Visiting world-renowned Pots and Pithoi near East Grinstead
PUBLISHED: 16:52 08 December 2014 | UPDATED: 16:53 08 December 2014
Established in 1985, Pots and Pithoi were the first to introduce Cretan terracotta pots to the UK, now having the world’s largest collection, and supply over 120 designs in 240 different sizes to customers across the globe.
Add to this that Prince Charles has given his seal of approval by granting Pots and Pithoi a Royal Warrant and uses the pots in his own garden, and you know you have come to the right place for beautiful, elegant choices. The challenge will be which one or ones to choose as the vast array spreads before you!
Tara Bowles bought Pots and Pithoi in 2005 from the original owners Robin and Rosie Lloyd and has continued the reputation for quality and innovation, selling both antique and new pots. “I didn’t know of the Lloyds, my background is in fine art, painting and fashion. I was a costume designer, TV art director and had started designing garden furniture when I saw the ad for the sale of Pots and Pithoi and was inspired,” recalls Tara. Certainly her artistic eye is given reign by the creative vignette displays both outside in the courtyard and inside with an Aladdin’s cave of lifestyle products, ceramics, gifts and food. In addition Tara, who clearly has a passion for what she does, gets involved in designing new pots for the collection.
Pots and Pithoi has a unique range of frost resistant terracotta pots, created under an exclusive licence with the Cretan pottery community and made in the traditional way using top grade clay, fired in hand built kilns using olive pips and grape seeds to over 1150 degrees centigrade to withstand the harshest of English winters. This ancient method dates back to the Bronze Age when pots and urns were used to store and transport a range of products, such as oil and grain. “A co-operative was set up in a village in Crete in 1984 and a whole pottery industry has been revived. We are very involved and get to know all the families personally, are in constant touch and visit once or twice a year to maintain the uniqueness of the business,” adds Tara.
Lovely old buildings and high walls enclose the sea of gentle terracotta pots and urns, placed en masse or in little scenes. Plants are interwoven in the displays, whether vines entwining or theatres of seasonal potted plants. Exploring past rows of neatly stacked pots in the barn, which transport you back to ancient times, you then step through to a display garden that gives inspiration not only on using the large urns as focal points but also for water features or ideas for grouping containers.
Many customers pop in from across Sussex and beyond, making the event a bit of a destination day, taking time to select pieces for their garden, others knowing the reputation or having seen Pots and Pithoi at RHS Chelsea Flower Show or in magazines, purchase online. With the warm welcome from Tara and the staff, the quaint little cafe where tea, coffee and cake are served, and the indoor living shop, you can happily spend an afternoon. From the beginning of November the display takes on a festive look with Christmas Cornucopia, along with an added bonus of free coffee until Christmas Eve, and on Sunday 7 December there will be mulled wine. “We’ll have lovely porcelain candle holders, stoneware, Italian floral ceramics, glassware, lanterns, oils, local homemade chutneys and Cretan honey, to mention just a few of the delights in the shop,” says Tara.
Get the look - Tara’s tips
• Containers expand your horticultural options
• Pots can be planted to look formal or informal
• Plant up some tulip bulbs with three-tiered decorative pots planted with foliage that the bulbs can pop up through
• Have one large pot as a focal point, or a collection usually best grouped in odd numbers
• With planted pots, ensure drainage holes aren’t blocked
• Use a large unplanted pot as a sculptural focal point, adds winter interest
• A classic use is to have a focal point urn at the end of an avenue
• You can place a temporary planted pot in the top of an urn for seasonal colour
• Convert a pot into a water feature – the ribbed pots especially captivating
• Some of the pots can be used as water butts
• Use some small pots with candles and bring them inside
• Want to learn more? You can subscribe to the Pots and Pithoi email mailout that includes information and even recipes
To know - Pots and Pithoi
• The Barns, Turners Hill, West Sussex RH10 4QQ
• Open 7 days a week, (10am-5pm)
• Closed Easter Day, 1pm 24 Dec – 2 Jan and Sundays in January
• Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Christmas gifts for gardeners
• Furniture maker and designer Tim Jasper takes us on a tour of his Goodwood home
• Steyning film-maker Sam Sutterlin - rising star
• Sussex celebrities and personalities share what they love most about the county