David Winston: Transitioning Container Gardens to Fall

As we settle into mid-August, flowers and plants are starting to feel the influence of seasonal transition from summer’s direct heat and sunlight to the effects of early fall. Around this time, summer plantings start to wane a bit, showing signs of subtle fading and wilting from fluctuations in temperatures. This is the ideal time of year to start thinking about what’s next for your garden containers and how to transition their contents from summer plantings to fall flowers and foliage. It’s also a great time of the year to purchase flowers and plants from local farms and neighboring growers. There’s nothing more satisfying than supporting our local farmers or nearby markets.

In general, our philosophy on containers and their plantings is pretty straightforward. At this time of the year, we recommend:

– Investing in interesting and unique containers. Search for containers that are dramatic in shape, size, color and texture.

– Filling it with only one type of plant or flower. Once you pick the perfect pot, don’t overwhelm the design integrity of the container by making it too busy. Or filling it with too much. Often, a single variety goes a long way.

– Trying something new each season. It’s fun to play around and try new plants, flowers and textures each season—and simple to do. Vary what you plant each fall. This will keep your garden and its containers fresh and original.

This idyllic late summer vignette shows how containers with single variety plantings and flowers when paired next to each other can be very dramatic. We look for bright, bold colors when installing vessels. Here, our Axel pots in orange add an artistic element and really pop when surrounded by natural, organic colors in the garden.We filled these orange pots with pink gaura flowers which are tall, wispy flowers that are in full bloom at the end of the summer.The pots also complement the flowers’ pink coloring. Next to the Axel pots are our Domani zinc square containers. A tip about zinc – it’s resilient and durable which means it can remain outdoors all year long, so its very low maintenance. These containers can withstand the frost and the patina finish gives them a gorgeous, imperfect and antique look.The brown grasses, called carex, are a great early fall texture and are reminiscent of a harvest, and they can be planted in-ground or in a pot.

When shopping for containers, look for different textures and colors. These rustic and textured decorative pots are made of bronze terracotta material, which provides for a unique and sophisticated look. Rather than planting a tree in-ground, consider planting it in a container. The Japanese maple will slowly begin to turn red at this time of year, a color that complements the pot itself. We filled the lava pot with fall grass to give the textured pot some natural height. 

This suburban home features a variety of beautiful containers filled with various mature late summer/early fall foliage. In the forefront, you see a round zinc container that was placed on a riser to give it a more prominent placement within the yard. Elevate your containers to make them more of a focal point. This pot is also filled with pink gaura flowers, and once again the patina finish of the zinc adds character to the overall gardenscape. As we did here, flank the entrance to your home with a pair of pots. In this instance, two black pots filled with nicotiana plants provide a nice welcome at the point of entry. Along the white side of the house, we placed four zinc rectangular containers filled with blue salvia. This look is minimal but striking at the same time given the repetition of the four containers and the colors that contrast against the homeowner’s white house. Once again you’ll notice that the containers are filled with single variety plants that add contrast to the yard’s green and the striking architecture of the house. Not to mention how dramatic the reflection of the plantings is off the glass windows.

Photographs by Rosemary Fletcher

A closer image of the zinc bowl on a riser, filled with pink gaura flowers.

Instead of planting flowers or greens in your container, plant fresh strawberries which come to fruit at the end of summer. It’s fun and unexpected to fill your container with something edible and non-flowering. We also love the subtle pops of color that the strawberries add to this vessel. The look is sleek and simple. In this image here you can see the importance of selecting a container that will balance with the material on which it will sit.

If you are incorporating containers onto a deck surrounded by natural grasses and greens, consider bringing that hint of nature onto the deck, but add a small touch of color to the mix as well. Here, we filled a container with sedum. As the summer progresses and the nights get cooler, the sedum will change color from green to red. Sedum and succulents are always a unique twist to traditional plantings.

We filled polyester cubes with single variety plantings of sedum Angelinato add a textural look to the vessel. In this instance, we kept the plantings low and tight so the focus remains on the cubes. For contrast, we planted black mondo grass in the bed behind the containers as a unique twist to typical boxwood hedging.

There’s no better way to bring to life the colors and bounty of autumn than a container filled with mixed fall foliage in iconic fall colors. Here, we feature a perennial called heuchera, euphorbia, cabbage, kale and peppers. We like combining traditional fall plants with unique edible items like fruits, vegetables and gourds.

Autumn in New England is one of the most spectacular times of the year when it comes to plants and flowers.  However with temperatures beginning to drop and the ground becoming slightly harder to plant in, it’s also the perfect time of the year to consider planting in containers and pots.The containers you select should be as vibrant and interesting as the plants themselves. Be bold and adventurous yet understated and minimal, and your fall plantings will provide a stunning impression all season long.

—David Winston

David Winston is the CEO and Co-Owner of Winston Flowers. Their clients, the seasons, and the surroundings in which each homeowner lives inspire Winston’s garden design projects. In addition to their garden design work, Winston Flowers is well known for their unique floral arrangements and plantscapes. 

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