Fall Container Update on a Budget

How to give summer container plantings a budget update for fall.
Most of my container plantings have gone the distance and are still looking good as we head into fall, but the concrete urn at the entrance to the back garden is in desperate need of an update. Back in June, the urn looked rather pretty.
Filled with sweet potato vine, pansies and sky-blue lobelia it continued to look good well into July. Then the scorching heat and dry conditions began to take its toll. The pansies got leggy and thin despite regular deadheading and watering.
The lobelia however, managed to tough it out, and the sweet potato vine began to spill nicely over the edge of the urn. So here we are at the end of August: the front of the container still looks good, but the pansies definitely need to be replaced.
Though this part of southern Ontario has felt downright tropical this summer, the fact that this is Canada is foremost among my considerations. There are maybe four or six weeks before we get the first fall frost. Any annuals I may plant are bound to parish in the first real cold snap sometime in October. I refuse to spend a fortune to see me through a matter of a few weeks. A short season determines that this is going to be an container update on a limited budget!
Adding to this makeover challenge is the fact that the plants in the urn that survived are sky blue and lime green. Hardly the beginnings of a traditional fall color scheme!
So I went looking for a little inspiration at a local nursery.
Who says a fall color scheme has to be orange, red and yellow anyway? This mauve and purple color scheme is really rather nice.
The mums are familiar plant choice, but the ornamental peppers and the Celosia are a bit more novel. Celosia is a fairly versatile choice as it comes in a variety of red shades- everything from hot pink to lipstick red.
Celosia 'Dark Purple'
Sedum 'Neon'
Investing Longterm:
If you are tired of using Mums to make up your fall container plantings, Sedum might be a nice alternative. It is a bigger investment in the short term, but you can always lift the sedum from the container after the first frost, and plant it out in the garden, making it a good longterm investment.
As well as Sedum, there are a few other types of perennials that you can plant out in the garden once your fall container has done its job. For instance, Heuchera offers a wide selection cultivars that come in terrific fall colors.
Heuchera 'Marmalade' on the left and Heuchera 'Crimson Curls' on the right
Bring the Indoors Out:
You can use houseplants outdoors to great effect in a fall scheme. This Croton (seen above) looks great paired with mums, tangerine coloured pansies and a tall Cordyline (see below).
All this inspiration was great but, I really wanted to come up with a last minute budget option that anyone could use to makeover a summer container.
So I bought 4 plants.
I also splurged on a Red Fountain Grass (annual here) that was $6.99. Here is how they all fit in to my urn:
Once I had my placement done, I removed everything from its pot and planted them into the urn.
I placed the fountain grass just slightly off-centre. I squeezed one of the cabbages down into the front and fit the other into a gap toward the back. The Celosia fit nicely in between the two cabbages.
Even my rusty robin looks great with the soft Fountain Grass. For even more ideas, please see my blog post.

Three Dogs in a Garden
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
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  2 questions
  • Linda Clemmer Linda Clemmer on Oct 02, 2016
    Did you make the rusty robin and if so what material did you use for it?

  • Margherita McCallum Margherita McCallum on Jun 01, 2019

    Do you have a diagram of what plants can be potted together? I'm new at this and i wanted to make a type of rock garden with planters only because we're not allowed to dig & plant into the soil. So my landlord said i can lay down that black material and pour river rock or other type of rock and use planters. So i want to make like a 12 x 12 area of just potted plants and maybe put a bench in there... etc. But i'm not sure what will grow together. I'm in northwestern ontario, i have cats, and lots of deer that comes around, so i don't want to use plants that are harmful to pets and wildlife. Any ideas?

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