Sunday, July 3, 2011

English Gardens- Whichford Pottery

We have a great passion for container gardening and so, on our recent trip to England, it was great fun to head for Whichford Pottery, in Warwickshire, where some of the best clay pots in the world are made. Established in 1976, by Jim and Dominique Keeling, the business continues to be family run. All of Whichford's pots are made by hand by a team of about thirty craftsmen and women who are committed to keeping traditional potting skills alive. I loved the atmosphere there. Jim and Dominique have made it a mission to train and employ local people and, over the past 35 years, have built up one of the most highly skilled teams of potters in Europe. These men and women take great pride in their craft; they are a friendly bunch, and are more than willing to share the love they have for their work with visitors.

The entry to Whichford Pottery with the arbor made of clay pots.

image courtesy of
Founder and owner, Jim Keeling working on The Golden Cypress, a ceramic sculpture which sat at the head of the Hillier exhibit this year at the Chelsea Flower Show.

It all starts out with huge mounds of different types of local clay. The clay is mixed with other ingredients that make it frost-proof. It's processed and extruded into sheets that can then be formed into smaller chunks that are useable by the potters.

The Potting Room

Throwing Pots

Applying "basket weave" to a pot

The courtyard where finished products are displayed

A portion of the courtyard garden. To follow what's happening in the garden at Whichford Pottery, check out head gardener, Harriet Rycroft's wonderful blog by clicking here.

The finishing touches are placed on Jim Keeling's Golden Cypress ceramic sculpture.  It is being covered in 23.5 carat gold gilding.  The inspiration for this sculpture came from Jim's childhood when he suffered a serious illness.  When he was finally well enough to go outside, one of the first things he did was to make a house for himself inside a venerable Cupressus aureum (Golden Cypres Tree).  It remained his own personal hide-out throughout his childhood.

A photo of a portion of the gold medal winning Hillier's exhibit at Chelsea that contained over 3,500 plants and trees, a stream, and Jim's Golden Cypress centerpiece.  Putting on the exhibit at the renowned gardening show takes Hillier Nurseries a year to plan, a team of 20 to set up, and costs over £100,000.  Jim Keeling's 23.5 carat gilded cypress centerpiece was estimated at £70,000.


  1. Joe,
    This post was worth the wait. Looking forward to more England stories and visits. Did you bring any pots home?

  2. Thanks, Michael! I could have brought a container of those pots home with me but all I could fit in the suitcase was about a half-dozen little bamboo pole toppers. The folks at Whichford told us that it is becoming more and more difficult to ship pots to the US and, at the same time, try to keep the cost reasonable. Both the increased price of fuel for shipping and the tighter restrictions on what can be used for pallet construction and packing materials have all added significantly to the cost. --Joe


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