April 22, 2012

Up-Cycling A Vintage Cooler into an Alpine Trough

A VINTAGE METAL COOLER IS PLANTED WITH HIGH-ELEVATION MOUNTAIN TOP PLANTS

Here is a fun way to both recycle a vintage mid-century insulated metal Coleman cooler - convert them into an alpine trough. This is an experiment which I have been incubating since last year, since there is something appealing about the vintage metallic paint on these coolers as they often seemed to match old pickups or 4x4's - My inspiration here might be clear to anyone who has spent time at a ski resort town, and it is a recipe which includes influences from the snow sport, mountain bike and youth culture found in mountain resort towns around the world - I just customized this to my New England heritage, but I am working now on converting some very cool vintage red coolers with other stickers and graphics. Imagine the possibilities once you start getting creative. 

THE PLANTS HERE ARE A MIXTURE OF ALPINE PLANTS FROM SOUTH AMERICA ( THE OXALIS ON THE LOWER LEFT) TO LEWISIA, ON THE LOWER RIGHT NAMED AFTER MERIWEATHER LEWIS, SO A BIT OF MONTANA.

MANY OF THESE COOLERS CAN BE FOUND FOR LESS THAN $20 ON EBAY, OR A LOCAL YARD SALES FOR $5.00, ESPECIALLY IF THEY ARE SLIGHTLY RUSTED, AS THIS ONE IS ( DOUBLE INSULATED, THE RUST OFTEN ONLY OCCURS ON THE OUTSIDE LAYER). JUST DRILL HOLES IN THE BOTTOM EVERY THREE INCHES TO ENSURE THAT YOU HAVE DRAINAGE.

A LAYER OF GRAVEL IS ADDED IN THE BOTTOM, WHICH MAKES THE COOLER HEAVY, BUT IT IS NECESSARY.  TODAY, MANY ALPINE PLANTS CAN BE FOUND AT YOUR BETTER LOCAL NURSERIES, BUT YOU MIGHT WANT TO TRY MORE INTERESTING ONES FROM A SPECIALIST GROWER.
 Alpine plants can be a broad term, if you are not too adventurous, you can simply use sempervivums or succulents, which will perform very well in a container like this, but if you want something more authentic, then you can mix in some rare or interesting alpine plants ( try ordering from Wrightman Alpines, or check out next Saturday's giant alpine plant sale at Stonecrop in Cold Spring New York, where on Saturday, April 28 from 9:00 am until 3:00 am, the 5th annual North American Rock Garden Society plant sale occurs.  Some of the finest growers will be there, and they could even help you recreate a scene from your favorite mountain range ( The alps, Aspen, the Cascades, the Bitteroots).

STICKER HELP WITH THE LOOK, BUT CURATE THEM CAREFULLY - THIS IS THE FUN PART. SEARCH ONLINE FOR STICKERS ON EBAY OR START COLLECTING THEM FROM YOUR FAVORITE RESORTS, MOUNTAIN BRANDS OR SOMETHING THAT MATCHES YOUR LIFESTYLE.  TRY ASKING FOR THEM AT YOUR LOCAL MOUNTAINEERING STORE, OFTEN THEY ASRE FREE. THEMES CAN BE  AS STYLISH  AS VAIL, AS POSH AS PONTRESINA, SWITZERLAND, OR AS EXTREME AS, OH, I DON'T KNOW, THE  XGAMES.

6 comments :

  1. The asking price for these coolers just jumped.

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  2. I have one of these - great idea! I suppose the rust will increase, aging the look further. Cool.

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  3. You're so funny, Susan! Maybe I should have gone into that business, instead! Once you start thinking about it, there are lots of containers where you can be creative with alpines. In cleaning the closet today, I found an old rubber duffle bag, army green and with a great old fishing logo on it......

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  4. I wondered about the rust, too., but I sort of think that it adds character, like an old, used truck. The way I look at it, we are all rusting a little! My tennis elbow was killing me this morning!

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  5. I am going to start watching out for one of these. At the moment, I have an old barbecue waiting to be upcycled into a pair of alpine troughs, which will be shallower but more portable.

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