February 10, 2010

This Old Pot

I have never gotten the hang of container planting. I've tried filling nice garden pots with the plants I see in magazines, but my spillers, thrillers and fillers never look full or spill very gracefully, and they don't thrill.

But I have to find something for this pot this summer.  

Why?  Because it's an old artifact that I have lugged from house to house whenever I moved over the past 37 years.  It's an old friend.  It's heavy, it's clay, it's always been with me, and it needs something in it.

In 1973 I bought a vacant house on the Farmington River for $12,500.  That's not a typo, it was twelve thousand five hundred.  It needed work:
Inside were piles of yellowed dress patterns from 1921, half of an upright piano, broken furniture, stacks of undetermined rubble, and on the porch was a big ceramic garden pot with black markings.  Someone in this long abandoned heap of debris had once been a gardener.

By the time I left it looked a lot better.  We had completely rehabbed the inside, modernized the plumbing, added central heat, insulated, (although the icicles in this picture tell you it wasn't the most efficient), even poured a cement floor in the dirt cellar.  The outside was painted.  The fir trees so close to the front porch should have been removed, but we left them.

We did the work ourselves (we were young).  We were so busy renovating the house and barn, while working full time (as I said, we were young) that I never had time for a garden or plants, and nothing ever went into the big pot.  It just sat on the porch as a freestanding decoration.

But I liked it.  I brought it with me to the new house, where it still was never planted with anything, but served as a home for frogs and interesting slimy things.

I moved it to the next house, and then again to where we live now.  Once or twice I planted something in it, but mostly it sat empty.  It froze in the winter (I never brought it inside), it got knocked around the patio, placed under the deck, and used to store garden hoses.

After 37 years outside it's never cracked.  It's a little too orangey, not a muted terra cotta color, so its best admired from afar, and the black pottery is showing through the glaze more now.  The middle is wider than the neck, so transplanting anything big that grows in it will be a problem.  It's heavy; once planted it has to stay where it's put.

But after all these years it's time to plant this container and give it a spot in the garden come summer.  I feel it's become a lot like me: aged, round in the middle, not very elegant, but ready to grow something and shine.


  1. I get attached to containers too! One in particular, a huge splurge for a big birthday, and others picked up for nothing but aging gracefully. That's a great pot - maybe something purple or chartreuse would look nice with the orange...looking forward to seeing what you do :)

  2. A wonderful analogy. It will be interesting to see what you chose to plant in it.

  3. A lovely story about your pot - which I think is full of character, and I look forward to it taking centre stage in your garden this summer.

    (I know what you mean about planted pots never looking quite like those they show in the magazines)

  4. Cyndy and Lisa, I have a caryopteris Worcester Gold which isn't happy where it is. Gold-chartreuse foliage, neat but flowing habit and purple blooms. Sounds weird but it isn't. If I can trust myself with so much color and transplant that in this too-orange pot, I might do it. If I'm brave enough. Or I might just stick with one bright color v. the orange, not both purple blooms AND gold foliage. hmmm

  5. Karen - you have wonderful touches of color and interesting containers spread about your gardens... I'm learning by looking at everyone else's, trying to figure out how to use pots and accents!

  6. Hi Laurrie - how about a fountain grass? It will add great texture and height in the growing season and then you have the dried specimen in winter. And they're not so precious that you couldn't hack it out someday if you want to change it. Can't wait to see what you come up with! Kelly

  7. Kelly, a grass would be lovely. I've just started to use grasses planted about the gardens and they add a lot of texture. Might work well in this fat pot.

  8. Hi Laurrie,
    May I suggest using the pot for annuals? The purple and chartreuse palatte sounds great - maybe the lime green Sweet Potato Vine with some purple verbena and petunias add a red cordyline to the center for some height? But I would caution against planting anything permanent in it because of the "belly". I had a wonderful pot like that with a Lonicera 'Baggeson's Gold" in it. It was stunning until it got root bound and then I needed a sawz-all to cut it out. It was a choice of destroy the plant or destroy the pot. The pot was worth more, so I had to murder the plant.

  9. Cindee, good advice! I don't want to be murdering anything I put in this pot. Thanks for chiming in with some great suggestions.

  10. Your beautiful story and pictures have made me grow fond of this pot! I want you to plant it.

    BTW, your child was absolutely darling. :)

  11. Thanks for the sweet compliments Garden Ms. S!

  12. Hi Laurrie, what a touching story about this pot, and a peek into your life! You did well on the old house by the river, way to make the world better. We have moved several times too, so I can appreciate that a terra cotta pot that doesn't crack with that rough handling is something quite special. I like the red fountain grass idea, something tall and with movement and will offer winter interest with the dried stalks. Or left unplanted, it is so full of character and sentiment, maybe more frogs. :-)

  13. Frances, it's funny how this was just an old thing hanging around until I started to write about it,and until people chimed in with their wonderful ideas for it. Now it does have the character and sentiment you mentioned... all because I decided to blog about it!


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