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Falling For Fall Flowers

Containers and the plants and flowers in them are the keys to keeping your garden beautiful for fall, according to The Early Show's resident gardener, Charlie Dimmock.

She offered viewers plenty of suggestions:

If you don't want to spend too much time putting together a container, you can buy one big plant with an unusual shape, such as a yucca. This is called an "architectural" plant and can provide a real "wow" factor when placed in the appropriate, modern-looking pot. Adding to the effect, you can top the pot with white marble chippings.

Another idea is to pack a container full of several of the same type of plant, such as winter pansies or violas. These are different than the summer versions, but they basically look the same, and if you buy them now, the garden center will only be selling the winter plants.

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A few pointers:

  • When planting in the spring or summer, leave space between the flowers so they can grow. When planting in the fall, your flowers really aren't going to grow much at all. Pack them in closely to make the arrangement look pretty and full.
  • Replace the soil in your container with fresh soil before planting. You can toss the dirt you had in your summer container in your flower beds, but your new fall plants will appreciate new soil.
  • Fall and winter tend to be fairly wet, and fall/winter flowers don't like all that moisture. So, you want to be sure your containers drain really well. Pots sitting on a porch or patio will not drain as completely as possible because the drainage holes are flat against the ground. You can buy small "feet" at the garden center to place under your pots; they raise the pots off the ground about an inch.

    Most gardeners know it's smart to put gravel or clay shards in the bottom of a pot to further facilitate drainage. Instead of these traditional materials, you could break up the containers you bought your fall plants in, and place the pieces in the bottom of your pots. This makes the pot much lighter and easier to move around.

    Believe it or not, the flowers in such containers will live through winter. They will droop when hit by frost, but the minute it warms up a few degrees, they will become perky again.

    Another possibility: a container filled with traditional fall flowers such as mums, kale and cabbage. Everyone seems to love mums, but beware: they're are not as hardy as you may think. It's best to place mums in a somewhat protected area such as a doorway or covered porch. As the different plants in this type of container begin to look tired, you can take them out and fill the hole with piles of small pumpkins and gourds.

    Finally, there are pots ideal for use as winter-to-spring containers. Although it appears that these pots are full of fall flowers, there are some surprises hiding underneath the soil.

    You could plant two layers of bulbs that will bloom in the spring. Why two layers? Because bulbs don't all bloom at the same time. Planting two layers lets your container to have cheerful new growth that much longer. You may notice your bulbs peeking through the soil over the next few weeks if autumn is mild. Don't worry about this, and don't feel like you need to do anything special to protect the greens. The plants will still grow and bloom in the spring.

    If you decide to just plant bulbs in a container, you may find that pesky squirrels like to dig them up and cart them off. You can place a piece of chickenwire toward the top of the pot and cover it with a layer of soil. The flowers will be able to make their way through the wire, but squirrels won't.

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