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Weekly Gardening Tips for Your Area


Arrange Autumnal Container Gardens

Martha Stewart
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Window box of autumn grasses and flowers


The colors of fall vary across the country, but long, cool nights prompt glorious changes everywhere. In the West, the blazing gold of aspens contrasts with the sprawling blue sky. Lush green — accented by the candy hues of camellia flowers — returns to the South after a dry spell. And in the Midwest and Northeast, swaths of scarlet, orange, and yellow cut through the landscape. This year, let the brilliant backdrop in your backyard inspire container arrangements in shades that suit the season. For these collections, we relied on a traditional autumn palette, accented with pink and purple. But no matter where you live, you can put together lively container combinations by following a few guidelines.

1. First, think beyond familiar standbys, such as cushion mums, asters, and ornamental cabbage. Instead, consider other vibrant, cool-season annuals (pansies or violas) and unexpected vegetables (chard or kale).

2. Combine these with fall-blooming perennials — Tricyrtis, Ajania, Sedum — as well as those with showy foliage, such as Amsonia, which erupts in a shock of yellow leaves. Ornamental grasses, moss, and small trees and shrubs — look for red osier dogwoods or dwarf varieties of conifers or Japanese maples — contribute additional color and texture.

3. Caring for container plantings is a breeze. They don’t need as much water as summer blooms, and fertilizer is unnecessary. In places where frost is rare or not a concern, leave plants in pots and enjoy them through the winter. If you live in a colder area (generally Zones 2 to 4), move perennials — and trees and shrubs if you like — to the garden while the soil is still workable, watering thoroughly and adding a good layer of mulch. Next year, when the landscape is bathed in fall’s magnificent hues, the plants will again flaunt theirs, putting on a splendid display.


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