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Diggin’ In: Garden in containers to get an easy, colorful, dressed-up look for fall

October 31, 2016

It’s fall and the feeling is fine — crisp cool days and warm stews.

It’s also the season to use container gardening to extend the beauty and good vibes of autumn into your yard.

"Fall containers are a great way to add a splash of color to a landscape that can be tired from the summer heat," says Grace Chapman Elton, director of horticulture at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden — www.lewisginter.org — in Richmond, Va.

"At Lewis Ginter, we like to mix evergreen shrubs such as holly, osmanthus and Indian hawthorn with cool weather annual plants such as English daisy, violas, or ornamental cabbages and kales. It is also fun to use deciduous shrubs such as red or yellow twig dogwood that have colorful bare branches, or winterberry holly that holds onto its bright berries after losing its leaves. Another approach is to add cut evergreen branches to annual containers. The cut branches will last a few weeks and when they start to dry out, just pull them out and replace them with fresh cuttings."

MORE IDEAS

For Lewis Ginter horticulturist Shannon Smith, fall containers are a transition that includes some plants that can stay summer through winter. "At the same time, I keep things fresh by including a mix of a few other plants that come out and are replaced once a season has finished," she says.

For others, it’s all about fall vegetables. "I always love mixing vegetables with fall blooming asters, nasturtiums and grasses," says Heather Veneziano, children’s garden horticulturist at Lewis Ginter.

"An easy and inexpensive way to add color and interest to fall containers is to include painted and yarn-wrapped sticks."

In southeastern Virginia, Marie Butler likes to layer bulbs with daffodil and crocus under violas or pansies with an evergreen and a series of seasonal decorations — a mum, Halloween skull, Thanksgiving pumpkin and Christmas snowman.

"Fall is a traditional time for us, so a container needs to evolve as the season progresses," says Butler, who recently retired as a horticulturist with the Virginia Zoo in Norfolk. "Best of all, the bulbs will transition into spring."

If hydrangeas are your passion, consider using stems of them in containers with gourds and pumpkins at the base. Proven Winners, a nationally sold brand of shrubs, perennials and annuals, suggests a "cheater" way to get a fall container: cut Limelight hydrangea stems when they are still fresh and colorful and stick them into any container that’s tired looking after summer’s heat.

CONTAINER PLANTS 101

If you use perennials or small shrubs in containers and want to over winter them for enjoyment next year, here’s how, according to www.ProvenWinners.com and other garden experts:

— Select a perennial or shrub that is two zones hardier than the cold hardy zone where you live.

— Perennials and shrubs outside your zone can be stored in an unheated garage or buried in the ground for the winter, or transplanted before mid-December.

— Plants in pots need water throughout winter but avoid keeping them wet, and provide good drainage holes.

— Fertilize potted plants in spring when active growth begins again.

NEW AZALEA

Autumn Fire, one of the newest reblooming Encore azaleas, is a compact shrub suitable for large pots.

The dwarf azalea, which blooms spring, summer and fall, features dark-green foliage that takes on purple tinges in winter, adding another season of eye-catching interest. Its flowers are vibrant red. The plant, which thrives in light shade to full sun (four to six hours of direct sun for best blooms), grows less than three feet tall and wide, so no pruning is needed.

Azaleas planted in containers need good potting soil and excellent drainage, just like all plants put in pots. If you tire of Autumn Fire in a container, just plant it in your garden and enjoy it for years to come.

Autumn Fire is one of 30 Encore azaleas available at garden centers nationwide; learn more about the colors and sizes at www.encoreazalea.com.

 

 


McClatchy-Tribune Information Services