Pots and Pangs

Self-confessed container addict Marjorie Harris describes her many efforts to contain her enthusiasm.

I do not remember life before containers. Even as a young mother, I had a pot each of chives, tomatoes and herbs to be dragged in and out of the house. At the time, I would never have designated myself as a gardener, but I was. Anyone who tends a container is a gardener. It requires knowing the right conditions of light and temperature, watering, changing the soil regularly and giving plants the occasional shower. I found all that out by trial and error, and I always enjoyed doing it. With three pots, why wouldn?t I?

I?m not saying they can take you over completely, but you might suddenly find yourself putting an awfully high percentage of your gardening budget into containers. They can be so useful as fillers, focal points or as ornaments.

Years ago, as I moved on to become a serious gardener, I made a rule: no more than one new container a year. Ho, ho, ho: that went out the window the minute I discovered a trove of must-have, blue-and-white pots; and then again when Mexico inundated Canada with brilliantly coloured vessels; and yet again when shatter-proof cement composition was invented.
One thing led to another, naturally, until my back deck and a good deal of the garden were covered with containers, each filled with plants that needed daily watering. Space was my enemy. The annual conundrum was where to store the pots for the winter, since most ceramic and clay pots will crack irreparably if left outside. Every year, I jammed more and more into the toolshed and hoped for the best.
A couple of years ago, I threw up my hands and said, ?Enough!? So I had a big sale. And I regret the loss of every single pot I sold. Each one meant something or I wouldn?t have bought it.

I also made new rules. No more buying anything fragile. If it has to be stored, I don?t buy it. Then I found GardenStone in Richmond, BC (gardenstonestatuary.com). They make gorgeous, cast-concrete containers with a five-year guarantee. I?m allowed one a year. This can go on until the big spaces are filled, or I switch my garden over to them completely.

And yet…every time I go into a garden centre, I head straight for the containers. I prowl the catalogues and spot an amazing container that lights up from inside. How cool is that? I want one desperately, but have no space.
And what about all the pots made of materials such as fibreglass, resin, stone and sleek stainless steel, which will last outside? What about them indeed?
I look at people with rooftops and balconies and turn green with envy?they can fill them up with all these fabulous new containers. What fun. But a word of advice to new gardeners: put a curb on how many you collect, and you might retain your sanity.