Earlier this week, the Altered Book by Becca Malone inspired me to try something new – a DIY succulent container garden in a vintage book planter. The first time I saw a vintage book planter was at Maker Faire last year. I loved the idea, but didn’t love the tedium of cutting through pages, and also worried about mildew if the pages got wet (which is likely, right?). Thanks to Becca’s technique, you can make this vintage book planter in an hour or two, and it won’t absorb water so there’s no mildew. These book planters make the cutest succulent container gardens, and I made mine two ways – with real and faux succulents. (Because yes, I have killed succulents – sorry, Mom!)
First, a few things I learned along the way:
- If you need a source for hardback books, you can’t beat the $1 price tag at the various dollar store chains.
- If you’re working with real succulents, use the thickest book you can. I had one that was 2” thick, but unfortunately, I ruined mine when cutting out the pages. The one I ended up using was almost 1-1/2” thick, and I would have preferred something deeper so it would hold more dirt.
- If using a thicker book, you might need to stack together two, 1” thick pieces of STYROFOAM™ Brand Foam. The foam itself will not absorb water, but water might seep through the seam between the two pieces. In that case, line your cavity with plastic.
- Get creative with covering the edges of your foam insert – it doesn’t have to look like pages in a book. I thought about trimming a moss sheet to fit, or using scrapbook paper with script writing on it. You can also use a strip of burlap, fabric, or ribbon. I used a textured, paper ribbon that I found in the floral aisle.
- And finally — faux or real, it’s your choice.
To make a Vintage Book, Succulent Garden, you’ll need:
- STYROFOAM™ Brand Foam: 1” x 12” x 18” sheet, or other thickness as needed for your book
- Hardback book, the thicker the better
- Trim to wrap around the edges; I used a crinkled paper ribbon, but you could also use moss, paper, burlap, fabric, or other ribbon
- Succulents, real or faux
- Polished pebbles or stones
- Glue dots
- Thick, white craft glue
- Low-temp glue gun
- Tools needed: Scissors; ruler; marker; Xacto® knife; spoon; optional for a thicker book: dental floss, plastic sheeting (could be from a freezer bag)
To make a Vintage Book, Succulent Garden:
1. Carefully cut out all of the pages from the book, except for eight – ten pages at the beginning of the book. Cut as close to the binding as possible.
2. Using the ruler and a marker, draw a rectangle the size of a page on the foam sheet. Score the lines with an Xacto knife. Position the foam sheet at the edge of a tabletop, and snap along the scored lines. If your book is more than 1” thick, repeat and then glue the two pieces together. For a size that’s in between, pull a length of dental floss through the foam block and shave off a thin layer so the foam block will fit inside the book.
3. Measure and mark 1” in from each edge of the foam rectangle. Use a spoon to carve out the opening. Do not cut all the way through the foam. You want to keep a layer of foam in the bottom to help position faux succulent stems; or if using real succulents, the foam layer will contain any moisture.
4. Test fit the foam rectangle in the book. If an edge needs tweaking, sand it with a scrap piece of foam, or compress it by pressing firmly on a tabletop.
5. Glue your trim around the top, bottom and right-hand edges.
6. Glue the foam insert to the inside, back cover and binding. Fit it as snugly as possible against the binding.
7. Glue two – three pages from the front onto the foam insert, and add one more page on top using glue dots. Using the ruler and Xacto knife, carefully cut away the opening.
8. Glue several extra pages to the inside, front cover, and use glue dots to adhere the final page.
9. Trim stems to about 1”. Arrange succulents in the planter, inserting stems into the foam bottom to help hold them in place. Fill planter with small pebbles.
10. If you used two layers of foam, line the planter with plastic to keep water from seeping through the seam between the pieces.
11. Remove the succulents from their pots and tap off extra dirt. Arrange the plants in the book. Using a spoon, carefully fill the planter with soil. Arrange stones on top.
I think these succulent planters are pretty cool, and I have confirmation from another source — my teenage daughter did not roll her eyes at this craft project, and she’s already claimed the faux succulent planter for her room. Score! Perhaps I’ll give the planter with the real succulents to my Mom, who has a much greener thumb than I.
Are you on board with the succulent craze? Do you have tips for growing them successfully?