Fall Favorites

Fall is a favorite season. I like reflecting on all the efforts made in the garden imagined in the winter, begun in the spring, and realized during the summer. Once the fall arrives, there is the beauty of the harvest to be appreciated. There is an entire season of hard work that is coming to a close. There is a sense of accomplishment in the air. Many plants, have emerged from the ground in the spring, grown, and bloomed. Many will exhibit striking fall color, in defiance of the garden going quiet. The well tended summer containers planted in late May and early June can look their very best before a hard frost. The fall represents the culmination of gardening efforts that have gone on in some form or another all season long. That said, there are those seasonal garden gestures that just hit their stride in the fall. The fall window box pictured above features the trailing creeping Charlie that grew in this box over the summer. The late season harvest of broccoli, cabbage, onions and brussel sprouts look great in this box with ripened gourds and pumpkins. The grapevine provides motion and rhythm to the arrangement. In a long chilly fall, an arrangement like this will last for weeks.

The fall container plantings have a limited palette. I do not mind that. A limited palette of plants means the arrangement created by the gardener in charge is all about that ability to combine and recombine familiar elements to create something new and fresh. The ornamental cabbages and kale are my favorite fall container plant. Our custom grown crop of cabbage and kale is the best it has ever been my pleasure to plant. The pots pictured above have cabbage that were grown three plants to a single pot. It did not take many plants to give these containers a generous and overflowing fall look. A cabbage cuff, as Rob said. A favorite element of broom corn are those long leaves that dry so beautifully to a pale green. Though the front entrance and porch pictured above is quite formal, the fall pots are exuberant and not too tailored. They do a good job of representing the idea of fruition that characterizes our fall season.

I am always grateful for the chance to fill large pots, no matter the season. This fall container stands out in the landscape. Soon the foliage on “Ruby Slippers” oakleaf hydrangeas will color up a deep wine red. This part of my clients’ landscape will shine once our temperatures drop.

Fall container plantings can represent any aesthetic. This fall planting is very trim, and simple.

This fall container planting is exuberant.

This Belgian stoneware container is planted for fall in an architectural, rather than a traditional way.

Gardeners of very different persuasions represent their gardens for fall in very different ways. I applaud this. It makes the landscape all the more interesting.

Of course we plant pots for fall at the shop.

Those shop plantings frequently have some fall fruits selected by Rob to accompany them.

fall planting with broom corn and redbor kale

As the nights cool, this kale will turn a dark rich purple.

trio of fall pots featuring coral queen cabbage.

These containers are at their English border style best at the end of summer. The obelisks from Branch lend structure to the planting.

Changing out containers one season to the next is a satisfying way to spend time in the garden.

the last of the summer

Planting containers for fall is a way to celebrate the beauty of the season.

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Planting Fall Containers

Our summer gardening season begins to wind down in September. Come Labor Day, change in the air. That change is refreshing and energizing. Towards the end of the month, the watering on the summer containers becomes a full time job. All of the soil in the containers is shot through and thoroughly congested with roots. Those abundant roots can absorb water as fast as it can be supplied. They invariably want more. A gardener has to have a big love for their summer containers to keep them thriving throughout September. By the time that fall sees fit to arrive, this gardener is ready.

Last week and the first of this was remarkable for its blistering and record setting heat. All the more effort was required to keep the summer pots going. Added to that, the care of first plants for the fall kept us really busy. Keeping up with the watering on our first shipments of fall cabbages, kales, pansies, lavender, thyme, lemon cypress and other fall friendly plants was not easy.  It was 92 degrees, the first day we planted a collection of containers for fall. Fortunately for me, my crews are utterly professional and focused. They came to work with coolers filled with bottles of water that had spent the previous night in the freezer. They soaked every plant before it was loaded. They were dressed for the occasion. They sweated it out with aplomb. We had set a date to plant containers for fall for this client, and we honored that commitment. All of the pots had been emptied of the summer plants, and the fall centerpieces constructed the day before.

I have a special affection for pots planted for the fall season. Even when my first taste of fall is hot as blazes. The summer is that time when every gardener has the opportunity to enjoy the work they put in place in the spring. The fall brings all of those efforts to fruition, and then to a close. Fall pots stuffed with the moments and memory of the harvest are enchanting. The colors, textures and shapes are specific to the season. The low in the sky slanting light saturates everything it strikes, producing what we know as “fall color”.

Tall elements for fall containers can come from a lot of places. Ornamental grasses come immediately to mind. Rob makes sure we have plenty of natural dried sticks, stems, and seed pods available. I am fortunate to have preserved and dyed eucalyptus in every color imaginable to place in fall pots. The cut stems of eucalyptus are able to absorb preservative and color up through the stems and into the leaves. As the color is absorbed and not applied, the stems are color fast outdoors, and are remarkably resistant to degradation from sun and rain.

But no material is as important as the plants. This year’s crop of custom grown kale and cabbage are the best it has ever been my pleasure to plant. The container above on the left is planted with redbor kale grown to an astonishing size. The companion planter features 3 Purple Queen cabbage, an edible red cabbage. It did not take many plants to create a fall container scene that will last well into November.

Coral Queen ornamental cabbage leaves are a beautiful shade of bluish green.  The centers of the plants will color up a deep magenta purple as the temperatures drop.

Tuscan kale, also known as dinosaur kale, has large, strappy and highly textured leaves. The nutritional value of kale is legendary, but it is also beautiful to look at.  Individual leaves may grow to 3 feet long.

fall container with Tuscan kale

fall container with millet and lavender eucalyptus

containers with Ruby Queen cabbage

kale and cabbage crop

the kale and cabbage from the roof

Let the festivities begin.

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The Best Of The Last

I am most pleased to report that a good many of the clients for whom I plant containers in all four seasons are telling me they are in no hurry for fall pots. I am sure our late summer heatwave plays no small part in this. Nonetheless, when I see summer containers continuing to thrive late into the last week of September, all is well. The successful and beautiful overlap between the seasons is a moment to be treasured. I am watering my root bound containers just about every day now. They have that wild end of summer look that is what I call the super nova stage. In another week, our temperatures are forecast to drop rather dramatically. The fall is soon to catch up with all of those sun and heat loving seasonal plants. The seasonal plants will decline with cooler weather. The time to enjoy that best of the last is right now.

I know the fall is close. But for now, I am enjoying those plants that have been growing steadily all summer long.

Alocasia and caladiums at summers end

A season’s worth of growth on the petunias

A shady window box in late September

Lemon grass, and black and blue salvia, late in the season

Angelonia in late September

Hydrangeas

tree ferns and white caladiums in late summer

pink mandevillea and company

summer container planting hitting its stride

willow box

willow box 2

planting in late summer

foggy morning in late September

Sometimes I think the very late summer garden gets passed over too quickly. You decide.

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How Long Will It Last?

How long will it last? This question applies to no end of various and not necessarily garden related situations. To follow are just a few of those topics. How long will these things last? A moss basket, a new refrigerator, a manicure, a bad cold, the flowers on the hellebores, a fancy bar of soap, a pair of boots, a power outage, the rain, the bloom on the coneflowers, a headache, – you get the idea. The duration of any situation is of interest to everyone. Sometimes a brief duration or quick finish is perfect. Other times, a finish taking years to achieve is a treasured goal. Gardeners do make decisions based on longevity. Why wouldn’t they? It is an individual decision. Peonies and asparagus are very long lived-foxglove not so long. For those gardeners who would not do without foxgloves, the investment in the short term is worthwhile, despite their ephemeral nature. I know gardeners who plant oak trees that are 10 inches tall. They are in it for the long run. Those gardeners who plant peonies and asparagus also understand the long view. Those of us who plant seasonal containers know their time is exactly that-one season.

An investment in container plantings is considerable-both in materials, and time. That interest represents a love for a season that is but 3 months long, but incredibly satisfying. Some gardeners plants lots of containers-others avoid that planting and maintenance in the same way they would avoid trouble. In my opinion, they are missing out on one of the best parts of summer gardening. But every gardener in charge gets to choose how they wish to garden. I support individual expression-it makes the gardening world interesting.  But for those of you who planted containers for summer, I have a little advice. Though our summer season is fading, I do believe that containers well maintained throughout the summer are good to represent on into the fall.  A late spell of very warm weather has kept my container plantings happy. To the last, they look great. How long my summer containers last is not strictly weather driven. How long they will last is not a question that has an obvious or definitive answer. Seasonal containers that get great care from the start have a much better chance to thrive long into the fall.

Dead heading annual flowers is part of what keeps annual plants blooming into the fall season.  Annual plants bloom, and move on to setting seed. If the dead flower heads are removed, annual plants will set more flower buds. Their mission is to set seed. Your mission is a summer full of flowers. A duel-how I love drama in the garden! Cutting off dead flower heads is a tedious job, but the time it takes means more flowers, and an extended blooming season. This argyranthemum “Pure White Butterfly, or marguerite, will bloom heavily all season long, provided it has some encouragement.

Cutting the flower head off at the top is not enough. The stem needs removing as well.  Once a stem has budded, bloomed, and matured, that stem will not bloom again. Leaving the stem means the plant will put energy into curing the that stem-energy that could better be spent on flower production.

I save my dead heading work for a time when I have time to do a thorough job of it. A month ago I fixed a cup of coffee on a Sunday morning, and went to work. I had no plans. No place to be. This was a perfect time to focus, and cut away dead blooms and stems. I was interested that this container that I had planted in the spring would bloom on into the fall.

The petunias that had been planted as a skirt in May got a serious shearing. The short spring flowering white daisies that faced down the white marguerites got replaced with the foliage plant commonly called “icicles”. All of this thorough chop, and tune up took place a month ago.

The 20th of September, my daisies look fresh and vigorous. They are thriving, given the care they have had all summer long. I would not advise planting marguerites in your summer containers if you are not able to keep up with their blooming cycle. But if you have a soft spot for daisies, this one will soldier on with a little regular help from you.

September 21, this basket that was planted the beginning of May looks good to me. The big idea is simple. Whatever you put in to a garden, what comes out will surely delight you.

 

 

 

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