agonizing over the right pot

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that people often hate to go shopping with me. Plants, clothes, paint colors, cheese…it can sometimes take me a long time to make up my mind. I admit that these aren’t life-or-death decisions I’m making. But as far as I’m concerned that’s no excuse not to pay attention to the process. Some things in life are still very important.

During last week’s plant shopping adventure I picked up three little aloes I wanted to pot up for the back patio. I was surprised by how quickly I was able to pick between all the cool offerings. Some collectors like one of everything that catches their eye. By contrast I guess I like to collect one thing in depth. Accordingly I picked an interesting genus of plant (Aloe) and then decided on three contrasting but complementary examples. I was a little bothered that two of the three were unknowns, but I don’t begin to consider myself an aloe collector. They looked cool and the price was reasonable. Decision made.

Then came time to select pots for the plants and for the location where they’d live. The local Home Depot had some functional designs but nothing that excited me. Then I was off to my favorite local nursery. Even when I set some basic rules for myself (“nothing matching,” “a simple design not detracting from the plant,” “earth tones or glazed blue for color”) I ended up with lots of workable options. Since the nursery has a good return policy I picked six to take home to see how they looked on the patio and with the plants.

None of the pots were really pricey, but in all cases they were priced higher than the plants. A lot of the profits in the nursery and landscaping biz aren’t the plants themselves, but all the stuff that goes with them.

So in the end I kept four of the pots and rejected the center and right of the largest pots in the first photo. The extra pot now houses a little division of Aloe maculata (a.k.a. A. saponaria) that I dug up from the front yard. It’s typically an aggressive colonizer–the Matilija poppy of aloes–spreading underground via long stolons. I’m not sure how it’ll do in a pot, so this is an experiment.

Here’s part of the finished edge of the patio. Clockwise from the top: Aloe andongensis, A. saponaria, unknown red aloe.

And here’s the last of the aloes, yet another unknown, nearby in its new pot.

In my teen years I did some informal study of Japanese bonsai and ikebana, the art of arranging branches, leaves and flowers. Proportion proportion proportion were big themes in both, and one of the standard formulas was that the container should be approximately one and a half times the height of the plant material. In all my pots the plants seem too small, but as we all know plants do that amazing thing: grow. Since some of these are unknown species I have no idea how much they’ll grow. But I hope they’ll come to look more at home in their new digs.

Okay, now it’s time to worry about the next big thing…

5 thoughts on “agonizing over the right pot”

  1. Well, why buy anything if you don’t spend a little time thinking about it? For me, looking around, comparing different choices is half of the fun.

    I really like all the pots, and the fact that they don’t match makes it look as if they’ve been in the garden for along time.

  2. Are we related? Cause you are pretty much describing me. I love your choices…and as for the A. saponaria I expect you will find that it loves life in a container and continues to produce babies. I’ve had one (in a pot of course) for 4 or 5 years now and it’s a great great grandmother. In fact it’s produced so many pups that I finally planted a few in the ground this year, on the off chance that they’ll survive. And if not, oh well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *