The garden as extended living room is a concept Southern Californians have always happily embraced. A new generation of stylish planters is the perfect way to accessorize and complete the look of today's cozy outdoor arrangements of cushy couches and chairs, fireplaces and fire pits.
Some planters have a sculptural quality all their own. Others are the perfect foil for tumbling cascades of blooms or intricate assemblages of succulents. Chosen with a discerning eye, and creatively combined, they add personality and panache that will define the look of your outdoor living space.
For best effect, think of your planter choices as an integrated collection and select them to play off one another to make a coherent design statement. Mix shapes or repeat them. Contrast smooth surfaces with textures. Use hits of striking color against cool neutrals, or stay all neutral.
Complement a patio's modern look with a sleek large ball, clean-lined tall planter and brilliantly glazed small pot. Or fill a single long planter with the same plant repeated rhythmically along its length. Terra cottas of various sizes — some plain, some elaborately sculpted, and paired with rough natural stone pillars, basins and planters — work extremely well with the Mediterranean architectural style.
Unlike the planters of old, which were heavy and prone to cracking, many of today's best planters are hand-cast from proprietary mixes of materials — concrete, ground stone, plastics and resin — that are much lighter in weight but stronger against the elements.
The best generally do not come cheap. You might choose one showstopper and surround it with less expensive planters, or go for it. Whatever your choice, your investment will pay off in years of visual delight.
Oil jar with burgundy glaze
The new generation of Bauer Pottery is quickly making a mark with its color-loaded, translucent glazes, but if you think the vibrant line is limited to dinnerware, check out the planters. Oil jar, glazed earthenware in burgundy, 22 inches tall, $650; 16 inches, $330; 12 inches, $120. Bauer Pottery, (888) 213-0800; showroom by appointment. www.bauerpottery.com
Oil jar in matte glaze
Those who know Bauer Pottery by its California-bright palette will be delightfully surprised by the elegance of its matte black neutrals. Oil jar, glazed earthenware in matte black, 22 inches tall, $650; 16 inches, $330; 12 inches, $120. Bauer Pottery, (888) 213-0800; showroom by appointment.www.bauerpottery.com
David Mills designs his own hand-hammered copper planters, including the beautifully finished bell-shaped pot, and has them fabricated in India. 18 by 20 inches, $885. Garden Temple, 13055 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, (818) 783-0079. www.gardentemple.com
Gray stone planters
Known for his evocative stone fountains and benches, crafter David Mills hollows blocks of stone to create refined rustic planters of all shapes and sizes. Limestone, used for bowls, basins and pillars, is his particular favorite for succulents because "it breathes." Various sizes and shapes, $195 to $1,450. Garden Temple, 13055 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, (818) 783-0079. www.gardentemple.com
Copper-colored stone planters
David Mills bores into solid blocks of natural basalt to fashion rusticated columnar planters that make strong focal points for planting beds as well as patios. 12 to 18 inches tall, $115 to $165. Garden Temple, 13055 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, (818) 783-0079. www.gardentemple.com
Seemingly plucked from the bottom of the Aegean Sea, the high-fired ceramic Atlantis collection sails in from Vietnam several times a year and sells out quickly. Multiple styles, sizes and rusticated patinas, no two alike; prices $35 to $3,100. Rolling Greens, 9528 Jefferson Blvd., Culver City, (310) 559-8656. www.rollinggreensnursery.com
French box planter
Owner Stephen Block of lavish emporium Inner Gardens designed this fresh take on the iconic French box planter. Cast stone with antiqued zinc handles in three shades. 16 by 18 inches, $825; 20 by 22 inches, $1,495. Inner Gardens, 6050 W. Jefferson Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 838-8378. www.innergardens.com
ILAN DEI STUDIO
Israeli-born designer Ilan Dei sculpts contemporary, Venice-cool planters out of fiber-reinforced concrete. Edge, in four colors, 18 by 18 inches, $395; 24 by 18 by 18 inches, $590. Studio: 2100 Zeno Place, Venice, (310) 302-9222; Retail store: 1650 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice. www.ilandeivenice.com
The strength of the high-fired clay, the elegance of the shapes and the brilliance of the glaze finishes have made planters from 2-century-old Poterie de la Madeleine of Anduze, France, a perennial favorite. The Stripe planter, enameled clay traced by the potter's fingertips, in emerald green, 22 by 37 inches, $850. Charme d'Antan, 29963 Mulholland Highway, Agoura Hills, (818) 889-0229. www.charmedantan.net
Poterie de la Madeleine planter
It takes about a month for French artisans to craft by hand one Poterie de la Madeleine planter from the distinctive terroir of Anduze, France. The ancient coat of arms medallion marks its authenticity. Enameled clay in turquoise, 26.5 by 31.5 inches, $1,100. Charme d'Antan, 29963 Mulholland Highway, Agoura Hills, (818) 889-0229. www.charmedantan.net
These versatile ringed Madison planters may look as if they are made from cast stone or clay and might weigh a ton, but don't be fooled. They are formed from durable, fade-resistant, rotational molded polyethylene, lightweight enough to tote around the yard. Two colors. 14 by 14 inches, $48; 16 by 16 inches, $74; 20 by 20 inches, $110; 26 by 26 inches, $215; 34 by 34 inches, $475. Potted, 3158 Los Feliz Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 665-3801. www.pottedstore.com
THE JUICY LEAF
White-on-white bands add textural interest to the simple white planter. Try these in multiples for a graphic statement. Stack Pot, polyresin with matte finish, 13.5 by 10.5 inches, $100; 16 by 35 inches, $300; 18 by 57 inches, $550; 20 by 75 inches, $1,000. The Juicy Leaf, 1140 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, (310) 907-5019. www.thejuicyleaf.com
Set this strongly textural cylinder against a larger, clean-lined box or ball planter for best effect. Cell Pot, polyresin in matte white, 14 by 35 inches, $375. The Juicy Leaf, 1140 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, (310) 907-5019.www.thejuicyleaf.com
European design and Swiss hand fabrication come together in an often-whimsical collection of lightweight planters, composed of proprietary fiber cement. Plantship, 56 by 16 inches, $860. Greenform, (310) 331-1665.www.green-form.com
This Swiss-based company enlists European designers, then hand-forms each planter from its proprietary fiber cement mix, one per day per mold. Palma, 18 by 31 inches, $554; 18 by 40 inches, $668. Greenform, (310) 331-1665.www.green-form.com
CRATE & BARREL
Plain or planted, the attractively priced and eye-catching ball planters are dramatic on their own or provide a backdrop for a display of smaller pots. The bonus: These pots are very green, having been cast from mineral compounds, sea salt, sand and fiber and manufactured with low emissions and energy use. 26 by 22.5 inches, $149; 20 by 17.5 inches, $119. Crate & Barrel, various locations. www.crateandbarrel.com