weeder’s digest: cans

With Earth Day coming up, I figure I show you how I recycle some of my tin cans.

First off, buy cans that look good. You don’t want your pretty things in busted cans. Why not practice grocery-offsetting to insure you have good packaging to work with? 25 cans of cat food are offset with a sack of dried Morels. You want Kraft singles? A quick twirl in the international food section will result in Greek thousand-flower honey, a suitable offset. At the checkout I’m enamored by the opulent and unusual packaging… Israeli couscous (Triscuits), hibiscus salt (marshmallow fluff) and a Tahitian vanilla bean packaged in a test tube (toilet tissue). And much of this packaging will have a second life…

Let me tell you some good looking cans; Sclafani Tomatoes. Dammann Tea. San Marzano tomatoes generally come in good cans. As does loose Twinings tea. You’re shopping for style here folks – oh, you don’t eat sardines? Yes you do! – with a stylish can of Sicilian sardines you can make a lovely moss-filled pincushion.

You can also make a vase with a tin can. Or a planter. We generally start rootlings in cans in the kitchen where they are more likely to receive attention as opposed to the more established plants in other parts of the house. To ensure good drainage, turn the can on end and using a hammer and screwdriver, pop a few holes in the bottom.

For flowers, make sure you clean your cans well – residue will lead to bacteria. Yesterday I made an arrangement of red ranunculus in a Sclafani Tomato 28-ouncer. To keep the stems supported and upright, I balled up a few squares of chicken wire and placed them down inside the can.

Same chicken wire treatment in a second can resulted in an arrangement with camel roses, peonies and dogwood. I dug out some birch bark* and wrapped it around the can. Later at home, I fiddled around with a French tea canister to make a sweet little arrangements with a red charm peony and some andromeda.

*You can buy birch bark at US Evergreen (T: 212-741-5300) on 7th Avenue between 27th and 28th Streets.



Now here’s an admittedly dumb question — where does one buy chicken wire, especially that nice green kind?


I’ve got a HUGE roll of that coated chicken wire at my flower shop…Alix, maybe you can find a florist who has it? It’s very old school, pre-Oasis.


Oh! We just started some lavender in cans last night! We use cans for everything, even the plain ones are so … perfect.


How simple and lovely… that would be *perfect* for a shelf herb garden!
I wonder if that would work for paintbrushes as well, the chickenwire would spread them out while drying nicely.

Lisa (dinner party)

Gorgeous as always, sarah. I especially love the last shot. Although I’m kind of surprised you didn’t call this post “Nice Cans.”



is there a place to get dogwood stems in nyc without being a florist? i have looked at the union sq market with no luck. i am from the south and craving them now.



There is also chicken wire at Jamali Gardens on 7th and 2nd Ave. They sell it in bulk though for about $17…I’ve been trying to locate a small rectangular piece for an inspiration board…no luck yet!

Question re coffee/tin cans. I just planted some lettuce in one (did the exact same thing with a phillips and hammar for drainage)..but was wondering if the can might rust and thereby make the plants inedible?


Alix, not a dumb question. I was going to ask the same thing. Thanks, Sprout!

Grace, I love this series!


Gorgeous as always — I’m with Lisa and Rachel; that last arrangement in the thé tin is stunning!


Gooorgeous, darling. And I always save my cans! (and jars… and anything else that leads to junk)


This is beautiful but I don’t understand offsetting, are you saying you bought tahitian vanilla instead of toilet tissue….?


These are all absolutely beautiful – lovely designs and natural as all things to celebrate earthday should be. But if you do go for the birch tree wrap – please take care to find sources from trees that have already been cut down (or fallen down) – and don’t peel bark from a live tree.


This is gorgeous! I usually use them for planters (all Bustelo Coffee cans) but never thought of them as vases.


Thanks for the tip, Sprout! I’m glad I’m not the only one who wondered!


That top photo is such a gorgeous arrangement, the peaches and the greens make for a lovely contrast


I enjoyed your post, but I would love some clarification – what is grocery offsetting? I confess, I can’t think what it has to do with carbon offsetting, as of course imported foods naturally have a huge carbon footprint.



I had no idea that there were flowers out there called Andromeda! How fantastic. Weekend shopping list: cans, chicken wire, Andromeda. . .


I think the photos of the red flowers are absolutely gorgeous. It has made my day. Thank you.


Wondering about rust as well. Any ideas for what to reuse for a water catcher under the can?

My Material Void

I was watching a program last night and they suggested using run of the mill, household variety cello-tape to do pretty much what the chicken wire does (that’s free cus you can “borrow” it from office stationary!)

Margaret Gabriela

Peonies in tin cans… I think I’m in love… how are you getting peonies already?! I can’t find them anywheres…


rusty cans: while i would avoid rusty old cans – new cans don’t contain lead anymore, so they should be fine to use for edibles. should they start to rust the only thing that would leach into the soil would be iron.

thanks for all your comments everyone, its the highlight of my week to see what you have to say…


You could try some floral foam instead of chicken wire it’s a bit easier to work with and you can get it at almost any crafts store

Janey Jane

Indeed they are truly lovely. Printed tins are scarce now in the UK. I have painted my own in happy colours and filled them with potted Primroses.


I just love these ideas. I try to use recycled items for my planters but, nothing looks as good as these. Thanks for the ideas!


This is great, I LOVE how this looks, but wouldnt the cans rust? I have been experimenting with using plastic packaging for plant pots, but always thought that cans would just rust which would contaminate the soil?


I worry about rust rings on the counter or whatever surface I put them.

Shirley Cohen

absolutely love it. Will pass on to my blog readers for ‘baby shower’ ideas.

Now I have a reason to open the sardine cans that I have been avoiding!


simply beautiful….another fun can is El Pato enchilada sauce


I love this idea. I’ve been saving cans, bottle, jars, and now I’m inspired to actually use them. And what about a SPAM can? I love Spam (yes, I do) and the shape is so unique. I’m going to eat my spam today so I can use the can! BTW, I’m new to your blog. I came here from Ali Edwards and I’m so glad I did!


What lovely images. I would like to use coffee cans as “vases” for my wedding centerpieces but I’d like to cover the cans with decorative paper in different designs and colors. I’m worried that traditional paper will get wet and bleed or fall apart. Any suggestions?