However, those who are intrigued with technological advances and cannot resist taking a peek into the future might find what follows to be of interest.
Imagine being able to select a color for your flower pots the way you select a color for the paint you wish to cover the walls of your house. Imagine that these flower pots are so artistically fine that, from a distance, they are indistinguishable from the best terra cotta or ceramic pots. Imagine that these pots, even in the largest sizes, are so lightweight that a child could move them. And imagine that they last a lifetime.
Enter the world of poly-resin containers – polyurethane and polyethylene flower pots. One company that manufactures them has more than 40 colors to choose from and will create custom colors upon request. Many different textures, from sandstone to granite, are offered. All popular designs – one company has Italian, Greek, Dutch and Chinese styles – are available.
Polyurethane pots are the lightest, weighing only 10 to 20 percent the weight of terra cotta pots. The walls of these pots are an inch thick and provide excellent insulation. Roots are kept cool in summer and protected from freezing in winter. Polyethylene pots have thinner walls – only 1/4 to 3/8 inch in thickness – and do not insulate as well as polyurethane pots. Nevertheless, these pots are also quite durable and resist cracking from heat or cold.
In the minds of some gardeners, the idea of a flower pot cannot be separated from the material – clay or terra cotta – that it has traditionally been made of. Indeed, there is some evidence that plants grown in clay pots are healthier than those grown in poly-resin or plastic pots. The microscopic pores in a clay pot allow air to pass through the sides of the container; oxygen needed for healthy roots is thus more available to plants in porous clay than in sealed plastic pots.
Incidentally, pots made of terra cotta, which literally means “baked earth,” are more expensive than those made of regular clay because of the baking or firing process involved in their manufacture. Ordinary clay pots, because they are not hardened under fire, typically start to crumble – especially if exposed to temperature extremes – after two to three years of use.
Terra cotta and, for that matter, ceramic pots are out of favor because they are easily broken and because their weight makes them unwieldy. Another major gripe about these pots is that they become stained by salts in the water, deposited as white encrustations on the walls of the pots. While some people do not mind the stains and consider them part of the natural aging process of the pots, others cannot abide them.
It is easy to imagine a gradual transition to poly-resin pots in the container plant landscape. Just as quill and ink were substantially replaced by the fountain and the ball-point pen, so too clay, terra cotta, and ceramic pots seem destined to be exchanged for polyethylene and polyurethane.
You can get a good education in poly-resin pots through the following Web sites: www.formalight.com, www.rotocast.com, www.riverside- plastics.com, and store.yahoo.com/builderscentral/amdespot.html.
Formalight is a manufacturer in Southern California whose elegant, ceramiclike poly-resin containers and saucers can be ordered directly by calling (800) 280-3608.
< TIP OF THE WEEK: The California Department of Food and Agriculture has issued a red imported fire ant warning for all of Southern California. Fire ants are 1/16 to 1/4 inch in length and reddish-brown in color. They are distinguished by the mounds they build in lawns, gardens, homes and anywhere else they can find moisture. According to the government brochure I received, ``The mounds appear as small piles of fine soil with small holes. These mounds can eventually resemble large gopher mounds 18 inches across or larger. The ants are also attracted to electrical currents and can be found in sprinkler valve boxes.'' The ants swarm upon and sting animals or people who intrude on their nests. The stings can cause swelling, itching and pain for several days. The stings are potentially fatal to about 2 percent of the population. For more information, go to www.fireant.ca.gov. If you think you may have found red imported fire ants, do not disturb their mounds, but call (888) 434-7326.