Written for monthly newspaper column Garden Life
Container garden refresh for the colder seasons
Relying heavily on colorful foliage, this lively container planted in fall continues looking rich in color into spring. The plant recipe: Heuchera “Fire Chief”, Heuchera “Lime Marmalade” and Leucothoe “Rainbow”, hellebore (Helleborus x ballardiae 'HGC Pink Frost'), spurge (Euphorbia purpurea), and edible redbor kale (Brassica oleracea “Redbor”).
This metal container originally meant for cut flower harvests, contains an evergreen fern (Dryopteris “Brilliance”), hellebore (Helleborus “COSEH 810”), and hardy cyclamen (Cyclamen coum). The cyclamen blooms from fall into winter and the hellebore flowers later in the season.
Often thought of as an indoor plant, paper whites (Narcissus) handle being outside in a semi protected spot such as a covered porch. The flowers greet you with fragrance and provide a long bloom time, and can fit easily into any Christmas décor. Buy bulbs for forcing in fall and plant immediately for Christmas and winter flowers.
by Debbie Teashon
Summer containers look tired this time of year. The good news is, now’s the time to refresh, refurbish, or tear them completely apart and start over for the autumn and winter seasons.
We don’t need to have a drab entryway of empty containers, when we can create bountiful ones that look great through the coldest months.
The most interesting containers are not static, plant once, and leave until spring. Planning ahead, and planting for quick changes, we can keep our pots looking as wonderful as they do during the summer season. Plan for your containers to host late summer to early fall blooming plants with Asters, tall sedums, tender Rudbeckias, and Chrysanthemums that add a distinct presence to the display. The flowers won’t last through the season, so consider them temporary.
Select budded flowers and plant them into the large container while still in their nursery pots. After their flowers fade, the spent plants are easily removed leaving a planting hole behind. After their brilliant performance, plant them out in the garden and tuck its replacement into the container.
Going into the colder months, the replacement plants need to have interesting or bright foliage, or flowers. Coral bells (Heucheras), rainbow drooping fetterbush (Leucothoe “Rainbow”), or glossy abelias (Abelia cultivars such as “Kaleidoscope”) brighten containers with their fanciful foliage. Hellebores add winter flowers – some of them also have interesting foliage. When the season nudges up close to the first frost date, you want plants that are able to stand up to winter weather and have interesting elements that look fantastic until early spring.
Consider planting late winter to early spring bulbs into the pot too. Flowering bulbs help renew the container with flowers in February to early March. Early narcissus, crocus, and Iris reticulatas add some welcome color to the planted pot. If you don’t get your bulbs in time for your fall container plantings, try this next tip. Plant your container, but keep a few of the late summer to early fall-blooming plants in their quart or one-gallon pots and plant them, pot and all, into the larger container. Plop in another interesting plant as a temporary placeholder as necessary.
Take another matching size nursery pot and pour in a few inches of soil into the bottom. Plant 4 or 5 early blooming daffodil bulbs, such as Narcissus “February Gold”, o more if there is room. Keep the bulbs just far enough apart, that they don’t touch. Fill the gallon pot up with soil and place it in a protected area outdoors.
When bulbs start to grow, put them in a place where they can get full light, so they won’t lean. When the flowering stalks start to show their buds, take the reserve plant out of the large container and replace with the pot of bulbs. The beauty of this method is when the bulb flowers fade you can either replace it with another pot of later blooming bulbs, or put in an early spring blooming plant — instantly renewing the container. It takes some planning to pull this off, but worth the extra effort to keep containers looking fresh.
Choose some fun smaller containers, and fill them with ferns, hellebores, and hardy winter-flowering cyclamen for color and texture.
Fall season is the time to plant paper whites (Narcissus “Ziva” and other cultivars) that dress up the front porch in flowers for December and beyond. Growing out in the cool, moist air the flowers will last an exceptionally long time.
A good selection of hardy plants can carry a container through a full year. There are so many choice evergreen grasses, ferns, shrubs, conifers, and perennials to add foliage with a variety of textures and color. Invest in some vintage containers, beautiful frost proof pottery, or whatever suits your fancy. Have fun with it, change it often, and see how enjoyable container gardening can be year round.
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