Give your containers a fresh face with these expert ideas.
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Rejuvenate Your Containers
Change is in the air. With summer winding down, step back outside and appreciate the differences; cool evenings and a less intense sun elicit a sigh of relief from the garden. “This is a great time to rejuvenate your containers,” says John Cox, owner of John’s Garden Company in Charleston, South Carolina. “Besides the fact that summer annuals are exhausted, adding plants in the fall color palette is a super way to refresh your outdoor living spaces.”
Planting now fills the gap between tired summer blooms and cool-weather annuals such as pansies and violas. Besides enjoying a host of flowers and foliage that celebrate autumn, you’re also allowing the soil to cool sufficiently for your winter garden to flourish. Expect your containers to last until frost.
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Don't be lured into getting one of everything. Remember these tips.
Look for late-blooming perennials. “Plants such as Mexican bush sage are at their peaks and are often on sale,” John says. Combine them with other seasonal flowers in containers now, and then transfer them into the garden for years of enjoyment.
Buy big. Begin with mature plants. If they’re flowering, look for ones loaded with buds. “There is no extra time for growing,” John advises. “Go for the gusto--plant it to look good right now.
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Here are some more considerations when combining plants.
“Let the container’s size dictate the scale of the plants you choose,” John says. A pot needs plants of equal stature to look appropriate. In a very large planter, consider a small tree or shrub to provide enough heft.
Add a small shrub for texture and color. To get double miles from a plant, use it in the container now, and anticipate a use for it in the landscape later.
Combine bold and fine textures such as croton and asparagus fern.
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The Art of Grouping
Cluster containers in a large space for high impact. John’s tips make it easy.
“Look at the group as a whole, and plant it as a cohesive unit,” he says. Keep the container type constant, such as terra-cotta, and use pots of different sizes and shapes.
“Choose one container as the focal point, with a collection of plants,” John suggests. Fill the others with a simpler arrangement or just one plant selection to give the grouping balance. “If you have too much color or texture in every pot, you don’t enjoy anything because of everything,” he says.
“Use the largest pot for the plant with the boldest texture,” John recommends. Then add a smaller or similar one in an additional pot for continuity.
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Put It Together
Regardless of your container’s size, the principles of plant arrangement remain the same.
Center the tallest plant (here a Mexican bush sage), or push it to the back edge if the container is to be viewed from only one side.
Surround the tall selection with mid-range plants, such as ornamental peppers, mums, and lamb’s ears.
Complete the arrangement with a trailing plant. A creeping fig meanders over the edge for an elegant finish.