planters in a modern city garden

Pots and planters in modern gardens


Some of our city gardens are made entirely from pots – roof terraces and patios where planting in the ground is not possible. Other spaces benefit from a dramatic focal point, a piece of sculptural beauty in the shape of a curved vase or a simple trough to grow vegetables. Using pots also provides us with good drainage so we can cultivate species which are otherwise tricky to grow in a wet climate. Whether permanent or seasonal, free standing planters are available to us in every shape, size or colour. Often we prefer to make an impression with a unique one-off design to suit the site and the client. Whatever the type of planters we use, the most important elements are proper positioning, definition of space and the creation of focal points.



1. Steel planters & containers 2. Ceramic troughs 3. Fibreglass vases 4. Wooden raised beds 5. Colour 6. Texture 7. Shape & form 8. Scale 9. Curves & voids 10. Lighting & details

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  1. STEEL PLANTERS & CONTAINERS.

This material gives us great freedom to create the shapes we prefer. We can easily outline complicated contours straight onto the sheet metal in 1:1 scale to create a template. The hefty weight of the material gives good sturdiness so beneficial on windy roof terraces in the city. Many functional details such as brackets, drainage, irrigation and concealed castors can be factored into the design with simple welding. The vast range of colours and textural finishes is handy when working on a colour scheme for the garden. Silk screening is another simple but effective technique that can add detail and finesse to a powder coated planter.


contemporary steel planters

St Paul's roof terrace

  2. CERAMIC TROUGHS.

Modern ceramic pots and troughs can be very heavy but they give a 3-dimensional quality and texture which are great contrast to garden foliage. Glazed ceramic pots give further reflection and weather well. Over the years we have used pots from Germany, Belgium, the Far East and South Africa. There is something quite satisfying about taking a mass-produced item and making it your own with a personal attitude to grouping, displaying and positioning in the garden.


contemporary ceramic pots

Wandsworth garden

  3. FIBREGLASS VASES.

With rotationally-moulded technical resins the modern pot manufacturer can produce literally any shape and size pots. The finishes and opacity are limitless giving a product that crosses the boundaries between pot and sculpture, indoor and outdoor. These tend to be very light weight so consideration is needed in windy areas.


contemporary plastic pots

Wapping roof terrace

  4. WOODEN RAISED BEDS.

Sometimes it is not possible to fabricate the planter offsite and wood can be a flexible material in terms of transport, construction and finishes. Built-in or free standing raised beds can be built to fit in any aperture, opening or area. Using hardwood coping brings a gentle warmth to a city garden.


wood planters

St George Wharf Roof Gardens

  5. COLOUR.

We have been experimented with 2-tone powder coated planters, which give an interesting result. With certain vases we are able to coat the inside a different colour to the outside. Other coatings have a 2-tone finish within the top coat which changes the appearance at different angles. Another technique is to mask an area of a planter to a preferable shape and coat it in 2 colours.


planters and colour

Shad Thames roof garden

  6. TEXTURE.

When we think of a traditional terracotta pot, we think of one texture – that of a non-reflective matt surface. This terracotta pot in its contemporary interpretation has gained many textures, finishes, sizes and colours. Contrasting textures are the staples of the design narrative in a garden. As such, we try and juxtapose smooth silky vases against coarse brick walls or position grainy bowls against velvety powder coated troughs.


texture in contemporary planters and pots

Caro Point roof terrace

  7. SHAPE & FORM.

The shape of a planter is usually conceived with the character of the garden in mind, as well as the form of a particular plant or the outline of a city building in the backdrop. Rarely is a single planter viewed in isolation; the rhythm of repetition and grouping is all-important in creating a strong composition or elevation. We find that a simple rectangular trough is sometimes all that is needed to set off a flamboyant foliage arrangement. Equally, we may need a really striking line of vases to be moderated by simple, modest leaves.


shape in modern planters

Butlers Wharf roof garden

8. SCALE.

Whenever possible logistically, we would use oversized planters to articulate the space and create drama and purpose - not only in a small city garden but also in larger open spaces. Large pots can also be used to reverse the scale with tiny planting giving it a new meaning. We often design with the colour, texture and planting in mind from the outset.


modern planting and pots

Debden large country garden

  9. CURVES & VOIDS.

The right curve is a beautiful thing in any planter, trough or vase. In contemporary gardens where linearity and strong geometry prevails. the curvature of a pot can really augment the whole garden. A while back we began experimenting with voids in the outlines to create a light appearance, reduce weight and open up the lighting possibilities. Since then we have developed many variations for different purposes and situations and these are particularly useful in roof gardens and terraces.


curves and voids in contemporary planters

London Fields roof terrace

10. LIGHTING & DETAILS.

Planters and troughs benefit from a slight float off the ground – this ‘shadow’ detail is not only useful for maintenance but is also a visually stimulating, elegant detail. We therefore always float the planters on small tiles or sometimes this is achieved with a built-in plinth or tray. Concealing the light source is a good practice which pays off when the drama of lighting begins at dusk as not noticing the light fitting increases the enjoyment of the effect.


modern planters lighting

Shad Thames roof garden

Working with pots and planters has been a long-term passion of ours. A planter can feel like a miniature garden – a whole space modelled into an object, therefore it’s allegorical in so many ways. Presented perfectly, there is a lot to achieve with planters modern city gardens.


amir   Written, photographed (unless indicated) and posted by Amir Schlezinger.




modern powder coated and ceramic planters

Hadley Wood roof terrace



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