Planning for Fall, Winter and Holiday Cotainers

It’s’ August. The garden is weary and so are we. This summer’s record breaking heat and humidity wilted the garden and the gardener. So, why think about fall, winter and holiday containers now? Well, for one, it’s nice to think about the cool days ahead, but second, Brenna Henley, our container designer and installer, tells us that now is the time to start to planning even if it isn’t time to plant, just yet.

Don’t worry. You still have time to enjoy your summer pots. October is when the first killing frost shows up in Western North Carolina but if you wait until you’re pulling dead annuals out of your pots, then you’ve waited too long. Getting plants established with “feet” on them so they’ll survive the wind and cold of winter means planting in mid-September, which translates to planning your winter container garden now.

In this container, Morgan arborvitae is the thriller, Blue Rug juniper, and ‘Everillo’ carex are the spillers and million bells and heucheras are the fillers. All but the million bells will last through the winter. Design and picture by Brenna Henley.

In this container, Morgan arborvitae is the thriller, Blue Rug juniper, and ‘Everillo’ carex are the spillers and million bells and heucheras are the fillers. All but the million bells will last through the winter. Design and picture by Brenna Henley.

Fall Container Gardening Ideas (Tips from Brenna)

  • Do a last feeding of Miracle Grow Bloom Booster now for one more big flush of bloom.

  • As the days get shorter and nights start to cool, pull out the plants that are fading to keep the pots fresh.

  • Check your landscape. How many pots are planted now? What’s the best way to downsize from summer’s multitude of pots to a few pops of color in your landscape?

  • What’s going to take place of your color and curb appeal in winter? Consider moving containers to fill in dead spaces when the garden is dormant. Summer pots are ususally found by the door or on patios when the rest of the garden is going strong. In winter, when the garden is dormant, think about moving pots around. Create new spaces maximizing your containers. Suggestions are: The mailbox, a dead zone in the garden for curb appeal, outside of a favorite window, next to the bird feeder (fill up the bird feeder and water the pot in one trip). Look around your landscape and get creative.

  • There are perennials that stay strong through winter—grasses, heuchera, carex, hellebores, sedums. Also, note that shade perennials can take the full sun in winter giving you more options in placement of plants. Heuchera ‘Citronelle’ is a good example. This shade plant’s tender chartreuse leaves fry in full sun in summer, but in winter it thrives in full sun and makes a colorful addition to your pots.

  • Dwarf evergreens start coming into the store soon and these aren’t just for rock gardens. Consider adding them in threes to your winter containers, using the same design technique employed with annuals—thriller, filler and spiller. The evergreens can be added to your landscape when spring arrives, or extend their container garden use by separating them and adding them to summer flowering combinations.

  • Aim for mid-September to plant your fall containers. This allows time for plants to get good roots established and develop some growth. It may mean tossing out the still blooming summer annuals to make room for the new plantings. Remember, you’re downsizing. It’s a luxury most of us don’t want in winter, watering all twenty of our summer pots in the cold, so empty the four or five or one for planting, and leave the rest to finish out the summer.

  • Fall container gardens transition easily to winter and holiday pots. Add berries and sticks (white birch branches are beautiful) to your containers while keeping the color of the autumn containers. Holiday pots look better with color like the ‘Everillo’ carex and ‘Plum Pudding’ heucheras. In other words, don’t think that one pot works for fall and one pot works for Christmas and you’re constantly redoing containers which can get expensive quick. Plan to use the fall plantings as base color for the holiday pots.

  • The upside to winter gardening is that most things you put into a winter pot, easily transplant into the landscape or borders in the spring. If they don’t, treat them like annuals and don’t stress over it. Winter blues is a real thing. We all need color in the winter while waiting for spring. It may sound like justifying buying more plants, but let’s call it self-care, shall we?

Grasses, yucca, sedum, carex and heucheras will carry this pot through the winter. Adding berries and curly willow turns it into a beautiful holiday container. Design and picture by Brenna Henley.

Grasses, yucca, sedum, carex and heucheras will carry this pot through the winter. Adding berries and curly willow turns it into a beautiful holiday container. Design and picture by Brenna Henley.

If you’re interested in Brenna Henley’s services she is available for consultation and install for your container gardening. Call the store, 828-650-7300, press 1, and ask for Brenna.

Written by Cinthia Milner, garden coach and blog writer.

B.B.Barns Garden Center serves all of Western North Carolina, upstate South Carolina, and Tennessee.