Tag Archives: flowers and herbs in containers

Fall Container Planting…(There’s More Than Just Pansies Out There!)

Fall Planter With Chamaecyparis 'Crippsii'The temperatures are hopefully trending downward, and you’re thinking about redoing your summer plantings. There seem to be so many choices; it’s normal to feel overwhelmed at the garden shop, even though you probably thought you had it all figured out before you left home!

I’ve seen the slightly dazed look  on folks’ faces as they peruse the tables upon tables of pansies, violas, snapdragons, various herbs and ornamental greens. Invariably they turn to us with a bewildered look and say, “I have (insert number of pots here) and need to fill them. Can you help me?!”

Assuming you have at least a half days worth of sun for flowers, the usual pansies and violas will work just fine all on their own if you really don’t want to do a whole lot of thinking; but there’s so much more out there to play with! From the simplest addition of beautiful green curly parsley (It adds such great color and texture to a planting.) to a more complex mix of greens, grasses and herbs, there’s no limit to fun combinations.

Close up - fall planterThe large planter here is one of a pair, used at the top of stairs leading onto a wide open porch. I took my color cues from the red brick and cream color of the house in choosing my plants, using predominantly yellow with the evergreen Chamaecyparis ‘Crippsii’, yellow variegated  Acorus ‘Ogon’, golden creeping Jenny to trail, and Matrix ‘Lemon’ pansies. To this I added ornamental red mustard, and a chard with red stems called ‘Charlotte’. These will add big, bold leaves, beautiful foliage color, and added height.

Next, more flowers  with a trailing white pansy called Cool Wave White,  a few orange violas and a trailing rosemary  –  the brown grass trailing off to one side and tucked in the back as well is Carex ‘Toffee’. When the sun shines on this grass it glows!

Fall Planter - Cham 'Crippsii''These planters are quite large and can support this variety of plants. In smaller planters, a smaller shrub, some curly parsley, pansies and a trailing plant might be sufficient. Remember, more is always better in planters and windowboxes to give them a lush overflowing feel.These planters will make a definite statement as they grow out.

  • Tips For Maintaining Your Fall/Winter Planters:
  • – As always, keep faded blooms deadheaded.

– Don’t overwater.  As the weather cools in the fall and winter, it’s best to let planters go a bit drier.

– If plants like ornamental cabbage and parsley do get dry between watering, you’ll have some yellow leaves. Groom these and other plants regularly, removing any yellowing leaves that you see. Remember, they’re not going to turn green again!

– Watch the weather and be prepared to cover your planters if freezing temperatures are forecast. Prior to covering, water them thoroughly. Uncover them as soon as the temperatures are above freezing.

Some Interesting Choices To Use With Pansies And Violas In  Winter Planters:

  • Chamaecyparis obtusa – various selections;  they make excellent evergreen accents.
  • Cupressus ‘Carolina Sapphire’ – beautiful blue evergreen, good in the landscape also.
  • Rosemary – large evergreen herb, upright or trailing varieties.
  • Juniper – ‘Blue Point’
  • Thuja – ‘Golden Globe’ arborvitae, nice, rounded form.
  • Heuchera & Heucherella selections – evergreen perennials, interesting as a foliage element – airy blooms in spring.
  • Acorus – adds another texture to plantings; grasslike variegated leaves add color as well.
  • Ornamental Kale – ‘Redbor’ and ‘Winterbor’ are two very upright growing forms of kale,  but there are many others. ‘Red Russian’ and ‘Lacinato’ are also edible. In a normal to mild winter they’ll last til spring. As heat returns, they’ll “bolt”, or bloom, adding yellow flowers.
  • Ornamental Mustard – These add a bold leaf and a darker color to compositions.
  • Chard – another beautiful and edible addition to containers or garden beds.
  • Curly Parsley – Adds texture in winter plantings; also a beautiful shade of deep, clean green.
  • Golden Creeping Jenny – A useful trailing element, it may get knocked back in a freeze but adds color until then and will come back as temperatures moderate.
  • Muehlenbeckia, Angel Vine – tough as nails trailer. Will lose it’s leaves in a freeze but normally reappears in the spring. Protect it and it will be green through the winter in Birmingham.
  • Sweet Alyssum – not available for long in fall, but a nice addition to planters until it succumbs to freezing temperatures.
  • Poppies – available through the fall; worth trying if you haven’t. They hunker down through the winter but will fill out in the spring, adding their bright, papery blooms to liven any planting. Take care to not overwater under cool winter conditions.














Mix It Up – Potager Style Container Planting

Flowers, herbs, veggies…who says you can’t mix it up and make beautiful combinations with them?

winter mix...

winter mix…

Dyron’s Restaurant, next door in the old market space, opted to keep the three horse troughs in front…they added a couple of charming painted wooden benches in between two of them and asked if we would continue planting and maintaining them.

fall/winter planting - lettuce, kale, chard, herbs

fall/winter planting – lettuce, kale, chard, herbs







The planters are large and perfect for a good mix of herbs and flowers…and they get a lot of afternoon sun. This past winter the photos above show the planting included kale and chard with green and red lettuce, curly parsley, dill, variegated lemon thyme, silver thyme and trailing rosemary. Pansies and violas were added for even more color – and they’re edible too! During the holidays I added red twig dogwood branches in the center of each trough for additional interest.

for summer - lots of herbs and some flowers too...

for summer – lots of herbs and some flowers too…

This spring I gradually pulled out plants as they played out – the kale was the first to go after it went to flower. (They’re actually quite pretty when they bloom or bolt – with pretty yellow flowers on tall stalks.) Next the chard, curly parsley and violas were pulled out, fresh potting soil added, some of the remaining thyme and rosemary trimmed and they were ready to be planted for the summer…

Bright colors look good in front of the newly painted dark brown of the new porch space, so for the flowers I opted for yellow and white Profusion and narrow leaf zinnias and red Dragonwing begonias. A little Osmocote was added under the flowers to feed them through long the summer.

Horse troughs planted with a mix of herbs and flowers for Dyron's Restaurant next door
Horse troughs planted with a mix of herbs and flowers for Dyron’s Restaurant next door

Next, herbs…for the center trough I put in a lemon grass – this will get quite large and should provide the chef with plenty of goodness! Next, sweet and purple basil – hopefully they’ll be cutting plenty of basil for summer dishes – the variagated lemon thyme and trailing rosemary were left in place – they’re doing quite well and seem happy.

The sage you see is ‘Berggarten’, a beautiful large leaf sage, and it’s complimented by ‘Downy’ lavender, grown primarily for the blue flowers that continue through the summer if they’re kept deadheaded.

Maintenance on these planters will involve pinching the zinnias back, keeping the basil and other herbs clipped, and hoping the Dragonwing begonias don’t get too enormous – but, if they do, a little judicious clipping should keep them in check. The zinnias will add a lot of color and should fill in nicely…
Watering daily will be a necessity as the summer wears on.

We’ll keep you updated as these horse trough potager plantings fill in this season! If you’re interested in container gardening and want more tips, take a look also at this post from earlier this spring – it also shows some combinations with herbs and flowers…


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