Tuesday, May 22, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio

Amy Stone

Enjoy some fall favorites in containers

Sitting on the sidelines is no fun for this gardener. After hip reconstruction in July, I've been stuck for weeks with a walker and wheelchair. I haven't been able to bend over and pull weeds, or even lug my favorite shovel around the yard.

Because I can't get into my garden, I had my garden brought to me. My family transplanted a few of my fall favorites into some containers.

To make your own container garden, start by cleaning some large containers and filling the bottom third with light packing peanuts. The containers should be at least 12 inches in diameter with drainage holes on the bottom. Fill another third with fresh potting soil mixed with wetting crystals and a handful of slow-release fertilizer.

Now for the plants. Look for some that will provide height for the center of the container. Grasses need to be divided often anyway, so we dug up some zebra grass and blue fescue. Mondo grass or fox red curly sedge also will stand out in a container.

We have a lot of maple, oak, and hickory saplings around our house, so we saved one oak and one hickory whip that were about four feet tall and have some leaves sprouting at the top.

For a splash of color, add some mums. Pick a color that goes with your house or combine a few. Or how about a plum-leaf weigela with a hot-pink flower? Thick clumps of dark purple ajuga would also do the trick. Three six-inch plants around the base of a variegated ornamental grass would make a rich combination. Finish the container with three small plugs of a lime-green trailing plant like goldilocks.

Blue fescue will look flashy with a bright bouquet of mums around the base. Push a few plugs of vinca vine or ivy in the open spots between mums.

Not all containers have to have one tall plant in the middle with shorter flowers circling it. You can plant an asymmetrical container. Tie three dried cornstalks together and shove them into a container. Be sure to remove the ears of corn from the stalks to avoid attracting mice, squirrels, and other unwanted visitors. Plant some ivy at the base of the cornstalks and lace the vines up and around the stalks. Plant a clump of coneflower or bright grouping of coleus in front of the ivy and finish it off with one more ivy vine dripping off the front of the container.

If you don't want to tangle with cornstalks, use some curly sticks. About six twigs that have been pruned from trees will make a great backdrop for flowers. Find sticks that are four or five inches long and paint them black for a Halloween container. Plant a huge bunch of orange mums at the base and finish it with a branch of cotoneaster with red berries and variegated ivy.

Some of the tricks you use for inside containers will work outside, too. Buy a dozen mini-pumpkins and gourds, attach them to a four to six-inch bamboo stick, and place the stick in the container for a fall accent.

Remember that plants in containers will freeze quicker than those in the ground, so dig a hole in the garden for the container before the soil gets too hard. Later, just plop the container with plants into the hole and cover it deeply with compost. It should easily make it through the winter. Maybe by November, I'll be able to kick a few bags of compost around the yard by myself.

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