Turn your outdoor containers into beautiful, fall creations.
As the blazing summer rolls into September, it’s time to ditch or freshen up those heat-ravaged containers. With the unflagging hope of a gardener, autumn always refreshes our creative spirits. It’s time to plant those high-impact plants that are happy in cooler weather, such as ornamental kale, blue asters, pansies and jewel-toned mums. Once again, our outdoor containers replicate the harvest landscape on a smaller scale.
ANNUALS: Summer turns into fall with a full palette of cool season annuals.
Ornamental or flowering cabbages: Valued for their green, blue, white or deep purple, textual leaves, not flowers. Ornamental cabbage and kale look like their close relatives of edible cabbages and kale and are the same species, Brassica oleracea. Although they are still edible, they aren't as tasty as their cousins because they have been bred for their looks, not flavor.
-Ornamental or Flowering cabbage: Plants with a smooth leaf such as 'Osaka Pink, White or Red.'
-Flowering kale: Plants with serrated or fringed leaf margins are considered flowering kale. However, flowering cabbage and flowering kale are often used interchangeably.
Tall, ornamental kale: Add height to containers with lacy, deeply cut, white or green leaved kale or 'Red Bor' is a tall variety with deep purple, ruffled leaves.
Asters: Asters are the superstars of the autumn garden. The star-shaped flowers are daisy-like and grow in light blue, lavender, burgundy, pink, white and deep purple. Asters are perennials in our gardens but also can be used as floriferous annuals in fall containers.
Gloriosa Daisies or Rudbeckia hirta: Treated as annuals in our zone, annual Rudbeckia are cheerful plants with sunny yellow-, golden orange- or wine-colored, daisy-like flowers. The blooms are larger than the perennial black-eyed Susan and have single and semi-double blossoms. Look for yellow gold 'Indian Summer'; 'Autumn Colors' (a mix of yellow, orange and burgundy petals); 'Prairie Sun' (yellow with gold halo flowers and green centers) and 'Cherry Brandy' (burgundy with semi-double petals).
Mums: Classic autumn-flowering plants are available in almost every color and size. These budded pincushions are a tidy and easy replacement for overgrown, summer containers in all sizes and shapes.
Ornamental Peppers: bring lots of color and fun to fall containers. The 'Black Pearl' Pepper plant features round, purple-black fruits with interesting purple and white, variegated foliage. Or, add spice to fall containers with fiery red, orange, yellow or purple mini peppers. It's safe to eat ornamental peppers, but they have been bred for their cool colors and not their taste.
PERENNIALS: Use perennials in fall containers now but plant them in the garden before the ground freezes.
Japanese Anemone: Fall-blooming perennials that blooms from late summer to early fall with delicate white or pink flowers that float above lobed, green foliage.
Sedum: Include hardy 'Autumn Joy' with rosy-red flowers, 'Autumn Charm' with pink flowers or 'Matrona' with pale pink flowers, purple stems and attractive blue-gray leaves.
Eupatorium rugosa 'Chocolate' (Boneset): This unique, dark-leaved perennial blooms with sprays of white flowers in fall. It is native to Eastern North American and is deer-resistant.
Pansies (Viola x wittrockiana and Johnny-Jump-Ups/Violas (Viola tricolor): The classic, cool weather flowering plants are loved by everyone. The sweet faces are available in spring or fall in solid or bi-colored tones of deep-purple, bu7e, yellow, orange, wine, lavender and white. Also, look for pansies that are winter hardy in our zone and will pop up again in spring.
Pumpkins and Gourds: What says 'fall' better than pumpkins and gourds? Although a pumpkin is technically a gourd, we use them both interchangeably in decorating for autumn, Pumpkins/gourds are available in so many different shapes and colors that it is often difficult to choose. Gray-blue, blue-green, red, mutant green and orange, ghostly white and, of course, the classic orange pumpkin. Or, check out the different textures from smooth skin to varying degrees of warty-ness. A wide assortment of smaller gourds can be tucked into outdoor containers or grouped for display indoors or outdoors.
Bittersweet Vines: This fall stunner adds a light and airy touch with orange berries that crack open when ripe to expose bright, orange berries. Dried bittersweet vines are also beautiful when used as an accent wrapped around tuteurs in autumn containers.
Dried Cornstalks: Tan, dried cornstalks add height and crackle at entryways or in containers. They are available with ears of corn intact or without...just remember that corn is an invitation to hungry squirrels.
Pumpkin Topiary: Stack three pumpkins on top of each other... stack from large to small on top of containers.* Choose contrasting colors of orange, bleu-green and white. The ghostly white pumpkin always is a stand out in those dusky, autumn evenings. If you don't carve your pumpkins, they will usually last until you're ready to change your containers for the winter holidays.
*TIP: For more stable stacking, choose pumpkins that have a naturally level bottom and a flatter top. For the bottom two pumpkins, find ones without a stem. If all else fails, use a little silicone caulk and glue them to each other so the pumpkins remain straight, tall and secure.