Story: Stephanie Maxwell | Photography: Rett Peek |
Jennifer Gibson at The Good Earth Garden Center provides all you need to know about planting mixed containers meant for Arkansas autumns
For transitional seasons with hard-to-predict weather patterns, container planting offers the appeal of low-maintenance landscaping. “I think people tend to be a little intimidated by doing containers, but it’s a matter of simple balance and contrast,” Jennifer Gibson of Little Rock’s The Good Earth Garden Center says. “The key is to bring contrasting foliage colors and textures together to maximize visual interest.”
For Warm-Toned Fall Hues
In the planter above: ‘Emerald Green’ arborvitae, Croton ‘Petra’, neon Algerian Ivy, ‘Goldilocks’ Creeping Jenny, and ‘Caramel’ coral bells
Plant highlight: The Croton ‘Petra’ provides a gorgeous pop of fall color with oranges, reds, and yellows that will tie in nicely with surrounding foliage as the leaves change. In addition, new leaves in the ‘Caramel’ coral bells are bright gold and turn to a peachy orange as they mature, making it a “perfect plant for fall containers and landscaping plantings,” Gibson says.
Keep it cozy: The thin walls of metal planters like the one pictured don’t have much insulation, which is necessary to protect your plants from extreme temperatures. Easy fix: Gibson says lining the inside with bubble wrap or foam board cut to fit will do the trick.
Future flora: After a couple of seasons in a planter, plan to transfer the arborvitae to belowground landscape. In the spring, move the coral bells and the ivy to a shadier spot.
To Love Now and Later
In the planter above: ‘Taylor’s Perfection’ camellia, Variegated Liriope. ‘Georgia Peach’ coral bells, and autumn fern
Plant highlight: The ‘Taylor’s Perfection’ camellia, a broadleaf evergreen shrub, provides height and contrasting texture with the surrounding low, denser plants. The camellia blooms into lovely pale pink blossoms in winter.
Fall greenery: This combination is dependable through the season and into the winter: “Although coral bells are summer-blooming, herbaceous perennials, in container plantings they often remain semi-evergreen,” Gibson says.
Durable yet mobile: Because a pottery planter like this one is lighter than concrete but still very durable, it’s great “for gardeners who like to move things around from year to year,” Gibson says.
Future flora: Autumn ferns grow to be three to four feet tall and wide; they will need to be transplanted into the ground eventually.
For Understated Elegance
In the planter above: Variegated privet, ‘Caramel’ coral bells, English ivy, ‘Electric Plum’ coral bells, and ‘Goldilocks’ Creeping Jenny
Plant highlight: Variegated privet is a natural choice for containers due to the way it grows. “The small leaves are light green with cream-white edges, and when the light hits it and it moves in a breeze, it really is eye-catching,” Gibson says.
Line the bottom: The thick walls of this concrete urn provide plenty of insulation for plant roots during extreme temperatures. However, Gibson does suggest adding several inches of drainage rock at the bottom of the planter to improve water drainage.
‘Electric’ accent: “‘Electric Plum’ coral bells are a new one for us, and the colors are magnificent!” Gibson says. “New leaves emerge black then lighten to an almost iridescent purple with dramatic black veins.”
Future flora: Once it warms up next spring, the coral bells and ivy will need to be transitioned to a shadier spot, while the privet—like the rest of us—will want to soak up the sun.
Another Pretty Vase
On occasions when you want to bring a little of the outdoors inside, you really don’t have to look any further than your backyard for inspiration. Gibson created this fall bouquet in a matter of minutes and is adamant that anyone can do the same. “If you’re in a last-minute position, you don’t necessarily have to go to the store and buy a bouquet,” she says. “Especially in the fall and spring, there are a lot of interesting things going on in the landscape.” Here, she used PeeGee hydrangeas, ‘Sunshine’ Ligustrum, silverberry, ‘Kaleidoscope’ Abelia, ‘Red Head’ fountain grass plumes, ‘Ruby’ loropetalum, ‘Henry’s Garnet’ sweetspire, Cleyera japonica, ‘Ebony Fire’ crape myrtle, cranberry cotoneaster, and a little ‘Climax’ blueberry. “Some of these plants may not last a long time once cut,” Gibson notes, “but for quick color at a last-minute gathering, they are perfect.”