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Cool Green Gardens

Holey Crocs, Batman!

Regular size people recognize me by my hat. But really teeny tiny people know me for my distinctive, perforated footwear. I’m a Crocs kinda guy. My shoe rack is stippled with chubby pairs of size tens – red, brown, green, orange, and when I wear a tux, black.

Hat and Red Crocs
This pretty much sums up my essence.

My wife, Lin, and I are die-hard What Not To Wear fans, so I get it when she admonishes me that, “But they’re really comfortable!” is no excuse for a grown-up wearing what Stacy and Clinton revile as “clown shoes.” She’s right, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. As Dr. Scholl taught me, when my feet are happy my brain is happy. And when my brain is happy I can write fascinating garden blogs about my shoes.

I pretty much live in my Crocs, so I wear through them regularly. So then what? Landfill? Not for a guy who’s so sustainable he can work the same piece of dental floss for a month. So rather than cast off these loyal friends who’ve served me so well, I tap my inner Martha, transforming them into long-lasting, self-draining, artsy-fartsy wall planters.

I had a burst of creative energy this week. Instead of buying the usual box of floral gift cards as a thank you for the landscape architects who share their work with my class, I decided to make something for them. I could solve my shoe disposal conundrum and add a personal touch.

Do you wear shoes? Do you like easy, wacky projects? Here’s what I did.

Ingredients: Worn out pair of Crocs, spray paint, colorful old socks or cotton fabric, commercial potting soil, plants that can grow in tight quarters, and a nail. I sprung into action.

And just as quickly, I sprung out of action. My first problem: Army-green Crocs. Booooooooring!!! Second predicament: No plants. Third glitch: Out of potting soil. After a sprint to the hardware store, I was ready to go, armed with a can of bright yellow paint and an assortment sculptural, colorful succulents.

Crocs sprayed yellow
Looks like their trying to escape.

A few minutes after ripping open a cardboard box to protect my garage floor (work where there’s good ventilation), I had four lemony bright Crocs. [Tip: Before painting, stretch the strap over the heel of the shoe to the underside, making an instant hanger.]

Spattered with green

I discovered a can of chartreuse paint on a shelf and spattered it over the first coat. Not exactly Jackson Pollack, but it upped the game a notch.

Three succulents; south end of a northbound gnome.
Yes, that’s the south end of a northbound gnome. Long story.

I hadn’t realized it when I bought the plants, but they fit the old rule for exciting container plantings: Combine a thriller (gray Kalanchoe), a filler (purple Echeveria), and a spiller (Sedum ‘Angelina’).

Kalanchoe out of its pot, roots trimmed
With limited space, I trimmed the roots and plucked
a few lower leaves.

Next came the soil, but how to keep it from washing right out of the sea of holes? In my earlier forays into Croc planting, I used an old sock from my bulging bag of mismatches, filled it with a handful of soil, then coaxed it into the shoe. Workable, but I wanted these to have a bit more visual pop. I cut a big swatch from a royal purple tee shirt (you can see it in the background below) and letting the scalloped edge frill out the front.

Finished Croc

So, there you go, and quite fetching, if you ask me. If you propagate your own succulents from cuttings, the only real cost is a can of paint and a scoop of potting soil.

Wall with many Croc planters

My resurrected Croc collection lives on the side of my garage, where they receive direct sun for a few hours in the late afternoon. Watering is a cinch – I fill a bucket with water and plunge each shoe for a few minutes. [Tip: Hold them under, since they’ll want to float.] Find a spot with the right amount of light for your composition, tap a nail, and you’re done.

I’m guessing you’ve created some equally clever planters from treasured items you just could have just given the heave-ho. How about posting a pic at the Fine Gardening gallery and sharing your handiwork with everyone else? We’ll all be looking for thrifty garden gifties this season.



View Comments


  1. machuey 10/26/2011

    shockingly this is feeding some of my major habits. the drive to recycle, the need to put a plant just about ANYWHERE and a lusty shoe fetish. thanks Billy.

  2. BMMcManus 10/26/2011

    What does it say about a person when their feet and brain are happier in a pair of shoes with four inch heels? Oops, maybe I've been watching too much of that show called "What Not To Wear." Great use of those ugly shoes, btw. I'm a big advocate of recycling and repurposing. Good job, Billy!

  3. gardenchick 10/26/2011

    While it's not my style, I must admit it' ingenious and the colors rock! Reduce, reuse, recycle! Good job! You get an A.

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