Monday, November 14, 2011

containing winter

"Every season hath its pleasures;
Spring may boast her flowery prime,
Yet the vineyard's ruby treasures
Brighten Autumn's soberer time."
--Thomas Moore, Spring and Autumn

(bold mustard leaves make a statement in the above container planting;
with coral bells, pansies, fern, and acorus)

Just last week I picked the final green tomatoes and jalapenos from the garden, just before the first frost. Despite this later than usual frost, there are still petunias blooming with mums and pansies on the front porch. The parsley and cilantro are still growing strong, and the lettuce has re-seeded itself.

Most garden centers are now discounting winter annuals and bulbs and I recently picked up some orange violas and ‘Bright Lights’ Swiss Chard for my blue glazed planter. Accompanied by the changing yellow-orange leaves of the Spirea, it is a striking combination. I’ve also included spring-blooming Grape Hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum) bulbs in my containers this year.

The conventional “thriller, filler, spiller” ideal in container gardening for year-round enjoyment can be simple to achieve. I suggest the following fool-proof recipe as a perennial backbone to which annuals can be added:

  1. Thriller: Autumn Fern (Dryopteris erythrosora) and or Sweetflag (Acorus)
  2. Filler: Coral bells (Heuchera)
  3. Spiller: Sedum and/or Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia)

With appropriate moisture, this combination can work well in the shade, partial shade, and sun. This provides an evergreen and tardily deciduous framework to which you can add coleus, sweet potato vine, petunias, pansies, vincas, or violas depending on the season, size, and exposure. Best effect is achieved with 3-5 different plants. 

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