Old-World Style Container Gardens

Create classic, rustic charm with these traditional bowls and urns in natural materials.

Ornamentals Grown in Round Terra Cotta Pots

Ornamentals Grown in Round Terra Cotta Pots

Terra cotta containers come in a variety of sizes and shapes, making for strong structural garden displays. Typical plants grown in terra cotta are ornamental grasses, alpines, and dwarf trees.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Terra cotta containers come in a variety of sizes and shapes, making for strong structural garden displays. Typical plants grown in terra cotta are ornamental grasses, alpines, and dwarf trees.

Set the scene in an informal or country garden with containers made from traditional materials and molded into classic shapes, such as urns or bowls. In a country garden with deep borders, a tiny English-style garden enclosed by brick walls, or a simple yard and small patio, try warm-colored terra-cotta and clay containers to give a natural look. These materials offer the perfect backdrop for most plants because their muted tones do not overpower either flowers or foliage, and their rustic appearance improves as they weather and age. Remember that many terra-cotta pots are not frost proof, so look for those with 10-year guarantees; they are usually more expensive but can be cost effective in the long run. 

Alternatively, use distressed zinc containers to add a dash of old-world charm to your design, or wooden boxes, which look fabulous in natural settings. Wicker baskets in all shapes and sizes are also charming; either line them with plastic punctured with drainage holes, or use them to hold plants potted in plastic containers.

Traditional Materials

Containers for traditional gardens come in a wide range of natural materials, but three of the most popular are terra-cotta, stone and wood, which blend perfectly into rustic and formal settings. Choose pots that suit the color and form of your plants, garden style and your available budget. 

Terra-cotta: This versatile material is used for a vast range of containers, from tiny pots to large urns, and in plain or intricately decorated styles. Terra-cotta is porous and will crack in frigid conditions unless fired at high temperatures to make it weatherproof. Line these porous pots with bubble plastic to keep water in.

Stone: Limestone, ironstone, granite and other types of stone make durable containers, ideal for planting trees, shrubs, and perennials. For a pot with a weathered patina, check out architectural salvage yards. If budgets are tight, opt for Terrazzo or stone resin, which are cheaper, but have the look and feel of real stone.

Wood and woven: Versailles-style and wooden planters, and half-barrels or baskets suit informal designs and a wide variety of plants. Line containers with plastic to prevent compost from falling through the gaps, and to prevent wood from rotting. Keep them under cover in the winter and treat lumber annually with preservative.

Keep Reading

Next Up

Garden Design: Connect Your Indoor and Outdoor Spaces

Let your indoor space inspire your landscape design plans.

Define Your Outdoor Space With a Garden Fence

Discover the materials and design that will work best for your garden boundary, whether it is a fence, wall or hedge.

Garden Design: Small Spaces

Tiny garden rule number one: Keep it simple.

Outdoor Living Spaces: Ideas for Outdoor Rooms

Learn about options and ideas for outdoor rooms and outdoor living spaces.

Small-Space Vegetable Gardens

Make room on your fire escape or pot up some tomato plants—you can grow delicious fruits and veggies even if you don't have much space.

Outdoor Rooms Add Livable Space

Spend less money on vacations and more time with friends and family on your deck or patio.

Ideas for Small-Space Gardeners

Whether you have a a patio or a windowsill, start a thriving garden with these space-saving ideas.