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Consider the Containers

My friend, the Flaneur du Pays, is an architect and claims to be more of a vicarious gardener than a knees in the dirt type, but he has a lot to say about cachepots, jardinaires, urns and plain old pots. He will be guest posting from his cottage moderne set amid a grove of trees, in sight of  a salt marsh and Long Island Sound, for a couple of days while I put my knees in the dirt.

Not the Flaneur's pot or flower

“I’ve just unleashed the agapanthus. They’ve flown the coop! Spending two seasons in a small house with four enormous pots of agapanthus and then suddenly having them gone is glorious. Who knew there was so much room in the house? And they’ll be just fine out on the terrace, looking better and better each day. Normally that would be that: no more work until October, but this year they again need to be repotted – they’re bursting through their containers. I’ve been scouring various sources and wondering, “Could they possibly make pots as big as I’m going to need?” Indeed they do.

Before you read any further, know this: I opt for any solution that liberates me from mulching, tilling, bending and kneeling, and especially from weeding. I also like being able to have instant gratification so anything that can give plants amplitude in height and presence without having to wait for years is a boon. My bias is toward the architectural (a neighbor once commented that I arrange my perennials like a field marshal). For me the discovery of the plant stands with rollers (the casters elevate a plant slightly and allow it to be swiftly zipped across a room or terrace) was the equivalent of discovering I (the floral field marshal) had several divisions of armored tanks waiting at the border. By the way, IKEA sells such plant stands in their garden area – they are available in sizes up to 24” in diameter and can sustain a 400-pound load! And they’re priced well below those found in more recherché garden emporia.

I’m a minimalist who views a lawn as a carpet, trees as walls, and plants (few) as furniture (spare) to be moved around in pleasing ways as the mood strikes. I can operate an electric mulching mower and I’m fortunate enough to have the trees in situ, so my gardening impulses can be satisfied by a few containers of, for lack of a better term, plants. You no doubt are infinitely more ambitious, willing to work and possessed of the energy and interest to embrace as much of what Mother Nature offers as possible within whatever garden space you have. Me? Please. A chair or bench with cushion, a glass of lemonade, a large market umbrella and a book are all I ask.

But whether you’re slothful me or enterprising you, we can agree that there is a time and place for containers in the garden. With relative ease they can be placed to give structure and spatial definition, they can frame and define an entry or arrival sequence, and they supplant the need to spend vast quantities commissioning sculptors to fashion objects of art that ultimately are less interesting than plants anyway. Containers can accommodate almost any plant’s root requirements and watering needs. Containers also can be a blessing to those whose arthritic joints or under-utilized muscles recoil at the prospect of stooping, bending and lifting. A handsome pot on a plant stand with casters can be moved about as easily as place cards can be coyly switched at a wedding reception.”

More tomorrow.                                           Flaneur du Pays

1 comment to Consider the Containers

  • This makes me long for my graduate-school days when I had an ENORMOUS garden just of containers. It was easy to pull them inside when it got cold (the ones that needed to go in, anyway–this was Texas). It’s the only time I’ve ever been much of a gardener. I think a trip to IKEA might be in my future…..

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