Plant Pots: Designing With Containers

Plant Pots: Designing With Containers

Almost anything that holds soil could be used for plant pots. Shops stock a vast range of traditional ceramic, terracotta, glass fibre and stone pots, some attractive and some hideous. It’s important that they are frost proof, so check those imported from Mediterranean or far eastern countries.

Be careful of plant pots with narrow necks, as the plant will be almost impossible to remove once its roots have developed. Avoid plastic pots. They are ugly, clash with every colour except, perhaps dark green and quickly become brittle and crack or split.

Plant Pots: Creative Ideas

Plant Pots: Designing With Containers

There are plenty of clichés around, but the discerning designer can have fun thinking beyond the old teapot, Belfast sink or plastic wellies. Use your imagination and scour junk shops, architectural salvage yards, farmers markets or, for a more contemporary look builders merchants. Some containers may be ephemeral, such as softwood crates for fruit and vegetables.

Galvanised metal florists’ buckets, old copper boilers, or a tin bath – all have possibilities. The trick is, not to descend into tackiness or farce. 

Old Coffee Tin Plant Pots

Just one piece, perhaps half hidden, to be chanced upon, is enough to add a little humour and individuality to some, but by no means all gardens. Don’t spend your client’s money on anything remotely whacky until you are sure it will be in tune with their personality and style.

Too many traditionally available containers are small – around thirty centimetres deep or less so have zero impact when they are just set on the ground. You are simply looking down on the top of the plant. There is no point in spending your clients’ money to acquire an expensive, beautifully shaped pot unless it is taller.  Or is raised at least half a metre above the ground. Then both the plant and its container can be viewed together.

Pant Pots: Position & Scale

Plant Pots: Designing With Containers

Positioning and scale are critically important. In small courtyards or terraces or balconies, the plants will probably be visible from the building at all times. Don’t group pots of the same size together. Instead, position an odd number of similarly coloured containers in different sizes. Be bold. Don’t be afraid to choose one large, beautiful pot. If there are existing containers select them carefully so that they complement each other in shape and colour. Unify the arrangement by planting all of them with the same species and colour of plant. Deciduous shrubs or perennials in plant pots may need to be moved when out of season.

Lighting, too often overlooked, transforms planted containers into a pure theatre of dancing shadows and reflections, so if possible choose at least one plant with lacy or feathery leaves that will allow light through and move with the breeze.

Select plants that will suit permanently restricted growth, or are slow growing.  Unless your clients are experienced gardeners happy to move them to open ground or into larger pots as they mature. Feeding, irrigation, deadheading and ongoing maintenance are essential. You can offer your clients a maintenance contract if they are open to this.

Terracotta Plant Pots

Victorial Plant pots

One last point.  If you have old terracotta pots that are chipped or cracked, you can prolong their lives by wiring them.  Adding wire around the neck of the plant pots will stop the pot from splitting in the cold weather.  For additional support, adding 3 or 4 double wire clips over the rim (as per the picture) will provide even more strength and support.

Garden Illustrated July 2017

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