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Pot Luck: Optimizing Container Plants

By Marsha Fottler.

I didn’t discover Guy Wolff. Martha Stewart did. Then she gave Oprah Winfrey some Guy Wolff pots for Christmas on television and in an instant these two cultural divas alerted the entire world to a gifted Connecticut potter who had been quietly and successfully throwing exquisite flower pots for serious gardeners since 1971.

Wolff’s terra cotta containers are based upon 18th and 19th century English flower pots and also on ancient Asian vases. He works in red and white clay. His designs are simple, each pot carefully hand molded on a wheel with the purpose to hold specific a kind of plant or flower. Form follows function and each pot has a nice big hole in the bottom. There is detail on the rim of the pots – thick braid, a running rope or fluted pie-crust edge. Some pots are embossed with simple botanical or geometric surface ornamentation. Nothing too fancy because the pot is meant to embrace and enhance the plant inside it.

For many gardeners who value and collect containers, Guy Wolff pots are the gold standard for terra cotta pots. You can buy Guy Wolff pots directly from his Web site but sometimes you can buy them locally too. An orchid and gift shop in my town sells Guy Wolff pots and part of the pleasure of selecting one is handling the pots, running my hands over the inside and outside of the pot and then thinking about what plant will looks its best in one of these smooth and elegant vessels.

I’ve put 99-cent annuals from Target in Guy Wolf pots as well as rare orchids, strange bold bromeliads, tender ferns and crazy vines. Every single one looks special, like plant and pot were made just for me and just for each other. I keep container plants on the patio, the porch and sometimes I bring them in for a dinner party table centerpiece. That’s another lovely feature of a exquisite flower pot, it’s sculpture for your table.

Tips to Maximize Your Container Plants:

1. Drainage: If your pot is for living plants, you must have drainage. No holes, then don’t buy the pot unless you can drill a hole in the bottom. If you are irrationally compelled to purchase a sealed pot so beautiful your life won’t be the same without it, use the pot for dried flowers, branches or feathers. Better yet, put the flower pot on your kitchen counter and fill it with wooden spoons. For a smaller useless-but-gorgeous pot, roll up washcloths and arrange in flower pot for the guest bathroom.

2. Soil: Purchase the right soil mixture for the container plant. Ask at the place where you shop for plants and pots.

3. Depth: Select the right plant for the depth of your designer pot. Plants such as herbs or succulents and most annuals don’t have deep roots so you don’t need a tall pot; you need a wide one.

4. Water: You must water container plants more often than those in the ground.

5. Move: Rotate your container plants frequently to follow the intensity of light your plants need such as shade, filtered light or morning sun. Group pots as you would throw pillows to create a decor affect that matches your outdoor color and design scheme. An arrangement of lush plants in striking pots are a movable feast for the eyes.

6. Recycle: When a plant dies or gets too big for a pot, clean the inside your container with a bleach-water solution and a brush. Air dry and you’re ready to start again.

7. Patina: Over time terra cotta pots and stone urns will develop a patina (subtle color and texture changes) that renders your vessel unique. Never scrub off the patina on a quality pot. The aged patina of a well used and lovingly maintained flower pot is what gives that pot its individual character. A flower pot’s age and beauty reflect positively upon you, the gardener.

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