Pebbled Pots and Planters

Add form and function to your garden by transforming ordinary containers into art.

| June/July 2002

  • Photography by Gloria Nicol

The art of pebble mosaics has a long history and some of its ancient methods and traditions are still used today. For example, contemporary pavements and terraces in Greece echo and imitate those of the ancient world; in fact the same kinds of smooth, uncut colored pebbles can still be found. Certain kinds of vernacular architecture are characterized by the type of stone or pebble used—the nearer the sea, the more likely you are to find sea-washed cobbles, while further inland local stones dug out of the earth, such as flints, may be used for their decorative qualities.

You can collect stones, pebbles, or shells from the countryside, but don’t take too many and be aware of the environmental effect. With the growing interest in garden design it is now possible to buy inexpensive bags of pebbles in many colors, sizes, textures, and forms. Contrast these properties to enhance your design—rough against smooth, dark against light, large against small. Shells also work beautifully with pebbles, as do broken china and flowerpots. Few tools are required and there are no specialized techniques. Simply follow the cement mix recipes exactly for the best results. For all outdoor projects, make sure you use exterior waterproof and frostproof cement or grout. This is generally of professional standard and the type used for tiling swimming pool interiors.

Striped planter

A simple, slightly tapered terra cotta pot has been transformed into a striking planter that could be the focal point of a hot and dry planting scheme. The clean lines of the black and white pebble stripes work particularly well with the strong shapes of sun-loving plants such as Agave, Echiveria, or Sedum, lending a Mediterranean feel to your garden. Try decorating other planters and pots in a similar way, perhaps using a slightly different pattern to make an interesting collection to liven up your sunny terrace or patio.

Waterproof and frostproof gray cement has been used for the black pebbles and white cement used for the white ones. Although a little more time-consuming, it is well worth using the two colors as it enhances the black and white contrast. The rim of the pot has been finished with a row of black pebbles that cleverly hide the terra cotta beneath.


• Tall terra cotta pot 14 inches high with a top diameter of 11 inches
• Piece of white chalk
• 250 to 300 black pebbles no more than 3/4 inch in diameter (quantity used depends on the size of the pebbles)
• 250 to 300 white pebbles of a similar size (quantity used depends on the size of the pebbles)
• Gray waterproof and frostproof cement-based adhesive
• White waterproof and frostproof cement-based adhesive
• Old pointed kitchen knife
• Containers for cement

1. Draw vertical chalk lines onto the pot, dividing it into 12 stripes each roughly 31/4 inches wide at the top. On a tapered pot the stripes will be slightly narrower at the base.

2. Mix the gray cement according to the manufacturer’s instructions, making sure it is not too runny. Apply a layer 1/2-inch thick within the chalk lines of one stripe and set in the black pebbles closely together. This will push the cement up between the pebbles and help to secure them. Leave room for a row of pebbles around the top rim. Cut off any excess cement with the knife. Leaving the next stripe clear, make two more black stripes.

Tip:Don’t allow the pebbles to extend beyond the base of the pots. Stop just short, or the bottom row of pebbles will be vulnerable to breaking off and the pot may not be very stable.

3. Mix and apply the white cement in the same way between the black stripes and set in the white pebbles. Clean up the joint between each contrasting stripe and continue until one side of the pot is covered. Allow the cement to harden overnight and repeat the same process on the remaining six stripes. It is best to work on the pot in two separate halves so as not to dislodge any pebbles (the pot needs to rest on its side for ease of working).

4. Stand the pot up on its base and stick a row of black pebbles around the upper rim, spreading the back of each pebble with the cement. When the cement starts to harden slightly, trim off any excess with the knife. Allow to harden thoroughly before planting.



September 12-13, 2019
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