The earthy charm of terracotta
What is it about terracotta that we like so much? Is it the earthenware look, the soft muted color or the handmade feel of the surface that appeals to us? I think it’s all of these, plus, the charming way they age.
I love the color so much myself that I painted a wall in my living room a color matched to a terracotta pot!
The word terracotta is derived from the Latin word terra-cotta–literally, “cooked earth.” Terracotta is a clay-based unglazed or glazed ceramic, where the fired body is porous. This makes it perfect for flower pots. The iron content gives it its color anywhere from pink to brown, orange, grey or yellow. Terracotta was the only type of clay pottery used in primitive cultures until the 1400s when European methods of hard fired ceramic were developed.
Julie Brown’s colorful pots make a clear statement.. Sometimes your flowers may stop blooming for a little while. An interesting pot can get you through until it re-blooms. This is what happened to two of my geraniums. It looks like they are making new buds as we speak.”
Terracotta pots are forgotten at estate sales, common at thrift stores and overlooked at yard sales,…but not by us! These are excellent places to find more of these lowly and plain ‘treasures.’ Used pots already have the look we want old and moldy! Some, like this chippy terracotta brick found by the lake is painted in places with a fabulous color of yellow-green.
Architectural terracotta is highly valued by Flea Market Gardeners. If you’re lucky enough to find building materials made from terracotta they can add a bit of uniqueness to your garden. The three hollows in the brick above are perfect for three Dudleya plants. Also, Kat Ross’ terracotta flue pipes (below) are a bonanza! She says, “I found these at a garage sale and they weren’t even for sale, but I bought them anyway! Imagine them in an arrangement and filled with flowers! So excited!”
I’d group these at a slight angle, then fill them with soil red ivy geraniums! What would you do with these? Add your idea to the comments! “This is what you do with old sewer pipes, below,” Judy Enzmann says, “…you make planters!”
Care of Terracotta pots
Since terracotta is porous, it can suffer in the coldest winters, so many gardeners empty them and store them in the potting shed to prevent cracks. However, Jeanne Sammons says, “Yes, I do leave these pots out all winter turned upside down and once in a while, I repaint …but some ‘chippy’ is always pleasing, I think.” If ever your pots do crack or break, do see this, What to do with broken pots. Good grief, do we never give up on our terracotta?
In winter, I put three pine cones in three terracotta pots, anchor them with gravel from the driveway and arrange them on my patio table for the the season. Along with the glass insulators and as the snow drifts gently down, they make a delightful display for me to enjoy from inside.
If your area gets really cold you bring them in so they don’t crack. If they do crack,…you can still use them! Using ‘found’ broken pots in the garden.
Water for birds or a bird bath can be made from a terracotta saucer like this tiled one. It’s said that the aqua or turquoise color will attract more birds!
Adding age to terracotta pots
Clay pots gradually whiten with age, showing signs of minerals leaching from water over the years. If you’d like a charming weathered look to your pots now, paint them with a mixture of lime, available at garden stores with water to make a thick paste. Brush it on in a haphazard way and let it dry. Sand the whitened finish in places, or while still wet spray with a water sprayer.
More ways to age terracotta:
- For a darker finish paint with wood stain.
- For a chippy painted look, use leftover house or really, any sort of paint. The painted finish will chip off over time. Nice!
- Add water to the paint for a white-washed look.
- To grow moss on your pots, gather some live moss, mix with a cup of milk, or buttermilk or beer with a teaspoon or two of sugar added. Mix in an old blender and paint on. Keep in a shady moist area for a few weeks.
More on Collections:
In Cordoba, Spain, dozens and dozens of terracotta pots are attached to patio walls throughout the town for the annual May Festival of Patios.
For a spectacular experience and if you love terracotta pots, please click here,“Festival de los Patios”, to see these terrific and unique patios of Cordoba, Spain. Enjoy! ~~ Sue