Autumn Color with Annual Planters
Aster ‘Wood’s Purple’The first thing I think about is the plants. There may be some summer flowering annuals or perennials (I often use perennials in pots) that will still bloom or look good through autumn. Some examples that can be found in my pots are Gaura ‘Whirling Butterflies’, ornamental millet, hardy sedums, and grasses. I will pull the tender annuals and succulents out and replace them with ornamental kale and cabbage, sedges, pansies, mums, and asters. The plants that really steal the show are chrysanthemums, grasses, and ornamental cabbage/kale-with their many colors and textures, no autumn pots are complete without at least one.
The next aspect to add is fruit of the season. Pumpkins, gourds, berries, and seed pods all go into the mix. I like to use orange and blue pumpkins to attract attention fast. Any gourd will work but I lean to Turk’s Turban, crown of thorns, and mini pumpkins. For berries, there are many choices, but I enjoy using American bittersweet, dogwood, and coralberry. Seed pods and fruiting bodies of different plants add great interest and whimsy to pots. Osage orange fruit (often called hedge balls) bring bright green color; pods of milkweeds, lotus, and shooting star can add texture; dried seedheads of coneflower, zinnia, rattlesnake master, and hydrangea help brighten the pots. Another idea for using pumpkins is to make small holes into the sides of the pumpkin and insert stems of dried zinnia and mums. They can add instant interest to the pumpkins themselves.
Be sure to use mulch on your pots. I add mulch in the spring-usually cedar or pine needles to help retain moisture and slow weeds down. In autumn, I add pine needles or leaves to the pots to help with the colors of the season. A few pine cones or acorns also helps complete the masterpiece.
Lastly, water those pots if you just added new plants.
By Andrew Mitchell, Horticulturalist
Photos by Andrew Mitchell