A fter a hot, dry summer and a very wet September, our containers have paid the price.
Tired, stressed plants are showing up everywhere, and now it's time for a change.
As summer gives way to fall, it's an opportunity to add a fresh autumn look around our homes to lift our spirits just like the refreshing fall breezes. We have never had a better selection of plants to create an exciting new look in our fall containers.
Through innovation, our industry has done an amazing job of putting together a grouping of new and old plants that thrive in fall and Winter conditions. From bergenias and new `hot' foliage heucheras to evergreen sages, lysimachias, vincas, sedums, tiarellias, ajugas, euphorbias and colourful ivies, there is an amazing showcase of container plants to blend beautifully with Winter pansies and violas.
Evergreen ornamental grasses have never been as front and center as they are today, and their soft flowing look provides the charm we have been missing in our container displays.
From the new varieties of carex, like `Everest' and `Strike It Rich', to the bronze stems of Carex testacae (Zone 6) and the new fescues, like `Golden Toupe', there is a wealth of colour and textures available today like never before.
Even the pure black Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon `Nigrescens' (Zone 6), surrounded with the silver foliage of Dusty Miller `Cirrus' or pure white violas, offers an opportunity to create a new and stunning look in fall containers.
Funky trees and shrubs can be real eyecatchers in containers as well. Anything with an unusual form or shape gets my vote.
The amazing Cotoneaster corokia (Zone 7) looks like sagebrush gone wild. 'fall, thin Cedrus atlantica (Zone 5) and C.a. `Glauca Pendula' add a blue, tall, slender look to add that all important vertical element.
Weeping beech, both the green Fagus sylvatica `Pendula' (Zone 5) and the Fagus sylvatica `Purpurea Pendula' (Zone 5), provide great form and balance to any planter. For a tall, thin look, try the golden and green Irish yew, Taxus baccata fastigiata (Zone 5). All of these trees not only add form to your containers, but they also combine so well with all other plants. Broadleafed plants add the fulliness and colourful fill often missing in fall containers.
My all time favourite is `Heavenly Bamboo', Nandina domestica, especially with so many new forms available today.
The deep rich red of `Summer Sunrise' (Zone 6) provides a colour `wow' for anything pink, gold or silver.'
The compact forms, N.d. `Gulf Stream', `Harbour Dwarf and `Moon Bay' (Zone 6) are nice to blend with ornamental grasses and evergreen perennial foliage plants like heucheras.
Leucothoe has for too long been underutilized in container work.
The compact Leucothoc Scarletta (Zone 6), with its bronze new growth that. turns brilliant scarlet in late fall, is one of those `wow' plants.
Callunas and ericas, especially the ones with colourful foliage like Erica `Mary Helen' and `Golden Starlet`, add both flower and foliage, and the ericas will hold those flowers through Winter.
The new long blooming `Bud Bloomers' are also a welcome addition.
The containers themselves are where we all need to kick it up a notch. If the container doesn't say `wow', why are you using it? Tall and thin or low and round are the most pleasing forms. Everything in the middle is just `the same old'.
Low containers look great, on pedestals too.
If you can find antiques that fit the style of your patio, so much the better.
Remember, as Winter approaches, that frost: can split, clay and poorly fired ceramics.
Also make sure to use very well drained soils by adding 1/3 fine bank mulch.
Most of all have fun. Reach out a little with your fall look and create the `wow' look you'll be sure to appreciate and enjoy all fall and Winter.
Remember too, that as any plant passes its prime, quickly replace it with another.
As most of these plants are perennials, they will easily find a home in your garden.