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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Recent Work

 

fall-container-planting.jpgFall is an incredibly beautiful season in Michigan. The sun low in the sky, and the morning fog makes every color intensely saturated.  The leaves changing electrifies a fall palette of color in the landscape in a way that no flower could hope to achieve. The sugar maples are brilliantly fiery; the hydrangeas are a muted shade of brown and pink.   No season celebrates color like the fall. We are in the early stages of that transition from summer to fall.  This is a season that I follow closely, as I do not wish to miss one moment of it. The materials available for fall are spectacular in color.  The ornamental cabbages and kales intensify in color as the temperature drops. The pumpkins and gourds are impossible to resist. Everything about them speaks to the harvest, and to fall color.

coral-bells.jpgThese pots are planted all around at the bottom with heuchera.  I am not so much a fan of dark leaved coral bells in the summer garden.  They are shockingly gloomy to me in the heat of August.   In the fall, they shine in containers. These dark colors are so beautiful on a rainy fall day. I see many more growers offering large heuchera plants for sale in the fall.  There are so many foliage plants with great color available.  No doubt I associate and welcome certain colors with certain seasons.  This is a luxury enjoyed by a gardener in a four season zone.

DSC_5372The window boxes in the front of the shop are showing signs of fall color.  I so appreciate those years when the fall comes slowly, and the killing frost is late.  The brown potato vine and the coleus are singed with cold.  The color in these boxes is changing with the season.  It is easy to replace certain very cold susceptible elements in a summer container with more cold tolerant plants.  But letting the fall season work its magic on a a summer planting can be quite beautiful.

week of Sept 29 (7)
These urns sitting at the front door empty would be just lovely.  But planted for fall, they have a warm and welcoming appeal .  week of Sept 29 (14)Red Bor kale is one of the most versatile of all fall container plants.  They are tall enough to make a vertical statement.  The crinkled dark purple leaves darken more as the temperatures get cooler. They are less rigid in shape than the other cabbages and kales, making it easy to fill in the gaps between the other plants.

DSC_5408Not every fall arrangement needs to be standard issue orange and yellow.  There is an astonishing number of white and green pumpkins and gourds to be had.  Every grower has something a little different.  Every fall I see gourd shapes and color combinations I have not seen before.  An arrangement of pumpkins and gourds in a window box is as lovely a celebration of the fall as a boxful of foliage and flowers.

DSC_5364pots at the shop

JR fall 2014  5fall pots with dry hydrangeas

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White kale and dry banana stems

fall-container-arrangement.jpg

fall container with broom corn, plum eucalyptus, orange floral picks, red bor kale and red chidori kale.

JR fall 2014red cabbage, cirrus dusty miller, gray eucalyptus and white banana stems

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Red bor kale, pink cabbage and succulents

coleus-in-the-fall.jpgHow I am enjoying this beautiful moment.