Turning Loose


Fifteen years ago I engaged Madame Pellier from the Poterie de la Madeleine to make three number 0 classic anduze pots-for the front of my then new shop.  They number their pot sizes; the largest pot is a zero, the smallest, a number 8.  The 0 pot is their largest-plenty big enough for me to climb in, and be hidden from sight.  There might be room left over for the Corgis, and my most treasured possessions.  They are very big footed vases.   

Every six months or so, she would call.  She would tell me pots were breaking, during the cooking.  The third year after placing the order, Rob went to Anduze to select pots, and place an order. He told me the hillside above the pottery was littered with broken number 0’s-with my name on them.  At the end of the third year, she had three perfect pots.  Our shipper in London, Headlees, drove to Anduze, collected the pots, crated them in London, and sent them to me.

I remember the day they arrived vividly.  I thought they were surely the most beautiful three pots I had ever seen. They came with some 1’s, and 2’s of the same classic design, but those zeros were beautiful to the bone.  How I worried that I could never plant them beautifully enough.  The French-they edit everything in the garden in a way I could never hope to aspire to.  I imagine a French designer, placing them, and not planting them at all.  

I am an American designer through and through.  In my mind, I saw a garden in those pots, the shape of fireworks exploding.  Up, and out-graceful, lush-bigger than those beautiful vases.  The best dress that in my life I could ever design for those gorgeous dark green shapes.

After some years in front of the store, I took them home.  It could be I always wanted that. I placed two in the front of the house-dead center to the windows in my dining room, and our den. Having dinner, or relaxing with the dogs, they were right there-representing.  I placed the third vase in my side half lot.  This small garden came to life when this giant pot took the center; every other element revolved around it.    

I stuffed it with giant nicotianas, white angelonia, a vigorously trailing white variegated plectranthus-and petunias.  It may not be so sophisticated, but petunias deliver the goods-great color, great scent, easy care, and exceptional vigor. Fireworks.  The early days, creating a shop devoted to fine objects for gardens-there were none. No precedents. Early visitors to the shop often demanded an explanation-a shop devoted solely to fine objects for gardens?  I had none. Just a fire burning inside-every gardener can understand that. My love for landscapes and all that entailed was a very powerful engine that powered my ideas.  I am much better able to explain years later.   The commission of these pots fifteen years ago-I am amazed, and so appreciative of whatever fueled that audacity.

I could see that stately vase from inside in the morning, from the lower terrace, from the street as I drove by on my way home.  A pair of chairs in that garden made it possible for Buck and I to talk about the day’s events; close by a party of the first order going on.

I planted a path of herniaria, rupturewort, up to, and all the way around those pots in the front.  The pot was every bit as important to my garden as what was planted in it.  I wanted to be sure to devote the space to the celebration of that 0.   The hedge of dwarf Russian sage framed my view-for those days when I was just too tired to walk up close and say hello.    

Two years ago I returned the Anduze pots, and this Madeleine Faune pot to the shop.  I could not leave them out in the winter, and I so wanted pots that could stay in place over the winter; I wanted pots I could dress for the winter season. This was not an easy decision. The Faune found a loving home straight away. The zero trio-this is the second season they have been in the shop.  Only a few days ago, a client for whom I had specified a completely different series of pots, spoke for a pair of the zeros.  They were the vases she had been looking for.  She told me today she could not imagine that it would not be difficult for me to give them up.  Indeed it is. Her question alone tells me they are going to the right home. She and her husband are both crazy about them.  I will place them, plant them, and visit regularly.  I am pleased that those vases that for so many years so enchanted me are due to be passed along to someone equally as impassioned about them as I have always been.  Today was a very good day.

The French Poteries

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Though my post several days ago on glazed French terra cotta was intended as an introduction to a discussion of color in the landscape, Delphine, author of that fine French landscape and garden blog Paradis Express (www.paradisexpress.blogspot.com) published some of my photographs.  She was clearly pleased than an American landscape designer knew, placed and planted French garden pots.  The piece pictured above, featuring two pots from Les Enfant de Boisset, ran as an insert in the New York Times Sunday paper just before Mother’s Day in 2007.     

dgw c (97)I have been importing garden pots handmade at a number of French potteries since 1992-I am as crazy about them today as I was 18 years ago.  My very first purchase-a pallet of gorgeous cream colored clay pots from the Poterie Provencale in Biot. I am convinced a mutual love of beautiful objects for the garden overcame our language difficulties; I was so thrilled to get those pots.  Les Enfant de Boisset does not produce an olive green pot.  It was entirely Rob’s asking and their willingness to make a collection especially for us in this great color.    

DSC_0003Planted up, these pots make for an entire landscape in a very small space. French garden pots are made today in much the same way, and with many of the same designs that have existed for centuries. They clearly show evidence of the human hand, and speak to their long history of landscape and garden.  Some French poteries have added more modern designs, to round out their collections.  

dgw c (4)This yellow/brown glazed pot came from the Poterie De Cliousclat, a French pottery whose beginnings date back to the 16th century.  Rob once brought me a small book detailing the history of the pots; the pages of the book had absorbed the smell of the clay from the dirt floors of the pottery. Though Cliousclat is no longer, I will never forget their pots, or the smell of the poterie inseparable from that book.    

This white glazed pot is from the Poterie St. Jean de Fos, and is shown in the guarland pattern. This particular pattern features a rope garland.  

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The classic jarre from the Poterie Les Enfant de Boisset

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Classic jarre, planted

DSC00004Arrival of a shipment of pots from the Poterie Ravel

August 13 pictures 129Large Ravel pot, planted

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Ravel clay pot, painted and planted

Ravel “Violetta” pots

DSC04382Planted Violetta pots

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petit pots lisse from the Poterie Goicoechea, located in the Basque country of France

Planted pots from Goicoechea
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Jarre de Biot, from the Poterie Provencale, circa 1920

Aug 22 034 blue strie huile, from the Poterie de la Madeleine, in Anduze,  planted

dgw c (60) French huile, circa 1920
Gilbert _0002 Classic Anduze pot, Poterie de la Madeleine, in the flamme finish

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terra cotta jardiniere from Espace Buffon, Paris

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I greatly admire the French garden pots.  Though not pictured, we have bought many beautiful pots and ceramic garden pieces from the Poterie Provencale in Biot, Poterie du Mesnil de Bavant, Poterie Sampigny, salt glazed pots from Noron, gorgeous pots by Claudine Essautier at Raison de Plus, Jane Norbury-our list is long.  I am sure there are others I do not know-yet.  I hope each and every one of them goes on making beautiful things for the garden, for all the gardeners everywhere who so appreciate them.