Terracotta is one of the oldest elements of fine gardens. It is made of a particular kind of clay which bakes to a soft warm red, known to artists as ‘terracotta’. Pots are made by hand in Southern Europe from traditional clays. Handmade pots have a soft porous texture which mellows with the years. They also tend to have variations. small cracks, and other imperfections like handmade clothes They are quite different from machine made pots which may be equally large but have a uniform, leathery, texture Handmade pots are much less prone to frost damage, almost to the extent of being frost proof if they do not become water logged.
Terracotta is an ancient material, which remains of great value in gardens. It is just clay that has been shaped and fired, usually to a lower temperature than bricks, to achieve that gorgeous red colour. It is used to make tiles and pots. The word "terracotta' means "fired earth'. Given its high quality, it is astonishing that some manufacturers offer terracotta substitutes in concrete and plastic. In the Mediterranean countries, the manufacture of terracotta pots has continued since ancient times. They are illustrated on wall paintings of Egyptian and Roman gardens, and some of the shapes are still available. These pots are a link with the classical gardens of antiquity, with Plato and Aristotle, Bacchus and the Maenads, Pliny, Virgil and the Medici gardens of Tuscany. The festoon and swag patterns on classical pots derive from the garlands of vine leaves that were used to decorate gardens at festival times. Tuscany remains a great centre of terracotta manufacture. Spanish, Greek and Portuguese pots are also beautiful. The pots of Northern Europe have a different kind of refinement.
Glazed terracotta pot