The transition from the exuberance of summer, when my containers are looking their fullest and most luxuriant, to the first frost, when the more tender plants collapse, used to be an upsetting time for me. But over the last few years, I’ve learned that the onset of autumn doesn’t have to mean the end of the container gardening season.
A trip to the garden center in September or October seems, at first glance, to yield the same old choices of mums and pansies. Although I still rely on pansies, grasses, kale, and garden mums to dress up my containers, I also use many other plants that look good into fall.
Another less expensive and more readily available source for plant material is my own garden. Taking a division from a clump of coral bells (Heuchera spp. and cvs.), a sedge (Carex spp. and cvs.), an ornamental grass, or a sedum (Sedum spp. and cvs.) and potting it up in summer for use in my fall containers saves quite a bit of money. Occasionally, I’ll even use a plant that was part of a summer container that can withstand a frost or two, like English ivy (Hedera helix cvs.) or golden creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’). Other decorative materials, like cornstalks, branches, and even gourds or pumpkins can be used to round out the picture.