Plastic pots revolutionized the garden center and nursery trade in the 1960s. Before their arrival, perennial plants were sold only during the autumn and winter, freshly dug from stock fields. Those field-grown bare-root plants have a short shelf life and no impulse-purchase appeal, so they are not suited to modern buying habits, but they are usually superior plants to those grown in containers. Field-grown plants tend to be chunkier and establish in their new home more quickly than those sold in pots. Their roots descend naturally, as opposed to turning around inside a container, and often have mycorrhizal fungi clinging to them, which help them get off to a flying start when they are replanted. In this article, John Hoyland explains that field-grown plants are the future.
I haven’t nosed around behind other people’s garden sheds, but I suspect that, if I did, I would find, as I do behind mine, a jumble of precariously stacked old plastic pots. I try to create some kind of order by stacking similar sizes together, but such is the range of shapes and sizes that disorder soon returns. Most can’t be recycled; nurseries and garden centers don’t want to reuse them for fear of spreading disease, and one never needs them in the garden. However, the enthusiastic one is about propagating plants. I think we’ll be stuck with them until plastic recycling improves.
In the past few years, some plant producers, sensitive to changing consumer attitudes to plastics, have started selling plants in recycled plastic pots that can be put into domestic recycling bins. Most can be identified by their unpleasant dark-beige color (taupe, according to the manufacturers), which does nothing to enhance the appearance of the plants in them. I’ve also seen plants being sold in pots made from coir, miscanthus, and even wool containers that resemble old socks.
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