February 11, 2012

Big Umbrian Pot

In my last post I mentioned I bought a lightweight resin and cement urn for my front garden.  It came yesterday in a big box.

Not what I expected.  It does not look at all like the picture in the catalog (Pottery Barn), not the same shape, not the same decorative rim.  It is chunkier and a brighter color.
 
Ordered this
Got this

What do you think?  Is this container too orange and bulky squatting in the long strip along the garage wall --- or is the rest of the garden so pathetically itty bitty that it's just out of scale?


I think it is the latter.  Everything else in this space is too small.

The tiny juniper on the very far left ('Gold Cone') needs to get some height and fill out, although it will remain an upright pillar, and it is a brighter green-gold in summer.  Right now it's just too pathetic.  The strawberry jars next to it --- also too small.

The center space between the windows will get a dramatic clematis, a crisp white big-flowered 'Henryi' to climb and add contrast against the brick come summer.  (The little blob of pink nandina will come out.)  Way over on the right next to Monster Pot is another tiny juniper pillar in a small red glazed container.  How silly.

All of this needs to scale up.  It's a front walk ---  you see it from afar as you approach the house.  There are large windows, and a lot of brick.  It is flat and dark colored.  Right now it suffers from being too tentative, even in winter.  Especially in winter.

The Big Umbrian Pot actually looks to scale with the window.  It is all the little things around it that make it look foolish.
It is hard for me to go bold with accents in the garden.  I think too small.  This space with so much hardscape structure and deep brick color is asking for me to step outside my comfort zone and play big.

The urn looks stupid now.  But I like it.  I like the tone-on-tone terra cotta with the brick and I do like the bulk.

The junipers will grow, the clematis will climb and flower, and I will put in other larger containers, add evergreen shrubs for mass in winter, and create a scale that complements my Big Umbrian Pot.

My new purchase is pushing me to design more dramatically for this challenging area.  It's not what I ordered, but for this problem garden it may be just what the doctor ordered.

24 comments:

  1. I like it. It looks like it has already inspired you to use bigger forms on that wall, which needs and can take it. I don't know about that type of pot, though it certainly is easier to plant and move, but it might fade a bit with time, depending on how much sun that wall gets.

    I just got a catalog that has fruiting and tropical plants. Logee's. They have a great selection of exotics -- many of which do well in containers. You might think about a white datura or brugmansia as an anchor, like your clematis. Then do just one other color. Or just stay with all-white and do some cream black-eyed susans? The Angel's Trumpets are so dramatic and I think they have scent as well. Would you have a place for it to overwinter?

    I'll be interested in what you choose!

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    1. Tricia, you've come up with some great suggestions, and I know I need to plant more dramatic things than junipers! Logee's is a treasure and is near me here in Connecticut. It's a destination visit, not just a nursery to buy from... it's like a trip to an exotic arboretum.

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  2. Laurrie, your reasoning sure works for me; the pot is a keeper – and a motivator, it seems. Often the case, isn't it: One feature leads to many good design changes. Your new urn likely will dull some, right? And, even moss a little.

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    1. Lee, the urn is synthetic, a mix of resin and cement, so I am worried it won't take on a patina or mossy cover. In fact, it may get lighter as it fades. I need to surround it with plants so it still carries some weight in this garden but isn't out in front all exposed.

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    2. I did note the synthetic composition and was counting on our newly tropical heat and moisture to work some moss and darkening magic. I don't have any of those pots but may try one (clay's getting real heavy), so I look forward to knowing whether yours will change.

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  3. I LOVE YOUR POT!!!! I think it's perfect!! Designing everything on a too-small scale was a big problem I had with my front garden last summer. It felt weird to increase the proportions of everything but it's finally starting to fit. My first thought when I see my front yard anymore isn't "Aak! Something's wrong but I don't know what it is." That bed is going to be gorgeous!!!

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    1. Tammy, I was interested to see if the pot would meet with your approval, as our gardens seem similar and have a lot of the same challenges. This brick wall has bothered me just as your front yard did... something has been wrong with it but I wasn't sure what. Now I think it has been too puny all along.

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  4. You are right about the problem here. It's always clearer in photographs, isn't it? I think this pot is better than the one you ordered, both in shape and colour, for placing in this garden bed. My first thought was "it should be between the windows". Would it fit in front of your planned Clematis? Planted with something low to spill over the front, this could be stunning and also break up the appearance of the surface of the pot if it doesn't age as you hope. Then your Juniper on the left could be matched with one on the right, and your bed would have some symmetry, tying it to the symmetrical windows on the house. The other plantings could be formal and symmetrical too, if you wanted, or (my choice)looser and more random within this outline. Whatever you decide to do, be brave and go bold!

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    1. Lyn, the photo really was the key to me seeing the scale of this space. I am definitely going to take your suggestion to plant a spiller in the pot to drape over the edge, I think that will soften the look. I'll experiment with symmetry --- my thought now is to keep it asymmetrical, but the big pot is light enough to move around and try different arrangements, so I'll see how centering it looks. Thanks for the suggestions!

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  5. Laurrie, I like the pot, it's a keeper. Finding the right scale for any garden can be difficult. I always tell my garden design students that when they are buying something like this for their garden, always order the next size up!

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    1. Your advice turns out to be critical for me... I need to get the next size up for everything I do here. My first design attempts always come out looking too small -- especially the size of each garden bed.

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  6. What is that line, can't always get what you want but you might just get what you need? I think the universe decided you needed that pot to make you see your garden in a different way. Love the colour and size of it but I agree it makes everything else look small. But that's a good thing, you needed something larger in the same scale as the house.

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    1. Marguerite, this pot surely is a catalyst for me seeing things in a new way! I'm glad you agree with my assessments of the problems with this space.

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  7. Laurrie, I think you hit the mark when you said scale is the issue. The new pot works because it better fits the scale of the wall and windows than the other pots. Some thoughts: raise the smaller strawberry pots so they carry more visual weight and move the red potted juniper to join them; move the urn to where the red pot sat; for now fill the larger strawberry pot and the urn with twig cuttings (perhaps spray-painted black to tie in with the shutters and trellis and dark red to offset the red pot and white to pick up the window color - I was paying attention at the CHS symposium). The combined mass of the raised strawberry jars, the red potted juniper and the ground planted juniper will better offset the large urn. Filling the empty pots with similar twig cuttings will tie them all together.

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    1. Joene, I am going to try raising the strawberry jars and try the painted flower stalk trick in them. I am so glad you were paying attention last weekend! And the little red pot will help with some massing over on that side vs. monster pot on the right. Great suggestions, and easy to play around with.

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  8. You are right, Laurrie. It is a matter of scale. It took the pot for you to see it. Once plants grow and you plant the pot, all will fall into place.

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    1. Donna, Thanks. I knew I needed some height and bulk in this garden, but until the pot arrived and I could see it, I could not picture what was needed.

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  9. I think you need a blast of great big shrubs in front of that wall, talking about scale. Maybe some large grasses mixed in. I realize they may cover the walk, but maybe that's okay. You could make a new walk (stepping stones?) in front of a greatly expanded border. Maybe some huge hydrangeas among other things.

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    1. I know! I do need bigger mass here, and I like your description of "a blast of great big shrubs". We have talked about relocating the walk out away from the garage wall, and curving it so you don't walk straight by on the way to the front door. But. . . with the sloping topography of our front yard it's more than we are ready to take on right now!

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  10. I'm sure we would love to see a follow up post on this one later in the season when everything is growing and you have the pot planted.
    By the way is that Maple that suffered damaged awhile ago that I see in that one photo? How is that tree doing anyway?

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    1. I will post what this strip looks like in spring and summer when I get it all planted up and "working". The maple is the one that split last winter (good eye!) and here is the update --- it survived and is doing fine. http://laurries.blogspot.com/2012/01/surgery.html

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  11. I think the the pot looks great too, I want one! How about some tall grasses like Panicum (Switchgrass). They come in various shades of steely blue to orangey red and are more vertical than the more common Miscanthus types, they shouldn't flop over the sidewalk too much. They can add some softness, texture, height, and winter interest too.

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    1. Julie, thanks for the suggestions. Panicums are some of my favorites for problem solving because they are so vertical and beautiful. I used 'Northwind' to screen the A/C units on the other side, and they are gorgeous. I could use them here too, and they could be a counterpoint to the brick and formality (and bring in repetition from the other gardens). Hmmmm

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  12. I would certainly complain to Pottery Barn. It isn't the one you ordered-except for size.I think it goes with your brick and the size is good. For now the border is just unfinished but the pot you ordered looks more like natural cement.

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