Home decorating budgets are often quickly spent on the interior, with nary a penny left for decks, patios and back yards.
“People sometimes neglect the outdoors,” says Dahlia Mahmood, a Virginia- and California-based interior designer. “But the outdoors is just as important and essential.”
One often-overlooked piece worth investing in is a pot or planter. Debra Prinzing, a garden expert based in Seattle and author of the book “Slow Flowers,” says that when shopping for planters, think big.
“When the sky is your ceiling, you can go really big,” she says. “It’s not like an indoor container, like a vase.” She recommends finding planters with mouths no smaller than 30 inches in diameter, because “the larger scale is so dramatic.” (But a word to the wise: Large pots can be expensive to ship, so if that’s turning out to be an obstacle, check out a local nursery, home-improvement store or even pottery studio.)
The one decision to be more conservative with is color. “If you want pops of color, do that in your plantings and the flowers that you choose,” Mahmood says. “Keep your planters timeless.” Once the pot is obtained, Prinzing has a few more practical pointers:
● If the pot doesn’t have enough drainage holes, drill a few more. The kind of drill bit you need will depend on the material of the pot (for instance, a masonry bit for a ceramic pot).
● Invest in organic potting soil.
● Make sure to check about proper care; pots made of certain materials might need to be taken inside during the winter.
●Got all that? Now check out some of our favorite planters.
● “Window-box planters are more popular on the West Coast,” Mahmood says. “On the East Coast, I see more hanging planters.” For window boxes, Mahmood recommends the California garden store Hooks & Lattice. For a hanging planter design that lets the plants shine, there’s the minimal Zinc Sphere Hanging Basket ($38-$148, www.shopterrain.com).
● Prinzing recommends checking with the seller about ideal weather conditions for planters before buying. The ceramic Case Study Planter with Walnut Stand, for example, should be taken indoors during winter to prevent freezing and cracking ($149-$189, www.roomandboard.com). Terra cotta also should be brought inside before the first frost.
● A pot’s style should complement the house and garden. Mahmood says that concrete and cast stone are good for traditional styles, terra cotta for a more earthy feel. The Colorful Steel Garden Trolley Planter would fit nicely on a patio with a modern style ($200, www.plowhearth.com).
● The Dolga Hover Dish is sold by Vancouver company Pot Inc., one of Prinzing’s favorite sources for great containers ($95, www.potinc.ca). Some of her other favorite retailers: Flora Grubb Gardens in San Francisco, Potted in Los Angeles and Sprout Home in New York. Mahmood likes to look at Jamali Garden in New York, Janus et Cie in the District and Restoration Hardware.
● Invest in high-quality pots and you’ll have containers that will last season after season. If that means you can afford to buy only one pot at a time, Prinzing recommends choosing a neutral color. The charcoal-gray of the terra-cotta Lug Handle Urn Planter, for example, will be easy to match later on ($68, www.shopterrain.com). Plus, “plants look fabulous against that neutral,” she says. (Not into gray? It’s also available in three other colors.)
● If you have room for only one planter, use it as an opportunity for an architectural statement, Mahmood says. “Keep it simple, elegant and timeless,” she says. “You will not go wrong.” See: the sleek lines of West Elm’s resin-composite Cityscape Planters in multiple sizes and neutral colors ($119-$299, www.westelm.com).
● The zinc-plated galvanized steel Malmesbury Planter, in three sizes, is reminiscent of English country gardens, making it a ripe location for herbs or even a small boxwood, which Mahmood likes to use in all of her projects ($70-$100, www.williams-sonoma.com). “Whether they’re in an urn, metal planter or resin wicker, they always looks classic,” she says.
● Look up from the ground when you’re thinking of locations for placing greenery, especially if you’re tight on space. There is now an abundance of planters for overhead surfaces and walls: vertical plant stands, hanging plants, single wall pots and wall planters, such as Plastec’s Wall Planter, a three-pot decorative grid that you can add to with expansion kits ($50, www.allmodern.com).
● Make sure the mouth of the planter is larger than the base, if possible, Prinzing says. “If you ever move that plant, chances are the root ball will be bigger than the opening.” The Threshold 21-Inch Limestone Round Planter allows plenty of room at the top for later transplanting ($40, www.target.com).●
● To narrow down the planter search, Mahmood suggests homeowners ask themselves: Is it aesthetically pleasing? Will I still love it five years from now? Is it made of quality material? Two Quatrefoil Square Planters, made of a mix of fiberglass resin, terra cotta and natural stone, would frame a front door nicely and last a long time with proper care ($69-$169, www.homedecorators.com).
Roberts is a freelance writer. She can be found at www.lindsey mroberts.com.