Thursday, October 10, 2013

Fall Containers for Your Garden

Michele K. Koskinen
Ornamental Cabbage and cold hardy pansies

Fall is here and most of the summer plants will not survive the cool nights and moderately warm days. Many gardeners don’t renew their containers for a variety of reasons. Changing from the summer to fall winter plant selections is often perplexing because we don’t see many of our favorites. They are unsure of how long the containers will survive and plants other than the quintessential MUM are often difficult to find. So let’s reboot that thinking.

Selection of plants for this time of year uses the same rubric as the summer months. The place and how the container will be viewed, planting zone, type of light ( full sun to full shade), the design basics of thriller, fillers and spillers and the container you use.

To save time and money you can also use the same container and plants to make a summer container and then reuse it with a fill in fall plant. 
Summer Container:     Japanese blood grass,
Geranium, Alyssium, and Eurphobia

Fall Container:    Japanese blood grass,
garden mum, and Euphorbia going to seed

Every container needs three types of plants: thrillers, fillers and spillers.
1. A thriller is a taller plant that steals the spotlight,towering above other plants in the container. In general, the height of a thriller plant shouldn’t exceed more than 1 1/2 times the pot height.
2. A filler plant clusters around the thriller, filling in the space between its stems and soil.
3. Spillers cascade over pot edges in a waterfall of flowers or foliage. In autumn containers, low growing ornamental cabbages frequently fill the role of spillers, despite their lack of trailing growth.
Spillers typically belong near pot edges, thrillers fill the center, and fillers land between the two. If your container will be viewed from one side only, place the thriller toward the back of the pot.

For zone 6/7 the following are suggestions for your containers. There are many other plants you could use that will be in your nursery. Pick you favorite and add a new inspiration.

Aster (Aster spp.) – Daisy-like blooms in shades of pink, white or purple. USDA zones 4-9. 1 1/2-5 feet tall x 6-24 inches wide. Sun to part shade.
Garden mum (Chrysanthemum) – Cheerful flowers in various forms and hues, including orange, red, purple, yellow and white. USDA zones 5-9. 12-26 inches tall and wide. Sun.

Pansy (Viola x wittrockiana) – Colorful flowers open in many hues, including purple, yellow, burgundy, white and almost-black. USDA zones 7-10. 6-9 inches tall and wide. Sun to part shade.

Coral bells (Heuchera hybrids) – Leaves unfurl in shades of mahogany, orange, purple, silver, chartreuse and various combinations of these – and other – hues. USDA zones 3-9. 6-10 inches tall and wide. Sun to part shade.

Elijah Blue fescue (Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’) – Blue leaves form grassy tufts. USDA zones 4-10. 6-18 inches tall x 6-9 inches wide. Sun to part shade.
Image from an article in Fine Gardening

Ornamental cabbage (Brassica oleracea) – Colorful cabbage-style leaves with centers of pink, white or lavender, as well as variegated blends. Annual. 10-12 inches tall and wide. Sun to part shade.

Pink muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris ‘Regal Mist’) – Green grassy leaves topped with pink-mauve feathery seedheads in fall. USDA zones 5-10. 36-48 inches tall x 24-36 inches wide. Sun to part shade.

Sedum sieboldii – Blue-green succulent leaves on trailing stems. USDA zones 2-10. 6-12 inches tall and wide. Sun.

Mexican feather grass (Nassella tenuissima) – Silky seedheads glow in autumn light. USDA zones 5-10; 18 inches tall x 12 inches wide. Sun.

Variegated Japanese sedge (Carex oshimensis ‘Evergold’) – Creamy yellow leaves edged in green. USDA zones 5-9. 8-10 inches tall x 18 inches wide. Sun to part shade.

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