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Fabulous Fall Planters

As the roads empty of RVs, replaced by big orange busses filled with children I find myself turning away from the colours of summer.  The planters filled with bright annuals that need constant watering are no longer welcome on my patio.  Removing spent blooms to encourage more isn’t something I’m fastidious about this late in the season and my fertilizer bottles remain with lids tight in my shed.  It is time for fabulous fall planters.

Out with the old and in with the new, I say!  So this week I composted the osteospermum and bacopa, wrenched the root packed soil out of the containers and replaced it with fresh in anticipation of the transition into fall.

Typically, the norm for most is that after tossing the petunias the planters get packed off to the shed to overwinter empty and barren.  But why should they?  Why not enjoy the mild climate with have here and continue with colour?  There are so many things that thrive in the cooler temperatures that there is no reason for pots to stand empty and ugly through fall and into winter.

Autumn tends to bring out warm colours such as orange or deep burgundy chrysanthemums, bright yellow violas and pansies and rich purple heucheras.  After all the bright, in your face colours of bedding plants I’m ready for caramel and pumpkin spice with a hit of Granny Smith.

As with any container planting you need one ‘thriller’, a couple of ‘fillers’ and one to three ‘spillers’, all dependent on the size of your planter.  When you’re considering your ‘thriller’ think outside the box and go beyond the dracaena spike.  Ornamental grasses are lovely in fall containers and offer movement in the breeze.  How about a staked pyracantha with bright berries, a broadleaved evergreen such as Skimmia or a narrow conifer?  The newly introduced Pinus ‘Green Penguin’ is our answer to the Alberta Spruce that is susceptible to spider mite.   This little pine is short, plump and oh so cute and two are definitely making their way home to me.

Your ‘fillers’ could consist of perhaps a chrysanthemum with a heuchera in a complimentary colour.  Fall/winter blooming heathers make great fillers along with ferns (for shady spots), ornamental cabbage or dusty miller with the silvery gray foliage that makes other colours pop.

‘Spillers’ are the things that fall over the edge of the pot and provide a softening effect.  Japanese Forest Grass (my all-time favourite plant) can be a filler and a spiller along with a few of the other grasses such as the sedges (Carex) and Black Mondo Grass.  Trailing ivy, lemon thyme, pansies and some of the perennial groundcovers such as cotoneaster, wintergreen and kinnickinnic are great spillers.

The trick to gorgeous fall containers is to pack them tight.  Keep in mind that they’re not going to grow by leaps and bounds through the season like the summer annuals do so you want to pack as much as you can into the planter, leaving little visible soil surface if any.  Leave your pansies or violas until last as they’re small and can be tucked in where there are gaps.  Violas are my favourite for fall planters because they’ll bloom their little faces off.  Don’t forget to pop in a few spring flowering bulbs while you’re at it.  They’ll wait patiently under the soil, emerging in spring to remind you that summer is around the corner again.  Try some miniature daffodils, muscari or scilla.

If you’re still unsure how to go about getting the most out of your fall container then join us for one of our Fall Planter Workshops offered in September.  For more information visit the store or our website at , under ‘Events’.

A comment emailed to me from a customer who attended our last Fall Planter Workshop:  ” I thoroughly enjoyed the session today and am very pleased with my effort, thanks to Candice who is a super teacher.”


Shirley Eppler

September 2013