Create a container that dazzles well beyond the Fourth of July.
By Nancy J. Ondra | Photographs by Rob Cardillo
Pots and planters filled with flowering annuals are invaluable for summer color, but they often fizzle out by the time cooler weather returns. You don’t have to settle for living with them until frost puts them out of their misery, or resort to pulling everything out and buying new plants for fresh fall color. It’s possible to compose a combination that keeps getting better as long as the growing season goes on.
Three features that make late-season containers unique include showy seedheads, intriguing fruits, and bright autumn foliage. To find plants with these special traits, look beyond the usual container favorites to consider hardy perennials, ornamental grasses, edibles, and even deciduous shrubs. Warm-season grasses, for instance, offer late-summer flowers that mature into eye-catching autumn seedheads. Some hardy perennials and many deciduous shrubs also supply dramatic leaf colors. Combine fall-feature plants with those that have colorful leaves all through the growing season, and those with long-blooming and late-blooming flowers as well, for the longest-possible display.
In a large container, each plant may play one part in creating a splendid autumn spectacle. Smaller pots and planters can generate just as much excitement if you choose plants that provide multiple seasonal highlights. ‘My Love’ Chinese plumbago, for example, contributes bright-yellow foliage from spring through fall plus a bonus show of vivid-blue flowers in autumn.
This container, along with more than 40 others, appears in Nancy J. Ondra’s book Container Theme Gardens (Storey Publishing, 2016).