These artful flowers bloom year-round in Gulf Coast gardens
Chris Whatley thinks he has a solution to Gulf Coast gardening. His flowers don’t die, need water or sunshine.
Whatley, a Galveston resident, makes garden flowers from recycled and repurposed plates, bowls and cups. And each handmade creation is a work of art, he said.
“No matter how brown your thumb is, you can’t kill these flowers,” he said.
Several months ago, Whatley bought two large drill presses and an extensive inventory of plates from his East End island neighbor Kathy Bass, who had been crafting the garden plates for several years. Bass had decided to downsize and sell the business. Whatley decided to buy it and set up a studio in his basement, where he could conveniently work on the plates around his day job.
Each flower is labor-intensive, Whatley said. First, he must drill tiny holes in each plate with a diamond bit in precisely the same center spot and then in coordinating plates selected for additional layers. Whatley uses a 10-inch dinner plate as the base, but it must have an interesting border rim — designs in the center of the plate aren’t important because they’ll be covered. Then, he selects a soup bowl or salad plate, and cements it on, followed by a dessert plate, cup or votive candle holder. Finally, he picks the center piece: a drawer pull or knob to complete the floral design.
The best plates are made of china, porcelain or glass. Ceramic plates tend to be heavy and weigh down the final project.
“Dishwasher safe plates are usually weather-safe, too,” Whatley said. “We don’t use any painted glass and have found blue glass shatters. I found out the hard way.”
After he glues and bolts the “flowers” together, he flattens a stainless steel fork or spoon, bends and cements it to the back of the largest plate and hooks it into a 3-foot-long post to be put in the ground.
Some of the most popular plates feature a college or professional sports team logo. Whatley is a big Oklahoma University fan, but noted that fans of Texas A&M University, University of Houston, University of Texas, Texas Tech, as well as the Rockets and Texans, are buying his garden plates with their favorite team logos as soon as he makes them.
The regular garden flowers are about $45 each; the special team designs have more expensive parts and sell for $75.
Tiki Island resident Rita Tang was one of his first customers. She purchased a lighthouse-themed garden flower and stuck it in a large pot of purple brunfelsia.
Whatley and partner Roy Burchett spend at least one day a week on shopping sprees, combing through thrift stores, antique shops, yard sales and eBay, looking for plates they think would make fun-looking flowers. They are selling the creations at ArtWalk in Galveston and other local festivals, as well as online at Facebook page Galveston Garden Plates.
“These flowers bloom all year,” Whatley said.