top of page

How to properly match the shape of the vase to that of the plant

“There is no civilization in the world that has not felt the need
to have its gardens".

Thus, in Pierre Grimal's book The Art of Gardens, what seems to be an innate human need is established, a need to represent oneself in the world, to give outlet to one's self, which evolves over time in tandem with man himself.

How have people's needs changed today? The recent pandemic has in fact awakened in each of us a particular bond with the home, but above all a desire to recreate small natural habitats, where we can dream, closing our eyes, of being in a large lawn or in a park, in contact with plants and flowers. All of this, accompanied by the intention of taking care of something alive and giving it a shape that is suitable to our tastes, has led to rediscovering the beauty and importance of gardens, terraces, or even window sills.

In this rediscovery, the potted plant is particularly relevant, not only because it can be found at different scales in an external garden, a terrace, or indoors, but also because it brings together two elements: the plant, with its posture and needs, and the vase, which is instead a human product, with its shape, material, and finish.

What factors can we consider in choosing the plant to put into a particular pot?

I believe it is necessary to make two premises. The first concerns an inherent need in the plant itself, namely the development of the root system, which is specific to every plant, but which is a factor to be given due importance in choosing the shape and size of the pot. The second concerns the "shape of the plant", which does not always coincide with its natural posture. Many plants are indeed suitable for "sculptural pruning," a term that recalls the topiary art of ancient Roman gardeners, as explained in Grimal's book, and which consists of assigning to the plant, through pruning, particular shapes and geometries. The considerations that follow will involve the posture of the plant, taking into account the possibility of giving it the desired shape in a secondary role.

In examining the shape of the vase, we can identify three guiding principles of reading: the proportions between width and height, the type of lines, curved or squared, and the distribution between solid and empty spaces.

forme di vasi.jpg

The above figure shows various types of pots in a square reference grid.

Observing the vases, which have been reproduced "in negative" and divided by height classes, the entity of the void compared to the full is clearly visible; this balance must be completed by the full and empty spaces of the plant we will choose . 

The difference between the vases with more curvy and sinuous characters and the more square ones and clearer lines also clearly emerges. The height and conformation of the fully developed plant must therefore be commensurate with that of the pot .

Turning now to examine the types of plant , let's consider two categories: tree and bush , which can be erect or drooping. It is also possible to mix in the same vase plants with a different bearing, to create interesting balances, or use a single plant to emphasize certain lines over others.

One of the first key points for the choice is the harmony with the characteristic lines of the vase . Thus, for example, a vase with sinuous lines such as the Medici vase can host a plant with an erect bushy habit, perhaps with a "radial" arrangement , in order to
accentuate the opening of the vase towards the top . Some hanging plants can also be added, arranging them on the sides, making sure that they do not completely cover the prospect of the vase (figure 2).

Similar considerations can be made for the Orcio (Italian jar), which, does not have a slender shape like the Medici Vase and has a predominance of solids compared with empty spaces; it will therefore be possible to choose a plant with an erect bushy posture, preferably associated with a drooping one (figure 3).

vaso medici e orcio.jpg

The Anduze Vase is not characterized by such sharp curves as the two vases considered above, and lends itself to multiple compositions , with plants with an erect shrubby posture (figure 4) or even tree-like , given the proportions of the vase. In this case it is possible to think about inserting a “filling spot” at the base to give a better balance of solids and voids to the overall elevation (figure 5).

vasi di anduze.jpg

Tall pots such as those belonging to the third group of figure 1 lend themselves, given the proportions, to the insertion of tree plants , or, if placed next to a wall, of climbing plants .


Low pots are suitable for  bushes with erect posture or succulent plants with small size ; cacti and plants with a columnar structure, on the other hand, need pots with adequate height.  


If we reduce the observation scale and move from the external environment to
the internal one, today we are witnessing an evolution of the vase, almost its disappearance.

We are talking about the Japanese art of Kokedama , which consists in raising the plant by replacing the vase with a soil ball covered with moss , creating suspended compositions with various types of plants, real plant scenographies and ornamental elements (figure 6).

Another furnishing trend is that of "plant heads" , vases that reproduce faces in ancient or modern style, in which the plant elements become part of human features , simulating thick drooping foliage or, sometimes, large flowering hats (figure 7) .

Returning to the initial question of how people's needs have changed today, perhaps a "plant head" may partly represent the answer. The plant and its vase starting from the garden are increasingly entering the environments of our daily life , as our desire is no longer just to admire them, but to draw vital energy from them and live with them in great harmony .

kokedama e testa vaso.jpg
adriana scarponi.jpg

Adriana Scarponi , from the Marche region, has a degree in construction engineering - architecture and a master's degree in landscape and garden architecture. She is passionate about floral design and has put her expertise and graphic skills at our disposal for this unpublished article. 

bottom of page