Looking out my window at my patio containers recently I was struck by how incongruous some of the more summery flower colors looked in the autumn light. Many of my summer flowers, such as Petunias and Million Bells, had also started to get leggy and tired looking. It’s time to transition my patio planters over to a fall theme!
Part of the beauty of container gardening, in addition to having complete control over the growing conditions, is the ease with which you can change the composition of your designs.
In early spring when most gardeners do their shopping for annuals they are – for obvious reasons – attracted to the plants that are blooming most heavily and looking beautiful & showy. In some cases these are what are known as cool-season-annuals, meaning that they perform best when the temperatures are cool and tend to slow down or stop blooming altogether in the intense heat of summer. Examples of cool-season-annuals include Pansies, Lobelia, Osteospermum, Diascia, and Nemesia. These all make spectacular additions to spring & fall plant combinations but are not the most reliable in mid-summer. Think of your container planting as dynamic rather than static and plan on switching things out to keep them looking their best from season to season. Those cool-season-annuals can either be removed or trimmed back & concealed by heat-loving annuals in mid-summer.
Once the temperatures begin to cool in the autumn many of the plants that were at their best in mid-summer begin to look a bit bedraggled. Often gardeners also feel that they want to transition over to more seasonal colors, such as gold, burgundy, red and deep purple. It is very satisfying to transform a tired-looking summer container combination into an attractive, fresh autumn combo. Achieve this by gently removing the elements you want to replace, creating planting space in the container soil with a hand trowel, and planting your fall additions.
The first hard freeze will take down your more frost-sensitive fall elements. At that time, you can again selectively remove the damaged plants and replace them with elements such as cut greens, decorative twigs, and seasonal berries as you begin to transition your containers over to their winter palette.