Thursday, March 19, 2015

Large pots

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Inspired by the pot collections in one of Sophie's last posts, I thought I would also do a number on pots. However, looking at the pictures I put together, it appears that my post will be mostly about empty pots!
Pots, especially large ones, do not have to be filled with plants to be effective in the garden. They create a sense of scale. They provide interesting contrasts in shapes, and they especially act as focal points. The black pot in the flower bed in the picture below does all of these things.





The use as a focal point is even more obvious in the picture below. The large container holds everything together. Imagine the same view without the pot and you can see that it is not half as nice. The pot is really what makes the view.





Gathering several pots together in a collection is always interesting. It is usually done near the entrance to a house or a shed (the most famous example being at Great Dixter).  It also works well at the intersection of two paths. Grouping pots is convenient for watering, and if one potted plant in a group is not at its best, you are less likely to notice it than if the pot were on its own.



A very popular way of using pots in an entrance is as "sentries" - putting identical pots on each side of a door or an entrance. Whereas the grouping of several pots produces informality, the "sentry" approach is more formal and produces a feeling of order and balance.













At times, the setting calls for only one sentry.
There is also the "mother daughter(s)" approach, where you have similar pots, but of different sizes.

A pot can also be strategically positioned to break the monotony of a view.

There is really only one very important rule to follow in the placement of large pots - they have to be perfectly leveled. The arrangement below would be perfect if the half barrel were leveled rather than sinking on one side.  This is a pity as it ruins the whole effect.


On the steps below, having the pots offset from each other rather than all in one straight line creates a lot more interest.

I end with what, among my photos, is the most attractive garden view with a large pot. The round shape of the pot is echoed in the shrubs and contrasts with the straight hedge and pergola. Its shiny finish also creates a nice contrast. As for the brown colour, it blends in beautifully with the rest, creating a feeling of peacefulness, everything being in its proper place.





41 comments:

  1. This was delightful. You know I am a fan of pots for annuals. I may add more this year. Cheery spots of color!
    Oh, wait, I just realized mine aren't sentinels. But as you can cover my garden a dozen steps, I'll just keep you smiling as you go.

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  2. Useful post Alain. Personally I have many pots dotted around the garden but struggle to make them look as if they belong. I can see, how in your images, it should be done. I must put your suggestions into practice.

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    1. I am sure your pots look better than you think. Familiarity breeds contempt!

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    1. You are quite right Ela, some of these are lovely pictures but they come from various gardens. None from mine unfortunately

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  4. Pots have lots of advantages Alain like allowing you to grow acid loving plants when you have an alkaline soil as I believe you do!
    They are also good to grow plants in dry shade under dehydrating trees where the pots ensure all the watering is delivered to your plant.

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    1. You are absolutely right Roger but it is slightly more complex for cold climate gardeners. Here, most pots left with soil and plants in them in winter would break. Even if they did not, the plants would die because the root ball would freeze through and through. We can use pots that way and I do, but it is more work. You have to take the plants out of the pots each autumn, stick them in the ground, and put them back in its pot in spring! (I suppose that is why I like empty pots!!!)

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  5. Our pots tend to just be functional large clay pots. I need to be more adventurous.

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    1. I love large clay pots but have few of those simply because they are so fragile (see my answer to Roger). The glazed ones can take a lot of frost. Once empty they survive any weather. Clay pots on the other hand I have to store in a dry place to have them survive the winter.

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    2. I'm afraid ours have a limited life span too.

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  6. Now that's a cool idea. You're using your head.

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  7. Great examples Alain. I like the mother/daughter red ceramic pots especially. Big scale pots really appeal to me. I find they make more of a statement than a bunch of little pots.

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    1. I love them too. As I was saying below, when they are heavy enough they don't seem to be affected even by the coldest winter. You used to find them cheap in Chinese shops but the type of shops where I got them don't seem to exist anymore.

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  8. Enjoyed your post Alain, but although I do understand how decorative pots can enhance the garden I do use quite a lot of cheaper plastic containers to grow plants which don't suit my soil conditions, usually to provide better drainage, and find that the cost to do this with glazed pots is prohibitive particularly as they do tend to have a short life.

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    1. I would say it depends on the pot Rick. Some glazed pots are rather fragile but others (usually from China - like the ones I call mother and daughter in this post) are extremely tough. Usually, the heavier, the tougher. These two red pots have spent the last 8 winters outside, sometimes in -30 temperature and have never cracked or chipped in any way (here you have to empty them in autumn though). But they are as heavy as if they were made of concrete.

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  9. This is interesting, especially having a large empty pot. I like the mother, daughter , but the last one is perfect as you say. I must now go out and make sure all my pots are level!xxx

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    1. I think we tend to feel we should put something in each pot but they can be quite nice empty.

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  10. Hello Alain ... Yes pots can make such a difference in the presentation of specific sections in the garden and entrance ways .. I had to giggle at the half barrel in it's slightly drunken (sunken) state .. it is an example of what NOT to do for certain !
    This last picture is my favorite .. so stately and impressive !
    I also do like the mother/daughter pot arrangements ... I do that as well.
    Great post !
    Joy

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    1. That last picture is nice isn't it? All seems so nicely proportioned.

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  11. A timely post for me Alain. Part of our back garden gets very boggy in Winter, so on the instruction of she who has to be obeyed, I got stuck in removed a skelp of the lawn, placed a fabric membrane on the ground and applied a good amount of gravel. Loads of pots had been filled with plants removed from the area so we spent a fair bit of time placing them. You are so correct, the slightest bit off level and it sticks out like a sair thumb.

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    1. I find getting pots leveled is more difficult than I would expect. On gravel you can wiggle them leveled but on solid surface you have to resort to wedges.

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  12. Great post. I often have that problem of the pots not being level. Also my pots are never nice enough to work without plants. They are all plastic or fiberglass, otherwise I have to take them inside for the winter.

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    1. There are some (usually Chinese) that can put up with our winters (you still have to empty them in the fall or the plants will die).

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  13. Great post about creative ways to incorporate pots and potted plants in the garden. I usually arrange several pots together--for the reasons you mention. I think I need to incorporate more empty pots. Thanks for sharing all these great examples.

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    1. A few pots are difficult to plant. A have a large celadon blue one which is very attractive but I have yet to find a plant that will look good in it. I always leave it empty.

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  14. Really like the photo and advice about leveling pots. Not something I had considered but seeing the photo really brought the point home. I see you said you have pots that have sat out in our cold winters. Do you leave them outdoors or bring them into a cold storage building? I have resisted buying pots till now as I wasn't sure if they could handle our winters.

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  15. Many of my pots I empty and but under a porch or in unheated shed. Some (like the mother-daughter in the post) I simply turn upside down, leave them where they are and comes spring they are fine even if it got very cold (-35 last year). You can figure out how frost resistant a pot will be by its weight. Even when they are glazed like the red ones, frost resistant pots weigh a great deal.

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  16. A great post. You obviously put a lot of thought into the positioning of your pots. I have a large empty pot which I am very fond of but I just can' t decide on a spot which really sets it off. It is rather heavy to lug about the garden to try it out in different places. What a pity you can' t just pop over from Canada to help me find the right spot for it. You c!early have an eye for this sort of thing.

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    1. You are very generous Chloris. They can be heavy to lug about the garden. I find one place where a large pot always looks nice is next to some tall grass. The contrast always seems to work out well.

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  17. The round pot on the last photo is what I like too Alain. But I think they are too heavy.

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    1. Being heavy is a large part of their charm! But it is true that you don't want to have to move such pots regularly!

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  18. Hello Alain, I love pots, more precisely, large curved terracotta pots, I love their shape and the way they look but it's always a gamble - given how expensive they are - that they won't suffer from frost shattering. Although they're labelled as "frost resistant" - it's far from a guarantee is it?

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    1. Most are not very frost resistant but some Chinese ones that feel like they are made of concrete although they are glazed seem very resistant. They are expensive in nurseries and home stores but you sometimes can find them in Chinese shops where they are much cheaper. That is where I got most of mine.

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  19. Interesting post, Alain, I must admit that I don't have any empty pots, everythings gets filled up straight away. Maybe I don't own enough pots though. Made the mistake of declaring many years ago to my husband that I wouldn't need any more ever...silly me, don't know what made me say that! Ever since he's having a great time when I do get weak and buy another one ;). What kind of pots do you have and how do you protect them from frost damage in your hard winters? This is even a challenge here where winters are mostly mild.

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  20. Large clay pots I have to empty and I store protected from the elements. Many glazed large pots I empty and turn upside down, raising them slightly from the ground. Finally, there are some Chinese glazed pots (that seem to weight a ton) that I can just leave out empty. This is the case of the "mother & daughter" above and the celadon pot in the view of the garden under the tab 'About' in the blog.
    As for declaring you won't ever need more pots, remember the French proverb: il ne faut jamais dire "fontaine je ne boirai pas de ton eau".

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  21. Thanks Alain, a very timely post as we begin to plan changes in the garden for the new season.Lots to think about, and lots of inspiration from your photos.

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    1. Good luck with your changes to the garden!

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  22. I love pots and have a lot, about 85 or so. I love seeing them as empty focal points but have such a hard time not stuffing them with something. They allow me to grow plants that would struggle in my heavy soil and they expand the amount of space I have for gardening.

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    1. 85 pots Tammy? You are a worse potoholic than I am!
      They are nice aren't they? Somehow, they add a human dimension to the planting.

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