In early fall the garden centers have any number of colors.
If you have a pot of tired annuals that have been blooming all
summer for you, pull them up!!! I like to amend the top soil that may also
be tired. Many times your
potting soil has shrunk leaving inches at the top.
Fill this with compost and dig it in before you plant, then add a
weak fertilizer around your pansies. They should well during the first
part of the winter when you are out there to admire. Many times if mulched
and kept damp (not wet) when spring arrives you will have some early
blooms. As it heats up I pull
them and add new annual plants that don’t do well until the soil is
For a huge
single centerpiece on the Thanksgiving table there is ornamental Cabbage
They come as a large “rose” about 12 to 18 inches wide and
tall. Seed is easy to find and
start with colors of the central leaves in white, pink, cream, or red.
Since rabbits will eat them completely they are not easy to protect
until they are tough enough to repel their eaters. So if I start the
seeds, I will do so in pots on a bench or table.
One can wait until everything is planted and growing as they do not
like hot weather. Garden Centers generally have them as large (pricey)
plants or as tiny plants in early fall. So if you can find the colors you
want, it is easier to buy them.
They will seem too small to become those large ones but I
pull the tired annuals out of my large pots, rejuvenate the soil and plant
them down several inches. This saves them from the rabbits.
They tend to lose some of the lower leaves so as they do I fill the
pot with soil. They grow very
fast in a cool fall. Four plants will fill a 20 inch pot in just a few
weeks, but there is another enemy waiting-cabbage worms produced by those
dainty white butterflies. Just
ask your garden center for Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) and keep them
dusted until it gets too cool for the green caterpillars.
My favorite pots are bright blue and I have had those big roses
still carrying on until Christmas time if it doesn’t go below zero.
I worry about the pots freezing before I do the Kale.
Not quite as
sturdy are the snapdragons! But as I
write the last of October there is a group of dwarf, bright yellow ones
blooming their hearts out. They have had blooms all summer off and on but
during the cool time now they are showing off. Some of them are regular
snapdragons but some have their lower “jaw” open instead of closed,
making them a wider flower. Books tell me the jaw that drops down to let a
bee enter the center matches the weight of a bee. After the first flush of
bloom in early summer, cut them back to prepare for the fall show.
Hair Grass is about 18 inches tall and waves in the wind like a
head of blond hair. It looks
good in a drier area as well as in pots.
Several years ago I bought a few plants (listed zone 6) so I
didn’t expect to see them again but they stood pretty tall all winter in
bright brown as they threw their seeds around.
Each spring now I cut them off about an inch from the soil and the
plant comes up through the dead stems.
By fall they are 18 inches by 18 inches of soft stems waving
around. In addition there are
two patches, getting larger every year poking through the snow and waving
are actually quite frost resistant and will be blooming when
other plants have collapsed. So
I leave my roses to last and then trim off any branches that might whip
around in winter and clean up fallen leaves.
If you have had black spot, don’t put them in the compost pile as
it might not get hot enough before you use it again.
Any diseased plants need to be treated as contaminated unless you
know the compost gets hot enough (140 degrees F. minimum). Otherwise you
are spreading fungous and bacteria around your yard.
(Christmas or Lenten Rose) stays green all winter if they are lightly
shaded, and protected from winter wind spots. The leaves are leathery and
a little rough with the sap causing a rash in some people.
The plants are poisonous if eaten.
I like to put some fallen branches in the clump to keep leaves from
getting packed too tight. Pick
a good place when you plant them as they resent being moved.
The leaves of both Christmas and Lenten
rose do not come off a stem but directly out of the ground.
Flowers bloom very, very early and stay on for a number of weeks.
By this time the new leaves are replacing the ones that stood all
winter. These can be pulled off to make room for the new. If you are
careful you can find new little seedlings to increase your patch or start
a new one. In a mild winter I
have seen at least one flower as early as February.
Much work is being done lately by hybridizers to increase the
number of colors.
containers will not break as easily but they can peel.
After the first frost I like to pull the plants out and either
empty the pots or turn on them their side. Last year I did some of both
and everybody survived. Emptying
does leave piles of potting soil around.
I try to use it again mixed with a good amount of compost.
There are other
large pots of various materials that can stand freezing.
I like to have an extra of the same size, place it close to the
original and move the soil which is now going in upside down with compost
and move the spare into the space. This
gives the soil the winter to settle and be ready for planting next spring.
Potting soils contain a great deal of composted material with little
actual soil. Nurseries have
bags of composted materials to “revive” your soil if you don’t have
your own compost pile.