A Great Find, 3 Cast Iron Pots

I thought these cast iron pots might be worth sharing. Recently we found these at a local auction we attend on a regular basis.. It’s the type of auction held at the same location, same time every week, and you never know what may show up each week.

[ These are the iron pots. ]

What to do, what to do

Character like this is very hard to find, very hard. I attend a lot of auctions and go through a lot of garage sales, and do some plain old searching around, and to find three of these together is what I consider a major “get”. To say that I was very excited to win these . . . would be a major under-statement.

How will they be used? This is something I haven’t decided. I know for sure that we will keep one, and that pot will be used near the front door, slightly buried in a bed that contains a lot of “hot” perennials. What will go in here I have yet to decide.

It is the fate of the other 2 pots that I am unsure about. I may design them into a project that I am working on for another client. I may clean up one or both and display them in some weird way. Heck I may even sell them. I just don’t know.

As a designer I see numerous ways to use these pots in the garden.

[ Looking at them from a low angle. ]

Lets think about this for a minute:

  1. Obviously they could be used for annual plantings.
  2. How about for some type of perennials?
  3. The other obvious one is some sort of combination, or throw in some tropicals.
  4. Do the pots belong on hardscape?
  5. What about buries in garden beds?
  6. Maybe some weird shrub(s) pruned in some weird or unique way.
  7. Trees; small of course, a bonsai of some sort.
  8. In a formal planting, at attention on opposite sides of a prominent entry to a formal area.
  9. Turn one of the pots into a water garden.
  10. Tomatoes?
  11. Place all 3 together in some sort of sculptural element.
  12. Rubbed down with a sandstone block to bring out a different look/paint?
  13. Use one or more pots with some other object to create . . . . . ? ? ?

What about you?

If these were yours what would you do with them.

How about if these pots were not yours, but they belonged to a client, then what would you do with them?

Is there a type a garden pots like this do not belong in? Is there a type of garden cast iron pots are perfect in.

Could it be this type of element transcends garden style because of it’s high character development/style.

Pictures, share some images if you have been lucky enough to have used pots this size.

By Rick Anderson

The Whispering Crane Institute was originally formed to act as the umbrella organization for the Philosophy of Design Symposium, and other seminars and workshops given by Rick Anderson and Richard L. Dube’. In the year 2000 WCI became a sole proprietorship owned by Rick Anderson. Today the WCI provides design and consultation services for Landscape Contractors, acts as a Green Industry think tank, and provides training for others in the form of workshops, seminars, and individual consulting. The WCI also provides written material, opinions, case-studies and how-to articles for industry trade magazines.


  1. Rick,

    Your question set is quite interesting. There are many potential uses for these pots. First of all, what are the dimensions of these pots?



    I’d say they’re somewhere between 30″-36″ in diameter and a good 18″ deep. They are some good size pots, certainly very heavy! 🙂

  2. I’d try to clean at least one up (I’ve heard kerosene removes rust), season it with oil, and cook with it. Cast iron dutch ovens are great. I sort of like the idea of either succulents or something that will grow and spill out, like sweet alyssum.

    Cooking, cook? I don’t know, that’s not me, now the possibility of planting . . . that might happen.

  3. Rick,

    These pots could be used to create a spilling/cascading water feature. water could spill from one pot to another.

    One pot could be hung by its bail over a “fire” of red and orange blossoms. Cascading flowering plants could be planted depicting a pot boiling over.

    small fish could be allowed to roam into the abysses of the pot.

    An ideal location for their use would be in a Kitchen garden.

    They could be inverted and water cascading over them to act as an umbrella for a ceramic toad.

    I would use one pot to create a fire pit for our patio. I would use another pot on our shop loading dock. It’s an old grain warehouse and a pot like these would look grand painted black with seasonal annuals. We’ve been looking for pots like this.


    All interesting ideas, I think I will bring these up in my nexr post to see if we can further this discussion.

  4. Hi Rick,

    These cast iron pots are indicitive of the rural South where I grew up and you can still readily find them . We used them to cook over the fireplace or we’d heat water over a fire outside to wash our undies in. My mother used them to make soap and candles in them.

    Of course the cast iron pots were black, not rusted like the ones you have. Rust is the arch enemy of cast iron and you should be especially careful not to drop them on a hard surface because they are very brittle and will break. I’m afraid that if you put anything moist in them they will eventually be eaten away because water will rust them even more. Plus, there’s no drainage holes in the bottom .

    If you don’t intend to remove the rust then I’d at least put a coating of linseed oil on them.

    How would I use them ? Perhaps as a rustic bird feeder, hung on a wrought iron or copper shepard’s hook .

    Reading this I am guessing you think these 3 pots are a little smaller than they actually are. I am going to run one more post to show they size differential. the 3 I am showing are pretty big 22 inches across and 8/9 inches deep.

  5. I would keep one as as a patio piece. They are fun and unique. The patio oice couls be a a mini table or catch all for loose itemsA pice of galss on top and it would be a falt surface table.

    One I would use for a planter probaly more for cacti but it would have to be planted differently than most pots for cacti.

    And one I would make a creative garden piece with ceramic pieces, possibly of cups and saucers or a teapot mixed in with vinging plants and an old farm tool.

    Great pieces!

    Great ideas Denise, thanks for taking the time to reply, sorry I couldn’t get back sooner. The ceramic’s idea is especially outside the box-good job 🙂

  6. Oh – they look fabulous. For myself I would use at least one for planting spring bulbs. the season has just passed, but will come around again and I can see a collection of tulips highlighting the baseness of the cast iron. Even without cleaning up, the bright colours of tulips would enhance them.

    I would put a variety of early and later flowering varieties, so that they continue for some weeks. This could be followed obviously with summer annuals. Possibilities of colour schemes are wide open


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  8. Rick, I too have some of these and have been wondering what to do with them. I am afraid of setting on or in soil as they will rust away.
    What other ideas have you heard that you might consider? I too thought of making a water feature out of them, I have two-no handles, but they’re so heavy and didnt know what the water would do over time?
    These two are sentimental as well. My great grandmother used for laundry, etc. so want to maintain integrity of them or find a really good use for them that offsets that value.

    Would love to hear any more ideas you may have thought of? Thanks

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