By Marty Ross
On a bright fall day, before I find it necessary to root around in my closet for a wool sweater, I like to change my flowerpots’ wardrobe. Fall flowerpots are easy to pull off: A few hardworking plants make the season even brighter.
Chrysanthemums, asters, pansies, and violas number among my favorite flowers for fall pots. I also love the look of ruffled ornamental kale in pots, and I plant edible fall greens—Swiss chard, ‘Red Bor’ kale, mustard greens, and even leafy cabbages—alongside the ornamental plants.
There’s almost no end to the color palette of chrysanthemums: fiery orange, red, and burgundy blossoms rival the maples in my neighborhood; bright-yellow mums sparkle like sunshine. Every year I change my color scheme. Sometimes I like the elegance of white mums, or pretty, playful pinks. They all seem to go together too.
Big plants fill a pot all by themselves, but I like small and medium-size pots of mums, to allow for more than one color or for a contrasting ornamental kale or two. Pie pumpkins nestle nicely among the plants, adding a pop of orange. Last year one of my neighbors placed a ring of tiny pumpkins around the edge of a potful of mums, like a necklace of bright-orange beads.
Big-city gardeners in Chicago taught me to look for different kinds of kale and plant them very close together for strong visual impact. Large gray pots I saw last year outside a bank downtown, stuffed with two kinds of ornamental kale and a purple cabbage, simply bristled with texture. Those plants need little attention, and they look spectacular until the temperatures drop into the teens.
Pansies and violas are pretty in pots too, where you can appreciate their cheerful flowers up close. Compared with the uniform, rounded habits of mums and ornamental kale, pansies and violas are very animated and lively. Their colors complement the intense hues of mums, and they look great with asters, and with edible greens. I’m particularly partial to violas and to the small flowers of Cool Wave pansies, which I plant by the dozens. I pinch off the flowers as they fade, and they reward me by blooming for months, even as the nights turn frosty. By which time I definitely need a sweater when I’m out enjoying their pretty flowers: They are much hardier than I.
What do you plant in your fall flowerpots?
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