On How to Select Your Garden Planters

  in  Gardening
Selecting your Planters
The exact choice of planters is very much a matter of personal taste but the correct scale and shape are of the utmost importance for creating a pleasurable effect.

Size
A planter with a sizeable volume of growing medium will dry out less quickly than a smaller planter and it will be capable of sustaining larger, more vigorous plants. As a general rule, planters with a diameter smaller than twenty three centimetres shouldn't be used for hot dry situations. A number of vases and urns which are extremely attractively shaped and proportioned have a soil capacity and planting area that are relatively small. Always make sure they will give adequate depth of soil, or compost to accommodate plant root systems both in the middle and at the fringes of the planter. Ten centimetres is only just enough to ensure adequate root area for small edging plants. It's best also to consider carefully before choosing containers with small mouths, as despite their overall volume these offer only a very confined area for planting. To some degree this difficulty may be overcome by grouping several planters together to produce a bolder display.

Stability
Always look for planters with large or heavy bases to provide stability, particularly where there is to, be a regular through flow of people. At planting most plants used are going to be fairly small. Always allow sufficient space to accommodate the plants once they are fully grown.

Weight
Some planters, especially stone ones may be very heavy to pick up and move around, although this is a bonus for stability. These planters aren't easily brought home in a car. Some planters are made in sections but even their individual parts could be weighty and difficult to transport.

Drainage
For drainage there should always be one large hole or several smaller holes in the bottom of the planter.

Style
Contemporary designs will more often than not be out of place in old surroundings, but the converse isn't necessarily the case.

Materials
Planters made in natural materials will usually look best, but will be more expensive to acquire, particularly if they're hand crafted or sculptured.

Ease of Maintenance
When siting a planter take into consideration ease of access to enable maintenance. For instance, it should be possible to reach window boxes for watering especially if the windows do not open at the bottom. If you propose to site a hanging basket over an doorway, keep in mind the nuisance of dripping water. Situations exposed to continuous sun light often leads to rapid drying out and wind could cause damage to plants.

Grouping Containers
The grouping of planters requires a certain sensitivity. Size and number needs to be proportionate, to the situation. A lot of small planters scattered about an area don't necessarily make a bold impact and can look fussy. A group of small planters can also be more difficult to maintain. One large container placed to dominate an area may be considerably more eye catching and effective, and certainly offers the benefit of easier maintenance.

Tall Planters
Unless skilfully planted, a single tall, narrow planter, similar to a chimney pot or drainpipe can look insignificant. These planters tend to appear more imposing when grouped. Chimney pots of various heights will always produce a better effect. Even if it's only possible to get pots of similar heights, extra height may be achieved for variation by standing some of the pots on bricks or by setting the front ones lower by digging a hole in the ground where this is possible. The pots will also be more pleasing if grouped close together. The same principle could be extended to different kinds of planters as a general rule a group of pots should present a range of different heights.

Designs
If several planters are to be used the group usually looks better if they are similar in design, or made from the same material. Though, totally different kinds of planters are usually acceptable, positioned apart and separated by more permanent plantings. There'll of course be no problem if dissimilar planters are planted with a covering of trailing plants.

Stone, Clay & Lead Containers
Sculptural stone containers with ornamentation sculpted by hand are extremely effective but can be costly in addition to being very heavy to move. Some are elaborately decorated, but often the simpler shapes and styles suit small to medium-sized gardens best. There is little point in buying a stone container with an elaborate relief design if the carving will be obscured by the plant.

Clay and Terracotta
Clay and terracotta pots may be plain or ornamented. An unglazed terracotta pot kept outdoors all year must be frost-proofed. Heavily glazed ones are frost-resistant and more water-retentive. Some smaller pots have deep saucers to act as short-term reservoirs.

Lead
It is still possible to purchase planters in traditional styles produced from lead. These are heavy and expensive but extremely long lasting. They'll look well in most settings.

Concrete
Very large containers produced from concrete with various finishes of exposed aggregate are suitable for forecourts of large buildings. If they are to be planted for seasonal effect, it is wise to make use of separate, smaller planters that fit inside them: these can be made up beforehand, so that the planting may be removed and replenished without difficulty. Concrete and reconstituted stone are used for smaller urns and troughs, and when well crafted can look like sculpted stone.

Plastic and Glass Fibre
Gardeners shouldn't discount the simulated stone planters made from glass fibre or plastic well planted these may be very effective. They are light weight and simple to transport when empty also they are much less costly. Some can be partially filled up with sand for stability. That is best done in situ. Glass fibre is extremely durable and can simulate a variety of natural materials very realistically. This is also true of plastic, but plastic can deteriorate rather badly, faded by daylight and battered by the weather, so check the quality very carefully.

Containers in Natural Wood
These look good in most situations and can be obtained in a variety of styles. Prior to purchase, check the planters for soundness of manufacture. Pay particular attention to the quality of the wood, checking for signs of potential splintering or warping and that the metal bands are securely fixed.

Barrels and Tubs
Properly coppered barrels have become more difficult to get than they once were, and increasingly expensive. However, garden centres sell wooden planters that serve well enough and can give years of service. The circular type of barrel suits most situations: square or triangular planters, fit well into corners. Half-barrels are very popular and of pleasing proportions. Some have integral handles to make lifting and moving easier. Some others have ornate tops, largely obscured once planted. Barrels are sometimes cut along the length and installed on wooden feet to create a type of cradle providing a good planting area that is ideal for bold, relatively permanent displays.

Painting and Varnishing
The wood of the coppered planter ought to be sound in its natural state, but the external surface of other planters is best either varnished, or treated with a clear wood preservative, or painted. There is much to be said for keeping the wood its natural colour. lf you paint it, repainting at regular intervals will likely be necessary. Paint the metal bands also. The colour is really a matter of choice but should naturally, tone with its surroundings.

Storage
lf unplanted planters are going to be stored for any length of time. It will be worth keeping them wet. When the individual slats dry out they contract and fall apart. Keep empty planters outside in a cool, shady position and regularly soak or submerge them in water.

Charring and Preservative
Although a planter could be lined with polythene sheeting before planting, charring is the best way to preserve the inner surface of a wooden planter. Some planters are purchased ready charred otherwise using a blowtorch is the easiest way. Alternatively, give a good application of a good preservative but avoid creosote that is injurious to plants.

Written by Ian at thelichfieldplantercompany.co.uk