Following a year and a half of red-hot sales of succulents and cacti, many garden centers are starting to notice an increase in consumer inquiries about bonsai trees and bonsai pots. These traditional shallow planters can also be used for many other sorts of plantings, including fairy gardens, succulents, and some forced bulbs. The following ideabook from houzz.com offers a concise overview of some bonsai basics:
The houzz.com slideshow below has some tremendous ideas for Springtime container plantings. Preparing and selling pre-planted containers such as these can be an especially great way for independent garden centers to separate themselves from the big boxes, as this is a level of service that just can’t be scaled. While most of the pots shown in the slides aren’t ours, we do have very similar items to most of them on hand for quick shipment.
It seems as though the folks at Pantone release a new “color of the year” every few months. This time around, the winner is a leafy, earthy tone they’ve named “Greenery”.
On the one hand, this is great news for those of us in the Lawn and Garden industry, as this exact color is found in the foliage of hundreds of different plants.
On the other hand, pottery and accessory items in this particular selection don’t really fly off of garden center shelves precisely because the color matches such a wide variety of natural greenery.
This is a great opportunity to capitalize on this color trend by merchandising with colors that pair well with the Pantone selection. A couple of sample palettes are shown below for inspiration – it is worth noting the presence of mushroom and grey colors in several of the palettes below – these colors are gaining steam right now.
For as long as humans have been making ceramic objects, they have been crafting clay into vessels to store and prepare food. From the Tandoor ovens of India, to the Tanjine of North Africa, to the Romertopf of Germany, virtually every pottery producing society on the planet has a range of traditional dishes and cooking methods centered around terra cotta clay.
In North America, we tend to reserve our red clay for flower pots and planters, while doing most of our cooking in metal pots and pans. In spite of this history, many people are discovering the unique properties that terra cotta clay offers to the chef, and are creatively re-purposing our German red clay pots and saucers for a variety of culinary purposes.
The porous nature of the terra cotta used to make these flower pots allows both moisture and heat to circulate through the body of the planter, encouraging even cooking temperatures and gentle browning. Here are some of our favorite uses that we’ve come across:
- How to Make a Barbeque Grill from Clay Flower Pots
- How to Make a Smoker from Terra Cotta Flower Pots
- How to Make a Tandoor Oven from Flower pots
- Flower Pot Bread – Bread Cooked Inside Flower Pots
- No Knead Bread, Baked in a Flower Pot
- Window Box Bread
Our lawyers insist that we make the point that the intended use for all of the pots and planters that we sell is for use as containers for plants and flowers. That said, should you feel an overwhelming urge to unleash your hidden terra cotta chef, all of our German red clay pots and saucers are free of any harmful substances: these pots and saucers are lead-free, and their ceramic body is of natural mineral origin, and does not contain any heavy metals or chemical additives.
Our German red clay pots will not release any harmful vapors when exposed to heat, and that any contact between foodstuffs and the bodies of these pots and will be harmless if basic food safety rules are followed.
For almost 1,500 years, the Yixing region of China has been renowned as the source of some of the finest stoneware ceramic products in the world. Perched on the outer reaches of the Yangtze River plains, the area features vast deposits of iron-rich dark clay.
The “Rustic” pottery tradition was among the first to emerge from the shadow of the teapot business, as these coarsely crafted pots were originally intended for local consumption only. The traditional shapes developed as various needs arose, ranging from tall jugs for water storage, to lower shapes for oil, to wider forms used for drying rice. Over time, these containers began to be re-purposed as planters, which eventually led to an entirely new industry in the area. As time passed, production techniques became more specialized, the aesthetic more refined, and a classic tradition of simple, gorgeous, handmade (and often enormous) pottery emerged.A flower pot always starts with the clay. In this particular workshop, different clays from several local mines are blended together by experienced clay makers to produce a proprietary mix which offers the perfect combination of flexibility, durability and structural integrity necessary for these giant pieces. The mixed clay is then “wedged” or kneaded by apprentices, removing any last air bubbles, before being passed on to the pot craftsmen.The wedged clay is combined into long snake-like rolls, which are then slightly flattened by hand.These flat rolls are then attached to a previously prepared pot bottom, which includes an inch or two of the pot’s vertical walls. The clay is gradually coiled around the pot, continuously layering upon itself as the walls of the pot rise.As the coil loops around the body of the pot, the craftsmen knead the the sections together by hand, progressing up the pot inch-by-inch.After the pot has reached a certain height, the workers will begin the process of smoothing and shaping the walls of the pots – the smoothing is done with a series of small scrapers, while the shape is gently adjusted with wooden paddles and mallets.
The pots are then allowed to dry a bit to enhance their stability, after which the workers add another long coil to the top of the pot. This process repeats itself over the course of several days until the pot reaches its final height and form.
Eventually, the rim of the pot will be finished by a senior craftsman, and the pot will be allow to slowly, and thoroughly, dry for several days. This slow process is critical for large items, and ensures that structural cracks do not form in in the body of the pot.
Once the pots are “bone dry”, they are glazed in one of a handful of traditional, earthy glaze colors. Typically, these glazes are applied by hand in several layers, with an uneven application around the pot.Once the gaze is dried, the pots are loaded into enormous brick ovens, called “kilns”, which bake the pots at temperatures approaching 2,200 degrees. Often generations-old, these multi-chambered kilns are heated with wood fires, which are carefully tended to precisely control the temperatures and flow of air within the firing chambers. This is critically important, as the final colors of each glaze depend on them being fired within specific temperature ranges.Following a multi-day firing, the kilns are allowed to slowly cool for several more days before the door are opened. At this point, the colors of the glazes are revealed, as are the variations (drips, burn marks, hot spots, etc) that truly make each pot a unique work of art. These variations are thought to be part of the charm and beauty of these magnificent flower pots, and are not considered flaws. These giant rustic planters are among the most durable that we sell, and are safe for year-round use in all climates, assuming that basic precautions are taken.
In the January, 2015 issue of Green Profit magazine, Jennifer Polanz pointed out that in the current marketplace, “porch pots” have the potential to help boost your off-season sales throughout the winter months if you take the time to properly merchandise the category. A few of the top ideas:
- Conduct design workshops in which you offer customer a wide range of suitable planters, greenery, and accessories.
- Have your staff design and build amazing porch pot arrangements – use social media to share them with your customers and drive traffic to your store.
- Rotate the greenery and accessory offerings as Winter progresses – Jingle bells may be a great addition in December, but they won’t drive sales in February!
Best wishes from all of us for a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
It really seems that a more fitting horticultural celebration of our everlasting love would be to present them with something alive, something that has a future beyond the next 6 or 8 days – something very much like a potted plant.
If your garden center already has a floral department, you’re probably already pushing bouquet after bouquet out your doors in the week leading up to Valentines, and you are obviously well aware of the massive potential that this holiday offers. But if you’re not offering a selection of potted plants as well, you could still be leaving a chunk of potential profit on the table.
If you don’t have a florist, then Valentine’s represents an incredible opportunity for you to get an early leg up on your spring season. Most likely, you’re already have staff on hand working to prepare your center for the season, and stocking your shelves with suitable plants and containers will give your team something to sell to the swarms of flummoxed husbands.
- Blooming roses are an obvious selection, but unlike the stereotyped “dozen long stems”, they can last forever with proper care.
- Orchids are a great choice – they’re gorgeous, they color-coordinate with the pinks, whites, and purples of the season, and everyone loves them.
- Cacti in brightly colored pots are a popular option for folks with brown thumbs.
- Dwarf Jade Bonsai are an elegant, sophisticated selection, especially if your market trends towards the upscale.
- Use your imagination – just about any plant can be turned into a “Valentine’s” offering simply by dropping it into a seasonally appropriate container – look for pinks, red, purple and white glazes.
- Make sure that your customers know that you’re a Valentine’s destination – even if you’re just putting out email blasts and Facebook updates, your customers need to be made aware that you’re a better holiday option than 1-800-FLOWERS.
- Some of your customers are still going to insist on bouquets – be sure to stock a range of pots and containers for their arrangements. Their significant others will appreciate a container that doesn’t look just like the one at the grocery store floral counter.
The houzz.com slideshow below has some tremendous ideas for Fall container plantings. Preparing and selling pre-planted containers such as these can be an especially great way for independent garden centers to separate themselves from the big boxes, as this is a level of service that just can’t be scaled. While most of the pots shown in the slides aren’t ours, we do have very similar items to most of them on hand for quick shipment.
Check out this great article from houzz.com – it’s got some great pointers on incorporating container gardens and pottery into ground-based gardens. Be sure to read the comments too, as there are a bunch of nuggets there too.