Thursday, 5 April 2012

In My Pots (05 APR 2012)

A plant pot may seem like a simple object, not worthy of being called an invention, but the idea of transporting live plants in vessels must have been thought up by a genius. Even though there are modern innovative designs available on the market, they boast minor enhancements compared to the original concept.

I tried searching on the internet for the history of pots used specifically to contain plants and found this picture of Ancient Egyptians transporting myrrh trees .

... but there's not much else,  just lots of web-sites about the other sort of pot, so I'll write this post free-style with the information that I know.

Surely, lightweight and inexpensive plastic pots revolutionised the gardening industry, but I can't find the date when they were first supplied to nurseries.

A gardener may opt to keep a plant that he has purchased contained in its pot for a period of time to allow acclimatisation to it's new environment before transplantation. Alternatively, he may decide to pot a plant himself if he desires full control of it's watering, feeding, growing medium and location. In this case, he has basically two types of pots to choose from, porous (eg. clay or tufa) and non-porous (eg. plastic or metal). Some gardeners prefer porous pots as they regulate the temperature, aeration and watering of plants, others debate that non-porous pots keep the soil moister for longer. I've found that clay pots soak up water when they're new, but this isn't such a problem as they age.

In December, it dawned on me that if I didn't plant more varieties of bulbs I'd have the same old daffodils and tulips to blog about come springtime. Due to the unseasonably warm weather, all the bulbs on sale had started to sprout and prices were slashed. I bought some snowdrops, which had almost dried out, and some miniature iris bulbs to grow in pots on the patio, so that I could look at them while gulping down toast and my first cup of tea of the day in the back-room. By early March, one snowdrop bloomed successfully and a few more irises - my breakfast beauties.


snowdrop & miniature irises

Apparently, plastic plant pots are not environmentally-friendly as they are made from a different kind of plastic compared to food packaging so most recycling centres don't accept them. I, personally, don't have a surplus plant pot mountain as I don't frequent garden centres, attempting instead to propogate my own seeds and cuttings in as many pots as I can find. The garden of my childhood home is my main source of cuttings and perennial shoots. I usually help myself as I do the more labour intensive chores for my mother, however a couple of weeks ago she presented me with two baby peonies - much more precious when they're given rather than taken.

one year old hydrangea cutting, camellia seedling and two new shoots of peonies

In return I gave her a sucker separated from my dwarf flowering quince which I had been saving to grow as a bonsai tree. I'm not sure if a quince with unknown parentage is a fair swap for two peonies, one of which was originally bought in the last day sale at the Chelsea flower show (that scored at least two points in my mum's mind, one for a bargain, two for Chelsea - ultimate place for her to buy a plant). Hope she's not keeping tabs ...

dwarf flowering quince and its separated sucker

Of all the cuttings that I've tried to propogate so far, only one has survived - a year old lacecap hydrangea, but it wasn't the one that I willed on the most; magnolia tree cuttings elude me. I've tried to encourage them to root for three years, unsuccessfully.

my mother's magnolia and its cutting in my (not so) lucky pot

My other tree experiments have been more successful ...
I gave up on my cherry blossom sucker a long time ago. Then in early March, I noticed some white flecks amongst what looked like dead branches, which turned out to be perfectly-formed blossoms. Just as these are dying, the buds of the parent  are about to burst open.

separated sucker from my cherry blossom tree

The fig tree is about three years old, bought as a sick green shoot. I keep it in a pot because constraining the roots concentrates its energy on fruiting, though it will be a while yet.
Three apple treelets, now one year old, are in pots because I'm not sure where their final home will be. I forgive their slow growth, because it means I can view them in my garden for longer. Keeping the memory of our family apple tree alive is more important than apple crumble ... for now.

a fig sapling and three potential apple trees

Finally on the subject of crumble ...
I meant to bring my rhubarb into the darkness of the shed to force it to produce tender stalks as farmers do in the North of England, with the aid of candlelight. Then I read a post about rhubarb forcing pots by Janet@ PlanticruNotes, a simpler technique for the home gardener, if less romantic. Unfortunately, the rhubarb sprouted out of the ground before I could catch it in time. I harvested the first stalks last weekend and covered what remained with an improvised forcing pot. Fingers crossed, my crumble will be sweeter and pinker next time round.

red canada rhubarb grown naturally - now being forced under a pot

Today I'm linking up to Christine and Barbara's meme at The Gardening Blog : Garden Bloggers Harvest Day ...
... and to Katarina's meme at Roses & Stuff : In My Pots

©Copyright 2012 b-a-g. All rights reserved. Content created by b-a-g for


Donna@Gardens Eye View said...

I do admire your tenacity and ingenuity...I learn so much from you and I am not afraid to take risks when trying to propagate anything... never been as successful with rhubarb as my mom...will need to research it more so I can get more than a few stalks...

Shyrlene said...

Great post - it inspires me to try propagation though seedlings/seeds.

(I've been a bit of a whimp and not ventured into this aspect of gardening yet, only splitting mature plants.)

Anonymous said...

Propagating can damage your health - it may start with an innocent experiment with a few seeds and cuttings but it can lead to Class A activities such as layering and grafting.

Mark and Gaz said...

Interesting post about pots and propagation! Different pots have different advantages and disadvantages. Terracotta looks attractive and has good drainage but is heavy. Plastic is not always nice but holds on to moisture better and is lighter.

Anonymous said...

Plant pots are pretty interesting since it has been tried to improve them for many years with so many orientations and iterations. I too like to start cuttings. And you are so right, when cuttings are given it is so meaningful. Like a tradition passing down.

Barbie said...

Thank you for linking to our Harvest Day Blog - I am so keen to try rhubarb, but I believe the leaves are toxic? Hmmm maybe not with roaming chickens. Your blossoms are just gorgeous - the quince has the most amazing flower colour!

linniew said...

Oh b-a-g, you remind me of me, with your cuttings and tree romance. It looks to me as though you have great success. I'll be trying a hydrangea cutting and also bake some rhubarb crumble soon. Thanks for inspiration.

HolleyGarden said...

I never thought about the history of pots. I usually kill anything in a pot, so I minimize my use of them. Love your breakfast beauties, and the peonies from your mother. What a wonderful present! I'm also very impressed with your propagating abilities!

debsgarden said...

Congrats on the cherry tree, and I promise you: Moms never keep tabs!

Unknown said...

Well done you for having a go at new things, you have inspired me to try something new!

Malar said...

Very good result on propagating plants! I'm not daring like you!
I must learn from you! ;)

b-a-g said...

Thanks Donna(GEV) - I think you need to load up rhubarb with manure to increase it's yield. (The stalks shown here were produced without manure.)

Thanks Shyrelene, CroftGardener, Martin, Holley & Malar - Even though I've only been successful with one cutting, it doesn't stop me trying!

Thanks Barbie - It was a pleasure to join in with the Harvest Day blog. Yes - rhubarb leaves are toxic!

Thanks Deb - The cherry tree was a surprise. I only left it in the pot till I could find something else to replace it. I believe your comment about Moms!

Thanks Mark & Gaz - I like using terracotta pots because it feels like I'm connecting with ancient people.

Thanks Donna GWGT - I'm grateful to my mum for passing on her traditions. We only really communicate when we're talking about gardening.

Thanks Linnie - I usually add ginger or orange zest to my rhubarb crumble. I'm going to try your rhubarb and strawberry combination in the summer.

Stacy said...

I'm so glad your apple seedlings are doing well! You're probably wise, though, not to get the butter out for the crumble topping just yet.

I find that thin plastic pots, even pale ones, seem to cook the roots of plants in summer sun. Nothing survives for me in them, at any rate. The thicker resin ones do better, or terra cotta.

P.S. Ancient Egyptians had all the fun.

b-a-g said...

Thanks Stacy - I'm not so sure. The Egyptians transported myrrh trees for the purpose of embalming dead bodies.

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