Pots and containers

Questions on modern planters' popularity, durability and value for money are fielded by Maureen Keepin.

Q: Are planters still popular?

A: Forming a focal point, the use of pots and containers has risen through the popularity of the architectural garden, with designers selecting containers for their decorative as well as functional role.

There has also been an increase in courtyard gardens, where flowers contained in pots are blended with attractive paving, wall features, mirrors and ironwork to optimise this outdoor space and mould the garden into a harmonious whole.

Unity and balance is achieved by selecting materials that are complementary to existing building and landscaping materials and scaling the pots and containers with the height, width and length of other living and non-living elements.

Where dramatic changes have taken place is in the materials now available, with stone, metal, timber and terracotta joined by concrete, glass fibre, polyethylene and recycled materials. Natural materials are now replicated in a more authentic way with lightweight lead-look pots sitting well with the originals.

Traditionally-shaped pots are becoming highly popular again because small shrubs can be grown in one size and easily transferred into the next because the root ball is not trapped. Large non-porous pots can be used to add height to the garden and help reduce the need for more frequent watering, which can be a downside to smaller pots.

Q: Are pots likely to crack during exceptionally cold weather?

A: Many UK pot manufacturers report that following a dip in sales due to the introduction of cheaper foreign imports, customers are now returning. The reason being some pots were unable to withstand the vagaries of the UK climate and being very absorbent cracked in the winter months.

Errington Reay, based in Northumberland, produces salt-glazed stoneware pots with a 10-year frostproof guarantee. Replicating the technology used to produce sanitary pipes, as the salt vaporises in the kiln it becomes sodium chloride and this chemical reaction creates the distinctive textured finish.

The company diversified into pots in the 1970s when plastic pipes decimated its pipe industry. Colours vary from light brown to dark chocolate. A new terracotta range uses vitrified stoneware clay to produce resilient traditionally-shaped pots in sizes ranging from 152mm high up to a 762mm pot priced at around £130 including VAT. These products are popular with garden centres, garden designers and landscapers.

Haddonstone has introduced new frostproof products designed with a contemporary twist on a classical style. Suitable for a more modern garden setting, they are art deco inspired, but the company also provides a good range of traditional designs.

The new pots came into fruition when Robert AM Stern, a leading US architectural company, selected them to create an Athenian and Olympian series based on Greek architecture.

A 527mm-high Small Athenian pot costs £120 including VAT and a 914mm-high Olympian Vase £435 including VAT. All pots are made by casting ground limestone, which is very similar in appearance to natural Portland Stone.

Bath Stone and Terracotta colourways are also available. The pots meet the relevant international standards, including the salination standards of the Gulf states.

Q: Do pots offer value for money?

A: Although everyone wants a bargain, value for money has to include longevity. Yorkshire Flowerpots has received a good response to its stylish clay pots in classic, ribbed and contemporary designs.

Using material from its own quarries in Barnsley, the most popular size is its medium flowerpot measuring 406mm wide x 406mm high, weighing 14kg. This costs £17.99 including VAT. Its smallest is a 305x153mm bowl weighing 3.10kg (£6.99 including VAT). The largest in its range is the impressive Empress Longtom at 965x1,219mm (£2,000 including VAT).

Willowstone sells a range of durable GRC pots made from glass fibre reinforced concrete that are lightweight and rust coloured. The range features a round grooved pot in small (380mm high), medium (450mm) and large (510mm) sizes. This range includes authentic-looking round and square wood pots made from the same material.

The company's attractive cast stone range covers most architectural styles from Venetian to Tudor, rustic, rose, poppy and Marbella through to contemporary, making them suitable for use in any garden design.

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