Forget yellow mums and orange marigolds. Add a touch of fall with container gardens full of fresh color combinations and plants that welcome the cooler air as much as we do.
"You want your container to last a full season, and in Florida, that's about five months," says Pamela Crawford, whose plant trials have resulted in four popular Florida gardening books and three on container gardens. "I planted mums last year, and they didn't last three weeks."
Ornamental kale and cabbages color up beautifully as temperatures cool. "They're hot plants in Florida right now," she says.
And she likes pansies and violas, both for their color and winter durability.
Try silvery dusty miller paired with dark purple viola.
"I saw that at Busch Gardens, and it blew me away."
Dusty miller and snapdragons, variegated ivy and coral bells are other good considerations.
Add a slow-release, nine-month fertilizer when you plant, and it should last the life of the container. Crawford's hands-down favorite for the job is Dynamite for flowers and vegetables.
Find her books at Barnes & Noble bookstores and amazon.com.
'Dynasty Red' and 'Dynasty White' flowering cabbages
Ornamental cabbages were outstanding performers in Crawford's container-plant trials. They take cold down to the low 20s and like light shade to full sun. Different types average 12 to 18 inches tall and 6 to 12 inches wide. They'll last about six months.
These pansies take their name from their much smaller cousins, violas, because they have the same pretty face. Pansies prefer temperatures from 20 degrees to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. While they may start looking scraggly at lower temperatures, they quickly recover as the weather warms a bit. Water less in cooler weather, but don't allow the container to dry out. They'll last four to six months
This is a great centerpiece because of its stature and minimal care needs. Plus, it adapts to the water needs of whatever's planted around it, and it can take the cold down to about 25 degrees. It's a perennial that likes light shade to full sun.
Fall Cabbage Basket
For the basket pictured, Crawford used a side planting technique she developed to create lush containers in an instant. Find baskets and liners for side planting, along with an online instructional video, at www.kinsmangarden.com. To re-create this container, you'll need the 20-inch double basic basket and one 1-gallon Juncus, 10 Dynasty Reds and 11 Dynasty Whites in 4.5-inch pots, and 14 viola pansies in 4.5-inch pots.
For a traditional container, plant the grass in the center. The number of cabbages will depend on the size of the container. Plant the cabbages along the perimeter, allowing room for growth, and fill in with pansies.