For garden pottery, it's hard to beat this San Diego store

The pottery at Mex-Art Pottery & Home Accents, near San Diego’s Old Town, is different from the familiar terra-cotta produced just south of the border in Tijuana. The reason? Owner Diane Salisbury buys most of her pots from Tonalá in Jalisco, Mexico.

The patterns are surprising for Mexican exports: fleur-de-lis, basketweave, and many tropical motifs like pineapples and bamboo. The mottled finishes on Tonalá pots ― dark reds, greens, and browns ― are achieved by rag-painting several shades, one over the other, giving the pots a bold, contemporary look. All the things you’d expect to see in a Mexican pot ― cactus, succulents, bougainvillea, geraniums ― look newly original in these containers.

The most important differences are the least visible, however. “Tonalá clay is very dense,” Salisbury says, “and all these pots are high-fire kilned. So they stand up to the elements very well.”

 Talavera, a majolica-type Mexican ceramic, is also a store specialty. Salisbury stocks everything from tiny herb pots to ginger jars.

INFO: Mex-Art Pottery & Home Accents (1155 Morena Blvd., San Diego; or 619/276-5810)