I think my summer may be over. Though Buck and I are still cruising the garden every night, we have broken out the fleeces, and jackets. As loathe as I am to give up my summer, the fall season has its charms. I had best get ready to be charmed-the fall is here. I am so happy that my local nurseries have seen to supplying replacement plants for those tired spots in my containers. The petunias are fading fast, and the leaves of the coleus have thinned, and lost color. Luckily lots of plants are very tolerant of cold-and they are ready to step in wherever you have gaps.
My favorites are the ornamental kale and cabbages. Available in white, pink, or red, they do not begin to color up until the night temperatures drop. Cabbage have the big wavy leaves; kale leaves are frilly and lacy. Both do well and grow until there is a truly hard frost. An ornamental cabbage grown in a one gallon pot has a huge rosette of leaves, and a relatively small rootball.
Just a few of these plants go a very long way. I love how tolerant they are of a deep planting-I set them at whatever level I want in a container. I tip the faces forward, so I can see into those rosettes. They do not mind in the least the back side of their rootball set above grade. The color and texture is moody and jewel-like-perfect for fall. Their very thick leaves are very weather resistant -at least that is my theory.
Persian Queen geraniums that have been in containers over the summer will go on representing well into the fall. Given that their chartreuse leaves are their big attraction, fewer fall flowers matters not. Other summer container plants that do well through the fall-vinca maculatum is one of the best. These long trailing plants are not in the least bit fazed by cold. Nicotianas can revive and soldier on with the advent of cold weather. My nicotiana mutabilis is sending out new shoots, and growing like crazy right now.
If you need your container plantings to thrive on through the fall, choose carefully in the spring. Impatiens of any sort, and coleus will collapse into a heap of mush given a short string of cold nights. Tropical plants need to be brought in ahead of any really cold nights. Trailing verbena is amazingly cold tolerant, as are nasturtiums, dahlias, and ornamental grasses. But in the event that your containers are full of plants that have little love for cold, you still have choices. Pansies reappear in the fall-they really do thrive in cooler weather. The Clear Sky series is actually quite perennial. Plant them in early fall-they will reward you all fall, and on into the spring to come.Their cheery faces look great in fall containers-try a few.
For years I rolled my eyes whenever I saw a sign for fall mums. They have a form completely unlike garden chrysanthemums-they are trimmed to within an inch of their lives until it is time for them to set buds. Mum balls, I call them. Garden grown mums have a much more natural appearance. Why I ever had the need to make a comparison, I do not know. Mums grown for fall planting are just that-fall plants for containers. I love the giant balls that have been perfectly trimmed all summer. Thinking of planting on in a pot now? Pick a plant that is budded up-no flowers. Once those budded plants are in your containers, you have all fall to watch them develop, and bloom.
Gourds, pumpkins and the like-I am starting to see those shapes and colors at market. Fall colors are like no other. A pot full of gourds with sme left over creeping jenny from the summer is a good look. It will be late Novemeber before I start my winter plantings-that is two months from now. Too long to have nothing to look at near the front door.
Bare branches-I have no objection to them in fall pots. Every shrub and tree reveals a beautiful branch structure, once the leaves fall. The structure of a garden is never more clear. Subtract the flowers and the leaves-a gardener is faced with the bones. I design with the bones in mind. Bare bones-I like that look. There are enough cold tolerant plants, gourds, pumpkins and squash- and enough bones to make a festival of fall.