Contain-er Your Excitement

Terra-cotta, wood, plastic, metal, re-purposed materials - so many options to hold your plants, how will you pick? Check out some of our favorites to help you narrow your choices.

Excerpted from Garden Design
Terra Cotta Clay Pots DK - Garden Design © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Terra-cotta Clay Pots

Today's clay pots are mostly machine-molded rather than hand-thrown, but you can still buy handmade pots from specialist potteries or antique shops. The higher the temperature of the firing, the greater the frost resistance—and cost. Clay is porous, and pots dry out quickly in hot sun.

Plastic Terra Cotta Garden Pot DK - Garden Design © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Terra-cotta-style Trough

Versatile clay can be molded to almost any shape. But take a good look - could this be plastic? These days it can be hard to tell the two apart. While replicating the look of clay, plastic is lighter, frostproof and usually cheaper. It’s also better at keeping compost and plant roots moist during hot dry spells. Low cost, plastic pots also come in a huge color range.

Colorful Ceramic Pots DK - Garden Design © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Glazed Ceramic

Glazing a clay pot transforms it. During the kiln firing, the glaze melts to coat the pot in a thin layer of glassy material. As a result, the pot becomes stronger, frost- and waterproof, if it is glazed inside and out, and, depending on the glaze, more colorful, while its cost still remains relatively low. Match your pots with planting for a unified display.

Feeling Bubbly DK - Garden Design © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Water Feature

For water features, for example, bubble fountains and patio ponds, choose pots that are glazed inside to minimize water loss. This urn is set on a cobble-covered metal grille over a reservoir; water is pumped up through the drainage hole in the base to overflow back into the tank.

Special Strawberry Pot DK - Garden Design © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Strawberry Pot

Hand-thrown or molded, clay strawberry pots, with their \"balcony\" planting shelves, are also ideal for herbs. With this type of pot, big is best as the increased volume of compost prevents the plants drying out too quickly. But beware of winter - strawberry pots may not be frostproof. Usually terra-cotta, they are also available in plastic.

Stone Urns Create Timeless Look DK - Garden Design © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Stone Urn

Whether empty or planted in, stone urns have a classic, timeless quality. You can find originals in reclamation yards at a price; but composite stone, for example cast concrete, is a more affordable and widely available option. Stand an urn on a base and it instantly becomes a focal point.

Concrete Container Good for Heavy Trees and Shrubs DK - Garden Design © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Cast Concrete

Strong and inexpensive, concrete is a versatile material for making planters, like this rough-cast bowl. Containers made from concrete are available in both contemporary and classic designs, and, because they are very heavy, they make a good choice for top heavy plants, such as trees and shrubs.

Terrazzo Container DK - Garden Design © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited


Hardwearing, easy to clean, and very tactile, terrazzo is the ideal material for contemporary containers. Granite or marble chips are bonded with cement, then polished to create a smooth surface—a technique that has been around since Roman times. Lightweight polyester terrazzo planters are available.

Weathered Steel Garden Containers DK - Garden Design © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Weathering Steel

Never has rust looked so good. Weathering steel is a high-strength steel alloy. It is designed to develop a layer of rust that, ironically, helps to protect the metal underneath. Strong and durable, it is perfect for long-term plantings, and, as here, water features. Weathering steel is expensive, but its high durability means that it will last for the long-term.

Baked On Powder Coating Tougher Finish than Paint DK - Garden Design © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Powder-coated Metal

A much tougher, non-flaking finish than paint, powder coating (a mix of pigments and resin) is baked on to the surface of these metal containers. Available in a huge range of colors and finishes, the coating inhibits rust. To protect the surface, clean with soapy water and a soft dry cloth and avoid abrasive solvents.

Galvanized Metal Container Gives Contemporary Look DK - Garden Design © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Galvanized Metal

The mottled patina of galvanized metal is created by \"hot dipping\"—a chemical process that coats steel and iron with rust-resistant zinc. Planters come in a range of styles and sizes; most are lightweight, single skinned, affordable and durable. In winter, protect plant roots by wrapping the container with plastic bubblewrap.

Lead Planter with Pink Flowers DK - Garden Design © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Lead Planter

Lead is a soft, malleable metal that is easy to work. This planter is made from a sheet of lead hammered into shape; the raised pattern is formed by pressing it into a mold. Although lead planters are gorgeous - and they are - they can be costly and comparatively weak, and are toxic; they mustn't come into contact with food plants. Glass fiber lead-style planters are a food-safe option.

Wooden Barrel Plant Container DK - Garden Design © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Wooden Barrel

Traditionally made from oak, the wooden pieces (called staves) are shaped to fit tightly together and held in place with metal hoops. You may be lucky enough to find vintage half wine or whisky barrels; more affordable replicas are also available. It's best to line your wooden barrel with plastic or butyl, especially if you're using it as a patio pond.

Lightweight Rustic Trough DK - Garden Design © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Wooden Trough

Lightweight and insulating in winter, this rustic planter is made from woven hazel twigs set in a timber frame. For longevity, choose pressure-treated wood and line the planter with plastic with drainage holes at the bottom to prevent compost and water leaking through the sides.

Use a Versaille Planter to Maximize Space DK - Garden Design © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Versailles Planter

Relatively light for the volume of compost they contain, these planters were originally designed for the orange trees at Versailles so they could be brought indoors over winter. Lining them with plastic extends the life of both hard- and softwood planters. Good quality plastic versions are also available, at a more affordable price.

Unique Garden Planter DK - Garden Design © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Old Boots

The more holes in the soles, the better the drainage in this whimsical container option. Fill old boots with compost, packing it firmly into the toe, and plant it up. Be aware that even the boots of enormous feet still hold relatively little compost, and plants are at risk of dehydrating in hot sun; consider using water-retaining gel.

Recycled Kitchenware Used for Garden Planters DK - Garden Design © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Recycled Kitchenware

Old colanders, chipped teapots, saucepans that have lost their handles—almost any old household vessel has planting potential for a sustainable garden design. You may need to drill holes for drainage or go easy on the watering.

Repurposed Tires Become Garden Containers DK - Garden Design © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Car and Truck Tires

Get extra mileage out of old tires by giving them a splash of paint and a new lease of life as a raised bed. Place the tires straight onto the soil and fill them with compost. The rubber absorbs the sun’s heat and warms up the compost for early plantings. Line tires with plastic first if you're growing food.

Excerpted from Garden Design

©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2009

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