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Choosing the Right Containers for Your Garden

Not all garden containers are created equal. What works on a modern rooftop terrace may not be appropriate for a classically inspired formal garden. The elegant way a cast stone container weathers is quite different than the earthy patina of lead or terracotta. Some materials are more frost-proof than others. And of course, the costs can vary dramatically. Let's take a look at six of the most common and traditional types of garden containers.

Container Material Key Style Feature Frost-Proof Color Options Price Weight

Cast Limestone:
Containers are typically created from a dry mix of pulverized limestone
Porous: which leads to a fabulous aged look if allowed to weather properly Yes Mostly traditional earthy grays and buffs $$$-$$$$
Prices vary but limestone costs considerably more than concrete
Typically very heavy. Makes them suitable for a permanent spot in a garden.

Cast Concrete:
Containers are typically created from a wet mix of concrete (cement and aggregates)
Can be cast in a variety of styles and sizes Will have difficulties surviving freeze-thaw cycles of colder climates (although some frost-proof styles are available*) Offer many color choices. Can be stained in nearly any color. $$ Typically very heavy, although some are being made from lightweight concrete mixes

Terra Cotta:
The highest quality terra cotta containers are produced in the Tuscany region of Italy and are often referred to as Impruneta terra cotta (a small town in Tuscany).
Earthy, handmade-looking. Styles can fit nearly any garden setting. Yes Limited to earthy reds and orange colors $$$-$$$$ More manageable weight. Typically lighter than concrete but heavier than fiberglass.

Glazed Ceramic:
A terra cotta container colored in rich glazes and unique textures
Brighter color options No (although some styles are available that are frost-proof*) Wide variety of colors $$ More manageable weight. Typically lighter than concrete but heavier than fiberglass.

A lightweight, strong material made up of layers of polyester resin alternated with woven fiberglass mat
Wide range of lightweight styles and sizes Yes Wide variety of colors $$$-$$$$ Lightweight. Good choice for rooftop terraces.

A natural metal that resists rust and is most notably known for its prominent use in England in the early 19th century
Great for simple styles, modern or classic formal gardens Yes Begins black and fades to whitish-gray $$$$-$$$$$ Very heavy


Frost-proof containers:
Haddonstone offers frost-proof limestone containers.
*Gardenstone Statuary produces stunning, frost-proof concrete containers.
*AW Pottery in Seattle, WA offers some frost-proof styles of ceramic containers.
Tournesol Siteworks manufactures frost-proof fiberglass containers in a wide range of sizes and styles.

Impruneta terra cotta containers:
Collezione: California company that imports terra cotta.
Seibert & Rice: New Jersey company offers east coasters with a fine selection of imported Impruneta terra cotta.

Glazed ceramic containers:
Gladding McBean: Premium manufacturer with a high price tag but can add much needed dramatic color to an otherwise dreary winter scene.

Lead garden containers:
Some of the finest lead garden containers are available from Detroit Garden Works in Sylvan Lakes, MI.

Contributing Author:

Chris Heiler, contributing writer for Landscaping Network and president of Landscape Leadership

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