or refinish the planter easily. the before and after pictures of the 7 year old planter shown in pictures above only had the original coat of factory waterproofing and no maintenance.  The “fresh” look was achieved by sanding off just.014” of the 3/4″ thick planks exterior.

Why? Each plank of a wooden planter is cut from a different part of the tree ,or even different trees. This means each plank has its own differential rate of expansion, splitting, 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 and maintenance are far too costly for planter construction.

Tropical Hardwood properly maintained will last for decades in DeepStream's aluminum frame while recycled plastic lumber will be maintenance free
DeepStream Ipe planks after 7 years. Unmaintained on left. .014″ sanded off and and oiled on right

Wood on wood planter construction uses carpentry techniques that fasten wood to wood, and planters tear themselves apart with the expansive forces that wood exerts through repeated wet and dry cycles.

Problems with carpenter built wood planters
Problems with carpenter built wood planters

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. This is the same action at work on a carpenter built wood planter splinting seams apart.

Problems with carpenter built wood planters
Problems with carpenter built wood planters,

In addition, most wood planters lack adequate isolation from the soil and the deck or sidewalk, which promotes fresh water rot, water entering vertical planks creates cracks as you see above and below.

Problems with carpenter built wood planters
Problems with carpenter built wood planters
Problems with carpenter built wood planters
Problems with carpenter built wood planters, without proper liners the soil in contact with the wood creates rot.
Problems with carpenter built wood planters
Problems with carpenter built wood planters, rotting from the bottom up.

DeepStream uses proprietary marine anodized legs and stainless steel fasteners to clamp the wood and direct the expansionary forces up the channel so that the wood can expand and contract at different rates without affecting the planter’s structural integrity.

DeepStream Designs proprietary marine anodized extruded aluminum structural legs
DeepStream Design’s proprietary marine anodized extruded aluminum legs are engineered to support a hidden structural aluminum frame which supports the waterproof liner and HDPE feet to isolate the planter from contact with soil and the ground.

Unless directed to do so by a customer, DeepStream never uses paint or powder coating, which will fail in 3-5 years. If you order environmentally friendly maintenance free recycled plastic lumber they may be cleaned with a pressure washer.

7 year old Mariner leg

Virtually blemish free 7 year old proprietary marine anodized aluminum leg after simply wiping down with mineral spirits

Large Wooden Planter: comparing real wood to recycled plastic lumber. Click  to see more about recycled plastic lumber planters
Large Wooden Planter: comparing real wood to recycled plastic lumber

For even lower maintenance cost and greater longevity consider ordering DeepStream’s recycled plastic lumber planters and do your part to save the World’s tropical hardwood rain forests.

The commercial grade rigid plastic liners, mounted on an independent aluminum frame, contain the soil and prevent contact between the soil and the wood, preventing rot.

16 sizes of rugged waterproof stock planter liners and custom welded liners to any size: click the picture for more information
Lightweight wood planters need liners to prevent them from rotting. Here you see 16 stock sizes of rugged waterproof, food safe, plastic planter liners with advanced drainage Custom welded planter liners are available in any size.

The waterproof planter liner with advanced drainage is an important feature of DeepStream’s commercial planter system. Container grown bushes, small trees, and perennials require repotting from time to time and DeepStream’s liners tapered shape allow for easy replanting and conditioning in the spring.

Fiberglass Planters

Harlie Commercial Fiberglass Planters, designed by by Luxbox Design built by Tournesol.

Fiberglass Planters offer a variety of designs and are a cost-effective medium-term solution available in a large variety of shapes, sizes, and colors.

Click for a link to DeepStream's Desktop Website for more info on Fiberglass Urban-Tall Garden Planters
Landscape Architect-quality Fiberglass planters distributed by DeepStream

If you need a rugged planter to which you can attach accessories, then DeepStream’s own wood and recycled plastic lumber planters, created using the principles of sustainable design, may be a better solution than fiberglass planters.

More durable than other planters, but more limited in form, DeepStream’s commercial wood and aluminum planters deliver excellent value for money. With a Lifetime Structural Warranty, they 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.  

Click for a link to DeepStream's Desktop Website more info on Fiberglass Wilshire Garden Planters
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-reinforced Plastic (FRP), Glass-fiber-reinforced Concrete (GFRC), and Aluminum. It is important to understand that products manufactured with these materials run the scale from virtually worthless to the quality that Landscape Architects specify for signature projects.  

Village GFRC Planters in Aged Bronze
Round Village GFRC Planters, shown in Aged Bronze, are also available in square shapes.

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, Planter Selection, so I’ll not repeat them here.  

Fiberglass is an excellent lightweight material with which to create interesting modern planter forms and surfaces such as an outer gelcoat infused with metal, which oxidizes over time, a favorite of mine for its 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.

Craftsman FRP Planters with bronze metal-infused finish
Landscape Architect-quality FRP garden planters distributed by DeepStream

Tournesol planters distributed by DeepStream are made with expensive polyester-based fiberglass strands as used in yacht construction, but it is chopped and sprayed, not laid up in biaxial mats, where the hull has constant exposure to water. This Fiberglass-reinforced Plastic (FRP) is sprayed into molds that have been prepared with gel-coat.

Modern round fiberglass garden planter - Aquarian
Landscape Architect-quality fiberglass garden planter distributed by DeepStream

FRP is a lightweight, strong material made up of layers of polyester resin alternated with glass strand. The strength and durability of fiberglass depend upon the number of layers of resin and glass. To ensure the longevity of the planters, they are waterproofed with an additional layer of black gelcoat resin inside.

The large rectangular commercial-grade movable Fiberglass Planters in the photos below were supplied by DeepStream to the restaurant operator at New York’s Rockefeller Center.  The planters rest on caster bases so that they may be rearranged to meet the operators changing needs. At summer’s end, they are simply rolled away to storage to reopen the famous ice skating rink during the winter season. 

Click for a link to DeepStream's Desktop Website and more info on large movable fiberglass planters on casters
Rockefeller Center: large movable fiberglass planters on casters provided by DeepStream Designs
large movable fiberglass planters on casters
Rockefeller Center: large movable fiberglass planters on casters provided by DeepStream Designs
large movable fiberglass planters on casters
Rockefeller Center: large movable fiberglass planters on casters provided by DeepStream Designs
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 Designs

Issues with Fiberglass Planters

Fiberglass planters are lightweight and strong for their weight and thickness, but they are rigid and brittle. While the fiberglass planters we sell have a 3-year warranty, a 1-year warranty is more common.

Although the planters shown in the pictures below ARE NOT the fiberglass planters we sell, you need to be aware that all fiberglass planters are brittle, unlike wood or aluminum. Looking closely, you can see the vertical cracks that are developing over the edge in the center of this planter’s stiffening flange as the roots push out. Once the flange goes it leads to a catastrophic splitting failure, as the flange is responsible for structural strength.

Fiberglass planters are brittle. Without looking closely, you can't see the vertical cracks that are developing.
Fiberglass planters are brittle. Without looking closely, you can’t see the vertical cracks that are developing that will lead to total planter failure in just a short time.
Fiberglass planters are brittle.  Corners and the middle section are the first to go.
Fiberglass planters are brittle. Corners and the middle section are the first to go. The top flange is what stiffens the planter walls, and once they crack, it leads to catastrophic failure. This is why even the best fiberglass planters have just a 3-year warranty.

When roots push out against the side walls, first the flange cracks, then the long side panels spit vertically. While it is possible to prevent this in construction, it is costly. Currently most of these “me too” planter manufacturers are competing on price, with Indian and Chinese imports skimping on materials. 

Fiberglass planters are brittle. Looking closely you can see the vertical cracks that are developing.
Fiberglass planters are brittle. Looking closely, you can see the vertical cracks that are developing over the edge as the roots push out which will lead to a catastrophic failure. This is why even the best fiberglass planters have just a 3-year warranty.

Most fiberglass planters are light at the expense of strength and may not be durable enough for certain location.  This is why even the best manufacturers provide just a 3-year warranty.

In addition, fiberglass planters are almost all single-walled and prone to solar gain. White or light-colored finishes would be better in sunny locations.  They do not have drainage control, nor do they hide drip irrigation lines. 

The large expensive planters shown below 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.

Fiberglass planters are thin, lightweight and strong, but are brittle and prone to damage
Fiberglass planters are thin, lightweight and strong, but are brittle and prone to damage
While most "me too" planters are lightweight at the expense of strength, they may not be durable enough for certain locations.  Currently most fiberglass planter manufacturers are competing on price, with Indian and Chinese imports skimping on materials.
This one passes the 6-foot test, but look closely. While these planters are lightweight at the expense of strength, they may not be durable enough for certain locations. Currently most of these “me too” planter manufacturers are competing on price, with Indian and Chinese imports skimping on materials.
Light and relatively inexpensive planters of this type are brittle and easily damaged, and can be split by roots.
Light and relatively inexpensive planters are brittle and easily damaged, and can be split by roots, even when not damaged like the planter above.

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 contained by trademark aluminum legs

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.

measuring 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

Selecting Planter Liners

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

DeepStream's rugged waterproof recycled LLDPE food safe plastic liners tapered design, with advanced drainage, makes them easy plant and economical to ship: click for detailed info and prices.
DeepStream’s rugged waterproof recycled LLDPE food safe plastic liners tapered design, with advanced drainage, makes them easy plant and economical to ship.

Major considerations when selecting planter liners are the shape of the planter, the material the liner is constructed with, the location of drain(s), and size relative to your landscaping requirements.

  1.  Selecting planter liners with a shape tapering to a smaller base makes for repotting slip-out easy and if they stack then you save money shipping.
  2.  Rugged commercial grade 3/16″ walls from UV-stable, 100% pre-consumer recycled low-density polyethylene, or polypropylene are both flexible and food-safe, they will last decades in the sun and unburden landfills as they are recyclable materials.
  3.  Side wall, not bottom drain, aids drainage. Is the drain threaded for proper drainage systems accessories if required by your 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. Liner depth is determined by the requirement of the plants you have selected.
DeepStream's tapered liner with advanced drainage and the components of the 3-part drain pad with Bio-Barrier to prevent root blockage: click for drain pad details
DeepStream’s tapered liner with advanced drainage and the components of the 3-part drain pad with Bio-Barrier to prevent root blockage

An important consideration to successful landscaping in planters is starting with the right soil mixture and drainage for your plants.

  1. You want your container to drain well while retaining moisture but not hold water. Do not use “dirt” or any material with clay which will block drains.  Perlite is a good light weight additive if your trying to improve quick drainage, Vermiculite if your trying to retain moisture. Very course sand, like commercially available “paver base” if you need weight to prevent toppling in high winds but not fine “beach” or “mortar” sand as they will immediately block your drains.  Remember many plants have specific soil PH needs.
  2. Geo-textile fabric and drain board to provide filtration and space over drain.
  3.  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 are placed over the drain hole.
  4.  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. There is no need to put rocks or gravel in the bottom of a plastic pot, it only raises the water table.

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. We have had good results here in Florida with “rubber mulch”, but then we can get 6″ of rain in one day.

Paver Base or similar mediums slow water flow improving planter drainage
Paver Base or similar mediums slow water flow improving planter drainage

“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 for you.

For more detailed information on drainage see this related post:

To see a step by step guide to repotting a plant in the spring for the best plant healt yu will find this article helpful: