The Great Wide Crack

This post is not about my posterior.

Instead, it is about one my favourite things: terracotta pots.

I love pots in general, I love having them on the patio. I don’t like having just a few here and there, in ones and twos no, they have to be en-masse. The patio pots are like a fluid, nomadic border where each year the display is different, the layout changes, some plants leave, some stay, some are new, some are mixed together, some are split, the variety is endless. Move flowering pots to the front, then to the back when the are done. Create micro-climates by sheltering smaller pots next to larger ones, have some in the sun, cast shade with others. Create an enclosed space or put in a break for a view. Hide things, frame things. The annual laying out of the patio pots is almost like a game and I can never tell how it will turn out.

I have a mixture of pots for the patio, some are plastic, some are trugs and others are terracotta, glazed and unglazed. The trouble with terracotta is that eventually, one day, in the UK winter, it will crack and this is exactly what one of my beloved terracotta pots has just done.

This pot has seen summers:

Summer Terracotta Pot

This pot has seen snow in winter:

Terracotta Pot in Snow

After many cycles of freeze-thaw, freeze-thaw the most recent frosts were too much and it was riven from the top almost down to the base:

Cracked Terracotta Pot

I’ve tried to support it by putting wire around it, but I wasn’t able to tighten it a great deal. We’ll just have to see what happens.

Terracotta pots are my favourite type of pots because of their natural colour, shape and the way they age. There’s something so classic about them that plastic and other types of pots couldn’t hope to match. The trouble is that no matter how “frost proof” they are labelled to be, an unprotected terracotta pot in the UK winter is at risk of frost-shatter, the older the pot is, the more susceptible it may be. I’ve been wanting to buy large terracotta pots for years now and I’ve had my eye on ones like these:

Aside from the trouble with frost-shatter, the only other little, tiny, insignificant problem with terracotta pots (aside from the fact that they are really heavy) is their price. They’re not cheap and can cost a few hundred pounds for a large pot. I’ve seen terracotta pots costing over £9000 for something that is about waist-height. Tell me you’re happy to pay that much for a pot, and then put it outside in the winter!

I will get my terracotta pots, one day but I will have to think of a way to protect them through the winter so they don’t end up as crocks to go in the bottom of other pots as drainage.

Until then, I shall continue to wait and dream.

12 Comments


    1. Hello Alain, thanks for the link, I had that in mine when I saw my own pot crack and was wondering if that would be something to try, especially if the crack propagates all the way down to the base.

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  1. I love my pots, too, but stay away from terracotta. Mine are all glazed ceramic and stay outside completely unprotected all winter. But I do love the way terracotta ages. Can’t you glue the crack together with a clear epoxy glue?

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    1. Hello Tammy, I could try glueing it back together, but I don’t think there’s enough surface area for the glue to stick and the surface will also be crumbly. I’ll have a read on the internet about it to see what tricks people have tried.

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  2. I would love to use pots more effectively, but I have not yet developed the eye or the feel. Meanwhile, most of the pots I have are small enough to be brought into the basement for the winter. I have a large pot, inherited from a friend, that I’d like to place by the front entrance, but it will need to stay out year round, which means I’ll have to learn how to protect it from our extreme winter cold.

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    1. Hello Jean, with the kind of winters you have terracotta would not last very long! I’m not sure how you could insulate it so that it didn’t get frosted. It’s a problem I might be able to solve here with bubble-wrap and moving terracotta pots to stand against the house in winter, but bubble-wrap won’t be enough protection against temperatures that are thirty below!

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  3. Oh dear, Sunil……. it’s a shame but look at it this way. It’s time for a wee shopping trip to buy just one (one, I said) more of the same basic shape/size in case you need to replace the cracked one sooner rather than later. I too love terracotta pots. Mine are mostly small, but contain all sorts of little things. Like you, I like them grouped together informally. No cracks in 14 years in this garden, but this is a little warmer spot that you, I think.

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    1. Hello Mrs Mac, I think I should aim for two, a least, because then I can have one spare in case something goes wrong. I’m jealous that you haven’t had any pots crack for that long. If I were to get large pots I would make sure to bring them up to the house and protect them to reduce the risk of frost shatter but then again they are so expensive that I’m wondering if the risk is too great.

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  4. I either just deleted or posted my comment before finishing. Anyway, I was saying that terracotta is definitely attractive and classy. Mine are cheap and trashy plastic, or slightly better resin or fiberglass. But I definitely think you should follow your dream and get yourself that new terracotta pot.

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    1. Hello Jason, I think I will and when I have a plan to properly protect them in the winter, then I’m going to go all out!

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  5. You’ve found some pots to dream about. My new solution with the terracotta is to double pot. I never plant directly into the terracotta. I use a cheap plastic pot and plant it up and then sit it down into the terra cotta. Much easier to move if need be. ANd for plants like my Banana, I just move the plastic pot with plant out and put the terra cotta in the garage for any nights we expect frost (maybe we’ve have 4-5 this WInter). I leave the plastic pot out and blanket the banana!It was a real necessity when we lived in the Northeast.

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    1. Hello Jayne, that’s an idea to think about. Sometimes I put horrible pots inside nicer pots and double up but I don’t do it for everything. I’ll also need to get a “pot-mover” (I can’t remember what it’s called), it’s essentially a base with castors that the pot can be put on to easily move it around, however, with our higgledy-piggledy patio, it’s probably not a good idea as the surface is so uneven the pot will probably end up rolling out of control and end up flying off the end!

      Reply

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