How does the garden grow?: The challenge of replacing my winter-damaged ceramic planters

Several years ago, in a search to find planters for the front porch of my home, my friend Mike Smith - co-owner of Joy Creek Nursery - took me to a garden pottery wholesaler. I was thrilled to find three large ceramic pots that perfectly matched the purple of the front door (below). Over the next few summers the planters were filled with purple fountain grass, purple and green sweet potato vines, pansies and more. During the winter months the vessels were often planted with a variety of kale.

Following the cold and icy winter of 2009, I noticed fine cracks beginning to appear in the surface of the pots. A few small pieces of the purple finish even began to fall off. Fortunately, the seasonal vegetation in the planters covered the increasing flaws.

This past winter the planters began to fail even more. Large portions of the finish began to fall away from the pots after another unusually cold winter (above). The search for replacements began.

With friends and neighbors complaining about winter damage to their own planters, I started looking for substitutes that might better handle the elements. I must have looked at every fiberglass, resin and concrete planter made on websites, at home improvement stores and at nurseries. Most were fake in appearance, too shiny, poorly designed or just plain ugly.

The arrival of my Crate & Barrel catalog resulted in a couple of possible solutions. One, a bronze option, came with the disclaimer "bring indoors during freezing temperatures." Right - I don't think so. The other was a bit more intriguing to me - a tall, square zinc planter with a shallow insert for plantings.

After a visit to the local Crate & Barrel, three of the planters appeared on the porch (above). Ed, my partner of over two decades, suggested feeding drip line sprinkler lines up through the drainage holes in the pots and inserts. I then smashed the old, purple ceramic pots with a hammer; using the pieces to weight down the bottom portions of my new porch decor. After doing so, I had to go plant shopping.

Most of what I planted in the pots came from another favorite local nursery - Marbott's. Spiky Cordyline australis is the centerpiece of each planter. They are surrounded by Blackie sweet potato vine, Blue Picotte Lobelia, the almost chartreuse Marguerite sweet potato vine and Antique Red Diascia. I look forward to the pots filling in as spring progresses - and seeing how the planters survive the changing seasons.

Note: You might want to check out my flower pot umbrella stand, hose guide and copper pipe garden trellis projects. I also have a regularly updated Flickr photo gallery of images from my garden

© 2011 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

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