From Pot to Garden

Ah, the synergy of pots and garden. Apart from the infinite aesthetic considerations, from a practical standpoint, pots can render any garden effectively zoneless or, as in my very small garden, they can stretch available planting space. In a process I repeat over and over, a prized, rare agave is finally taken down from its prominent position on a table and moved to ground level, whether planted or kept in the container, to suffer the slings and arrows of garden life — wayward paws, my own clumsy two feet, mollusk attack. Sometimes I keep agaves potted because of the formidable arrows they can sling at ankles and dog noses. Due to his fearsome spines, I couldn’t make up my mind with Agave ‘Jaws’ but compromised by moving him to the gravel garden still confined to a container for quick removal. The passive-aggressive approach, simultaneously planted and kept in a container. That was years ago, and the roots have escaped the drainage hole and are firmly anchored in the garden. The cats love scratching their cheeks against his leaves.


It’s not that an agave loses its attraction, but more a matter of keeping table space clear for future potted attractions.
Now it’s Agave desmettiana ‘Joe Hoak’s’ turn to leave the safety of high places. I doubt I’ll ever let him out of a container, though.


The tropical, soft-leaved desmettiana agaves always get a little scruffy and snail-bitten mid-winter, with even their symmetry seeming somehow diminished. By late summer, they’ve shaken off any residual winter doldrums and have arched into their finest urn-shaped form, and I can’t resist letting him join in the garden festivities. But if I catch a snail within 5 feet of Joe, back up on the table he goes, which is why he’ll stay in a pot. Plant Delights currently lists this agave, and theirs show the pale color of blanched endive. I’m not sure if there are different forms of this selection in circulation, or if it’s just a matter of different photographers. (Or possibly from keeping the agave indoors half the year?)

Similarly, Agave ‘Cornelius’ was recently planted in the front gravel garden, where he’ll gain size much faster than in a container.


Almost all the plants in the gravel garden did potted duty on tables or in large pots for a period of time. The furcraea, the Agave ‘Jaws,’ the dasylirion in the distance, even the ‘Kiwi’ aeoniums multiplied to this size and were enjoyed in a large container before being planted out. Whatever temperature a garden experiences mid-winter, these sculptural plants were born for plinth and pedestal, be it in the humblest or most extravagant container. Containers keep them protected, admired — and, where necessary, always ready for transit as temperatures dip. Semper paratus.


Aloes too. Aloe peglerae still in a pot.


Many of my aloes are kept in pots because the garden can’t accommodate their eventual size. In the garden, Aloe marlothii lounges on helicotrichon, blue oats grass.


Unlike the stiff leaves of Helicotrichon elegans, Sesleria ‘Greenlee’ seems more pliable for succulent plantings.


This Echeveria ‘Opal Moon’ wasn’t even potted up but had a coffee can sleeve slipped over the nursery gallon.


Echeveria gigantea wouldn’t keep these unblemished leaves for long planted out in the garden.


Kalanchoe synsepala recently made the move to the garden. A “walking” or stem-rooting kalanchoe, I needed to get this out of the pot to see it in action.


As the nip in the night air increases, it signals the great container migration is about to begin again in gardens all over the world.
So much of the dynamism of a garden is owed to pots and containers. Semper paratus!

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8 Responses to From Pot to Garden

  1. Oh Denise I can’t even bear to think about “the great container migration”…seems like just yesterday that I was pulling them all out (and then making my first ever Chiropractor appointment shortly after).

    Love the ‘joe’ and am determined to find my own…someday.

  2. I tell myself I like a pot for its framing potential, whether on a table or in the garden. I’d never admit I need them primarily because I can’t quite commit to permanent locations for their occupants…

  3. hb says:

    When I see an unreasonable number of potted plants huddled around a home, I know there be gardeners–one of the classic hazards of plant nuthood. Semper in olla!

  4. Denise says:

    Loree, I’m so sorry to bring the migration up, but you know it’s coming!
    Jane, it’s true, pots allow us to hedge our bets about location.
    Hoov, the front of the house is mostly pot-free, but the back is where the hazards of plant nuthood are found.

  5. Les says:

    I keep several agaves in containers, though there are a few that can take our winter temperatures, but not without extraordinary soil preperation. Too much rain. I found out several years ago that my wife’s cats relish chewing agave foliage, and by the time I noticed the plants had been shredded (stupid cats). So the plants are now elevated for the winter out of the feline accessibility zone.

  6. Denise says:

    Les, your household sounds organized suspiciously like ours into dog/cat camps — “my wife’s cats,” “stupid cats.” I hope that wildfire in the Great Dismal is winding down.

  7. Pam/Digging says:

    Most of my agave collection is in pots too, though some are in the ground. Love this post.

  8. I love the Joe Hoak’s, I didn’t know it was desmettiana. I saw one at the Inter City show and fell in love with it. I think both Loree and I are hankering for one now. Where did you get yours?

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