Garden Diary - August 2003

What a rainy season. The contrast between last summer, the Drought of '02, and this year is absurd. It rains, it rains again, it rains some more. On August 5th there was .40 inches in the rain gauge when I got up. We got another whopping 2.1 inches in an afternoon deluge when the skies opened up and water came flooding down. I went wading in the drainage creek afterwards. In the lower reaches, normally dry at this time of year, the water was mid-calf deep. There was another downpour that night, filling my rain gauge to .95 inches. That adds up to 3.45 inches in a 30 hour period. One result of all this wet weather (beyond the phenomenal growth of weeds, enouraged by the rain and helped along by lack of decent weather in which to work in the garden) is the growth of mushrooms: tiny translucent white ones, delicately veiled and deadly death angel amanita, various assorted beige, brown, and gray mushrooms. As well, there is a fabulous growth of chanterelles, those vivid orange mushrooms with a funneled cap and superb flavor. A small colony is growing here at BelleWood Garden, and neighbors down the road have found an acre-sized patch. Generously, they have been sharing with me and with other friends.

Plants may be fussy about sun and shade, soil and water, but they have no innate aesthetic sense. They don't care if the pot they are planted in is imported Tuscan Impruneta terra cotta or a big box cheap clay knock-off imitation, hand-crafted wooden tub or flimsy plastic. At a pinch, even green or black plastic nursery containers or a gallon size olive oil tin can be pressed into service. If it drains water and holds the soil, the plants are happy. Gardeners, on the other hand, have additional criteria. We like things to look nice, even elegant. That's where the choice of container enters into the process. Recently the need (well, perhaps wish or want is more honest) for several new containers came over me. I decided I wanted something sturdy yet attractive, classic but not formal, something that, while practical, would also be an ornament to the garden. After looking at this container made from that material, various other styles and different materials, I settled on Campania International.

While Campania does offer a selection of terra cotta planters imported from Impruneta, Italy, it was their durable cast stone pots that interested me more. These are designed in-house. There is a Rustica series of planters, urns, and rectangular planter boxes, some with an acorn and oak leaf, or leafy vining grape cluster embellishment. A recent design line in the American Garden Heritage Collection features reproductions of antique planters and garden ornaments from the collection of the Morris Arboretum of the Unniversity of Pennsylvania. As well as the natural gray cast stone, are available in eight different patinas, from a delicate mosslike spring green to chandoline, a warm, light tannish brown, rose-peach terra cotta to a warmer rusty iron; and others. With so many choices it was difficult to decide. Eventually I managed to narrow it down to three cast stone planters. I got a small English weave planter 14 inches wide and 10 inches high with doubled interwoven ribbons and a rope rim; a small margarita planter 18 inches wide and 11.5 inches high,with charming little flowers filling the spaces between interwoven ribbons; and a woven window box 23 inches long by 10 inches wide and 8.5 inches high, whose interlacing ribbons are embellished with a floral knot where they cross. As well, I could not resist a lightweight, molded polyethelyne planter in a terra cotta color, complete with mottling and striations that help it look like "the real thing." Though quite large, at 32 inches long by 14 inches wide and 13 inches high, it is so light weight I could handle it with ease. And while weather-proof enough to use outside, I'm going to place this on the balcony over the great room, and fill it with three large cast iron plants, Aspidistra elatior.

Campania has a showroom, warehouse, and manufacturing facility in Pennsylvania, about an hour from BelleWood Garden, and other showrooms in The Gardens Pavillion at AmericasMart in Atlanta, Georgia and The Garden District of the Dallas Market Center in Texas. You can find their planters, statuary, fountains, bird baths and garden ornaments at quality nurseries and garden centers across the country. The afternoon I was there I saw one pallet that was going to Oregon.

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