A Place to Take Root: The History of Flowerpots and Garden Containers in North America
Oct. 15 to Dec. 15
Editor’s note: For high-res digital images (300 dpi) e-mail Madelaine Zadik at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NORTHAMPTON, Mass. — Discover the history of the common flowerpot from ancient Egypt to the present day in the Smith College Botanic Garden exhibit “A Place to Take Root” in the Church Exhibition Gallery, Lyman Conservatory, College Lane, Oct. 15 to Dec. 15.
More than 90 different types of pots encompassing a wide array of beautiful and functional shapes trace the development of the simple garden pot in the exhibit, which is free and open to the public.
The flowerpot is an object that, until now, has been largely ignored. When curator Susan Tamulevich began research for the exhibition, she discovered that design indices of historical flowerpots did not exist. The lack of documented information about early American flowerpots is partly due to how flowerpots were regarded in the 17th and 18th century, according to Tamulevich. Most garden pots were cheap utilitarian objects made by local craftspeople. Early and modern American gardeners treat their clay pots in much the same way, she added. When they break, they are disposed of or used for drainage in a new planting. Flowerpots are not generally valued by historians, and most are consigned to the back closet or the basement of the local museum or historical society.
Some traditional potters such as Guy Wolff of Connecticut and Jim Keeling of Warwickshire, England, are fascinated by the simple, elegant designs and horticultural history of antique garden pots.
“It is difficult to believe these pots — especially the American pots — have been so long neglected,” Wolff said. “They’re beautiful sculptural objects. Each pot has clues that tell you where the potter came from, what generation American he was and where he was working.”
The exhibit showcases a variety of garden containers including Tuscan terra-cotta urns, reproductions of American garden pots from the 17th through 19th centuries, 18th-century British ware from Whichford Pottery and contemporary concrete containers made by Lunaform of Sullivan, Maine.
“The exhibition is an ongoing inspiration,” said Wolff, whose pot designed for the 1995 centennial celebration of the Botanic Garden, is on display.
The following two events about the exhibit are also scheduled. Both are free and open to the public:
• On Friday, Nov. 11, at 7 p.m., Tamulevich will speak about the development of the exhibit in Room 205 of the Campus Center.
• On Friday, Nov. 18, at 7:30 p.m., author and gardening expert Sydney Eddison, Smith Class of 1954, will give a slide lecture “Gardens to Go: Creating and Developing a Container Garden,” in Room 106 of Seelye Hall. Eddison will offer guidance on designing container gardens and advice on how to grow a lush garden on any deck, terrace, balcony, or backyard. She will offer tips on how to coordinate plants for color, texture and season, and how to mix and match to have a beautiful garden anywhere. Following the lecture, there will be a reception and book signing at the Lyman Plant House. which will be illuminated for the occasion and the Fall Mum Show will be on view.
The gallery is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is wheelchair accessible. Additional information is available on the Botanic Garden Web site at https://www.smith.edu/garden, and the Web site for “A Place to Take Root,” http://aplacetotakeroot.com.
The exhibit will also travel to botanical gardens, museums and gardens, a trip during which craftsmen will contribute information about and examples of local garden container design and history.
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