Landrum Wanderings: I want a potting table!

Published 10:00 pm Monday, July 10, 2017

I’ve been noticing my neighbor’s flowers and yard this summer when I take my morning walk. A planter display box appeared filled with colorful plants. Then one day a little bench appeared, the perfect resting spot for a couple of clay pots overspilling with annuals. When spying my neighbor, Bill Warren, busy at work, I stopped to compliment him on how lovely it was all coming together.

“I’ve discovered a new passion,” he explained. “I’m creating garden projects using recycled materials. Now I’m concentrating on potting tables.” His wife Cynthia brought up the idea one day. “I want a potting table!” she exclaimed. So Bill started checking out the internet. Websites like Pinterest gave him some ideas.

In retirement, Bill Warren has discovered a new hobby of repurposing and recycling materials into garden projects. Using found or reclaimed parts and pieces, plus the addition of some paint, Warren has built two versions of a potting table, as shown here. (Photos by Linda List)

His next quest was to discover materials to use that would lead to his creative ideas. Stopping by the Hay Rack, he noticed leftover pallets for sale.

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“I thought these would be perfect,” he smiles. “And they are. But working with pallets isn’t easy. For one thing they are hard to cut, and they can be dirty or hiding spiders. They’re not always the right size for my designs. And they all have to be sanded as the wood is so rough. As I work, I’ve learned. And that’s been fun.”

Bill had never done any woodworking or building before. After serving in the US Air Force in Montana, he lived in California for 25 years and sold Ferrarris. “Cars were always my love. Now that I’m retired, I’m discovering that I can be creative. It’s new to me,” he says with pride.

Bill walks every morning through neighborhoods always alert for anything being discarded that he could work into one of his ideas. Their daughter had old picket fencing dating from the ‘60s. It was perfect to create sides for one of the tables. Double looped crimped wire fencing from the ‘30s or ‘40s became a perfect backdrop for another table.

“Places like the Habitat store or hospice barn have yielded treasures for me,” he continues. I found a piece of Formica that I’ve been cutting to use as a counter for some of the tables. I can cut a hole in it to hold a pan that can be filled with the potting soil for use in pots. And Savvy Scavenger had some old windows.”

I’m wondering how he would use a window in a potting table. It doesn’t sound practical. Bill shows me one of his tables with the window acting almost like a skylight. But the glass panes have been removed. “Look,” he shows me. “I had a piece of the kind of plastic used in kitchens to cover florescent lights. It fit in perfectly and creates diffused light in the sun so it’s not so hot working under it.” I’m amazed by his creative ideas.

Cynthia has become Bill’s technical advisor.

“She keeps me on track. She’s my overseer checking things like height, practicality, quality control. There was one table I made and the top looked fine to me, but Cynthia took one look at it and could see it was crooked. I tried to convince her it was ok,” he laughs. “But of course she insisted I had to change it.”

An addition to each table is a title, hanging from hooks. For example, one is called “Fascination,” another “Imagination.” Or how about “Tranquility”? Or his favorite, “Inspiration”? The tables have a dual function as yard art.

Lavender Sage, the boutique by the traffic light at the intersection of Hwy. 176 and 14, is featuring Bill’s tables. Cynthia Harris owns the charming shop and displays one of Bill’s tables in front of the store. There’s plenty of parking in the rear of the store or you can call her at 864-457-5451 and she will arrange for you to see some of his tables.

I’ve been seeing articles or stories on TV lately about retirees and how they fill their time discovering new talents or turning hobbies into businesses. It’s an opportunity to recreate one’s self and, perhaps like Bill, discover a completely new interest. Some people decide it’s time to write a memoir, perhaps to publish or to hand down to children and grandchildren. Learning to garden can benefit the gardener with fresh produce and flowers which can be sold at a local farmers market.

In Landrum, we have the opportunity to attend classes at Tryon Arts and Crafts or the nearby John C. Campbell Folk School. We might find out we have hidden artistic gifts that we never had time to pursue.

Me? I’m kind of the “Grandma Moses” of writing. Before my column, I only dabbled exchanging stories in a writing group. And you might find me selling my cookies at the Landrum Farmers Market.

What about you? Have you crossed the threshold into retirement and discovered a new venue, maybe playing an instrument, writing, gardening, painting? Send me an email to and let me know.