Pots are hot

Containers: Flowers can go just about anywhere, and well-placed pots can accent many points of a garden's design.

In the garden

April 23, 2000|By Marty Ross | Marty Ross,Universal Press Syndicate

Most gardeners have a weakness for flowerpots, and temptation is everywhere. Interest in container gardening has never been greater, and manufacturers and importers of pots of all kinds are scrambling for shares of a rapidly growing market.

No other accessory fits so effortlessly into a garden in so many interesting situations. A couple of well-placed pots on the front steps bring the garden up to the door. Containers make it possible to grow flowers on a deck or balcony. Pots of flowers can be used like decorative punctuation marks in a garden, formally ornamenting the crossing of garden paths, emphasizing the corners of a flower bed or standing -- like great, blooming statues -- at the ends of perspectives.

Earthy terra-cotta pots are every gardener's sentimental favorite, but there is a vast selection of pots to choose from.

Campania, a wholesale import company, sells Italian terra-cotta pots, cast-stone containers and lightweight molded plastic pots. These three materials represent the bulk of the market, but iron urns and tubs, elegant wooden boxes, rustic barrels, beautiful glazed and painted pots and containers made of cement, fiberglass and lead, in all sizes, are available from garden shops, mail-order companies, antique stores and specialty shops.

Richly decorated Italian terra-cotta containers have long been prized by gardeners on both sides of the Atlantic. Seibert & Rice, importers of handmade terra-cotta pots from the town of Impruneta in Tuscany, recently collaborated with the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C., to replace some of the enormous, 100-year-old Impruneta containers, decorated with luxurious garlands of fruit and flowers, on the mansion's grand front terrace. Mara Seibert and her partner, Lenore Rice, tracked down the place that had bought the original molds and commissioned a set of new pots.

"You see people making these pots -- it's really a creation," Seibert says. "The pots are like sculptures."

Other pots on the market have their roots in American garden styles. The museum shop at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's estate in Virginia, offers a collection of terra-cotta containers based on fragments of old flowerpots excavated on the grounds. Campania sells stylish cast-stone urns and planters copied from fine early 20th-century American designs. "They are old-timers, but they are here forever," Cilio says of the company's American Garden Heritage line.

Polyethylene pots have made a big impression on gardeners, Cilio says. They're light, durable and unbreakable. The fanciest molded plastic containers look like terra cotta, with its characteristic irregularities and variations.

Impruneta pots require something of an investment. Small containers cost in the neighborhood of $75; large pots cost up to $1,500 for a 28-inch planter. A plain terra-cotta pot that size can be had at most shops for around $50. Top-quality plastic planters cost $50 to $200.

Baskets, old watering cans, wooden shoes -- anything that will hold soil -- can be used as a pot without apology. People have been planting red geraniums and other bright summer flowers in colorful tin cans with drain holes punched in the bottom for generations.

Rebecca Cole, owner of Potted Gardens in New York's Greenwich Village, plants coneflowers in milk cans, fills old washtubs with billowing blue plumbago and loads toy dump trucks with cheerful marigolds, all to great effect.

It doesn't really matter whether you spend $1 on an old cookie tin or $1,000 on a terra-cotta tub decorated with fruit, cherubs and seashells. Flowerpots are like garden pockets: Fill them with things you love.


Most garden shops offer a variety of containers, and mail-order companies include more pots among their products every year. Fine old containers also turn up at antiques shops, flea markets and auctions. Here are a few sources:

Campania International is a wholesale importer and distributor of containers in hundreds of styles and sizes. There is no retail catalog. To find a shop in your area that carries Campania products, call 215-538-1106, or check the company's Web site: www.campaniainternational.com.

Seibert & Rice, P.O. Box 365, Short Hills, N.J. 07078, 973-467-8266, www.seibert-rice.com, imports more than 50 terra-cotta pots from pottery studios in Impruneta, Italy. The catalog is $5.

Archaeologists at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's estate, discovered decorative rim fragments of several Jefferson-period flowerpots. Modern terra-cotta pots were designed from the shards and are available from Monticello, P.O. Box 316, Charlottesville, Va. 22902, 804-984-9800, www.monticello.org. The Twinleaf newsletter, which includes the catalog of the garden shop, is free.

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