Historically, garden urns have been showing up in gardener’s yards for millenia and may have been incorporated into early Roman and Greek gardens. The Syrian amphora is a common urn style today and was adopted by the Romans and Greeks as drinking pitchers or containers for many of their liquid resources.
I can imagine some creative gardener in 14th century BC utilising a leaking amphora as a garden ornament and thus the trend started.
Today garden urns are predominantly used in the formal garden setting. Large urns, or vases as some may prefer, often sit atop walls or plinths and add a very regal dimension to the garden. Often they are design elements used purely by themselves while nowadays many gardeners are exploring their usability by planting inside them as well.
Succulent plants lend themselves very well to being contained within garden urns. Masses of echeveria or a statuesque agave or even an unholy, and very sharp, crown of thorns (Euphorbia milii) prove to be wonderful growing companions inside these urns.
If you’re thinking about adding one, or two, to your garden then be aware that they’re not usually cheap. Even though many of them are made out of fibreglass (to reduce the weight) or concrete (cheaper) you’re unlikely to find many new offerings constructed of ceramic pottery these days. Even if you did, you would find that they probably won’t last the distance in an outdoor setting and crack within the first year or two.
How to use garden urns
Garden urns are best used as focal points which is often why they are used in the formal garden. Whether they are used to embrace a set of stairs or solely sitting on a plinth in the middle of a garden bed they will instantly draw your eye and attention.
They work best when they are given some room to show off as well. In the garden steps setting they are allowed to be on display because they break up the architecture of the stairs. As a focal point they need some room to be admired and enjoyed and work well with a paved perimeter.
If you plan to use your garden urns as containers then consider wisely which plants may be accomodated inside them. Low maintenance succulents or ornamental grasses lend themselves well and the architecture of the plant can really accentuate the beauty of the urn. Plants that offer a little height as well as a compact, or weeping, growing habit work the best.
Another graceful use of garden urns is like the one pictured above where they are incorporated into the garden and set the scene of ravaged history. Allowing them to be half-buried or covered with mosses adds some old-worldiness to the design and can help age a new garden considerably.
Points to consider when designing with garden urns
- Size: If your garden is on the small-size then find a garden urn that fits in with it rather than hogs all the attention.
- Colour: If you have a mosaic of plants that screams colour then take advantage of a brightly shaded ceramic pot. Otherwise, traditional white, bronze or copper hues may fit in better with your surroundings.
- Shape: Tall thin urns work in smaller gardens while stumpier urns and vases need larger grounds to be accomodated.
- Weight: If you plan to grow plants in your garden urns then opt for lighter fibreglass or resin vases if you need to move these indoors for winter. If you expect that they will never move from their designated garden spot then weight won’t matter as much and you can select the cheaper concrete alternatives quite comfortably.
However you choose to use garden urns in your yard always take some time to contemplate the alternatives. If you’re permitted, take a few home and try them in your different scenarios before buying. At least this way you’ll know that you’ve made a good choice.
Photo source: blmurch