Salt glazed pot

January makes a fabulous time to plan your spring garden. Kick back, flip through glossy catalogues and dream.

But after you decide what you want to grow, give thought to what to grow it in. Gardening in containers adds opportunity – to give the garden vertical diversity, extra growing space and architectural importance. Every well-appointed portico, lawn panel or patio deserves special attention as you furnish it with these classy garden accessories.

You own statement jewelry. Why not select statement containers for your spring garden?

So – what materials work best?

High-quality containers make a great investment. Prices begin at modest levels, but may rise to thousands of dollars for antique or very large pieces. Also, new tough and durable materials increase container choices.

Today’s plastic pots incorporate ultraviolet-light inhibitors that help them to last more than a season or two. Double-wall designs with thick rolled edges and natural matte finishes lend them a classier look, and built-in self-watering features on some models add convenience. Lighter in weight and resistant to dents, these newer styles nicely suit local gardens.

Antique pot

The iconic terra cotta pot always makes an excellent choice for St. Louis gardens, despite being expensive, heavy and somewhat fragile – and winter protection remains a must. Still, such pots breathe well, never waterlog and develop lovely mossy aging over time.

Fiberglass containers give more weather resistance, but the method of fabrication matters. Very expensive fiberglass can delaminate after only a few seasons outside, so choose a vendor with warranties. Lighter in weight than terra cotta, these tough pots may be moved more easily.

Cast stone – a poured-concrete product with finer particles and a higher density than standard concrete – can be colored and textured to imitate many natural stones, including limestone and slate. Durable, water-resistant and capable of aging like terra cotta, it makes excellent containers. Like terra cotta, though, it weighs a lot, which complicates moving.

Cast iron forms another classic material for garden ornamentation. Several iron urns and benches from Henry Shaw’s original collection remain in use at the Missouri Botanical Garden after more than 150 years.

How to pick pots: First, knock new terra cotta or glazed pots with your index finger as you might do to ring fine crystal. A dull thud means you should check carefully for hidden cracks.

Next, purchase pot saucers with your select pots – it’s much easier to fit them properly in the beginning than to retrofit them. Saucers must be large enough to hold the overflow from watering, so allow at least an inch of free space on medium pots and more on larger ones.

Last, buy potted evergreens in the fall for use as winter filler. Most nurseries have limited availability after Halloween.

How to set up pots: Once you’ve picked your pots, put stones or broken brick pieces in the bottoms of the lightweight ones before adding potting soil to keep them from blowing over.

Furthermore, putting pot feet under large containers aids drainage and prevents damage to surfaces.

For seasonal change-out in heavy containers, use inner pots stabilized with packing peanuts, moss or bark chunks. Putting a pot within a pot inside the urn will keep supporting filler from falling into a heap when you pull the inner pot for changing.

How to care for pots: Store terra cotta pots dry during the winter to delay cracking and increase longevity. Overhead garage racks help keep them out of the way.

Otherwise, wash pots with diluted bleach between uses to sanitize them, and last but scarcely least, paint or reseal metal containers annually to prevent rust and corrosion.

Terra Cotta pot
Concrete pot