October Containers


I love containers, but am not very good at planting them. Above: Japanese blood grass, Imperata cylindrica ‘Rubra’ showing off in hypertufa trough.


To be honest, I enjoy the container itself more than the plantings. Usually. Especially these home made troughs. Above is the first one we ever made, first attempt at using hypertufa, too. The maidenhair fern, Adiantum pedatum is quite happy with the mosses.


I want to plant it and forget it. Above is an unknown Campanula that daughter Semi planted in a container that she gave me. It has filled the space and bloomed sporadically this year. Love the freckled faces with a few white whiskers. Does anyone know it?


The plantings are best when considered permanent, but hardiness can be an issue since container living can be two zones colder than in ground plantings. Above is Stipa arundinacea, new this spring, that had been planned as the year around interest in a square red pot. Billed as hardy only to zone 8, we are 7a, there might have to be an adjustment made with this one. Maybe plant one in a protected micro-climate as a back up mother plant in case the other two don’t make it. Or just let the chips fall where they may.


Plant it and forget it, that is the ideal. The concrete birdbath with the head, it might be a copy of David by Michelangelo? is worry free, having withstood over a dozen years of freezing water during winter’s coldest days. Sempervivums and Sedum ‘Angelina’ in the tree trunk with squirrel entering the side and the alarmed face are hardy souls.


Only a few are switched out seasonally with annuals. The stacked red pots needed a simple contrasting foliage planting. Sedum rupestre ‘Lemon Coral’ will be tested their first winter at the Fairegarden. The wire box planter will never crack in a freeze, and is the home of annuals that are changed twice a year. When the coleus and alternathera frizzle up after frost, violas are waiting in the wings to join the red mustard already planted.


Seeds are sometimes sprinkled to add spice to existing plantings. Zinnia ‘Red Spider’ seeds were a good companion to the Salvia greggii ‘Desert Blaze’ planted in the metal tool box planter. Seeds will be saved to try it again next year.


There is always room for a few violas. The concrete box on the front porch is filled with Japanese painted fern, Athyrium niponicum ‘Pictum’ that has been sheared down to soil level, topped up with good mix and overplanted with violas. I will water them weekly since this is covered and receives no rainfall. The colors combine well with the pumpkin/squash/gourd/mum display, and bring a smile.

Frances

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23 Responses to October Containers

  1. I too have red grass in a pot – where it is very happy. An advantage is that I can move it round the garden. None the less, I am thinking of planting it out. Can’t quite decide. Would like to divide it but understand it doesn’t like such treatment.

    Hi Esther, thanks for stopping by. If your red grass is the Imperata cylindrica, it can be planted inground and spread far and wide. I started with a tiny pot of it and have placed it all over the garden. It gets too crowded in the trough, wanting to take over. Just be sure and water it well until it settles in.
    Frances

  2. I like the maidenhair with the moss. I have one planted in an old stump and I never thought of placing moss around the base…it would be great to hold the soil and moisture in! The lime green sedum against the red pots are stunning. And violas are always a winner (personally I prefer them to the larger faced pansies).

    Hi Karin, thanks for joining in. The fern in a stump is brilliant, moss would be perfect, good idea! I like the smaller viola flowers, but might add some pansies if some jump into the shopping cart.
    Frances

  3. Randy Anderson says:

    Plant it and leave it would never work in a container here, just to cold. Even leaving soil in a pot sometimes can mean the demise of the pot. We either move them to the garage or plant them in the ground or move them inside. I loved your ability to replant the violas in them for the winter. Love your garden and thankful for the ideas I can transplant here. Sometimes I wish I could bring more of them to my garden. Randy

    Hi Randy, thanks. We are luck, luck, lucky to be able to leave plantings in the containers here, I know. I have lost many a container to the freeze-thaw cycle however. Clay pots in particular crack, they are used upturned as pedestals to bring the glazed pottery containers up higher. All gardening is local, I am glad there are some ideas, at least, that you can use.
    Frances

  4. Carol says:

    Too cold here for “plant it and leave it”. I have several containers planted with miniature hostas that I will shove up against the house and cover for the winter. But leaving a container out here is just asking for it to be cracked or worse by spring. I do think you’ve done a nice job planting yours.

    Thanks for adding here, Carol. I am wondering if there are any pots that are frost proof for you. The metal ones with the coir liners would be safe, but there may not be plantings that would survive. My mother in law in Pennsylvania, zone 5 had Sempervivums, hens and chicks in a clay strawberry jar for years, but it was under the overhang. Hypertufa is said to be frost-proof as well.
    Frances

  5. Gail says:

    Frances, We are fortunate to be able to plant containers and leave them as is for the winter. I’ve had great luck with clemmies, grasses, bulbs~tulips and narcissus and even trees. I so agree with you, some containers are beautiful on their own. I have a few large ones just for pops of color. Love your red stacked pots and planted with the sedum they look even better. The new Stipa arundinacea is cool~Hoping it makes it through the winter. xxoogail

    Hi Gail, thanks. I have added a clemmie to a large container on the front porch this year in hopes of a matching pair climbing the support posts. Bulbs work best for me, when the squirrels can be held back, in the largest of pots. The new Stipa is such a beauty, would hate to lose it, that one might need a rethink. Grasses give movement in winter, I might need to go plant shopping.
    xxxooo
    Frances

  6. Sandy Bridenbaugh says:

    I have found here in Ohio that I can keep clay pots from cracking over winter, but they have to be set on cement or a stepping stone under them. As long as they are not directly on the ground they seem to do fine for years and we are zone 5 here. I too have trouble this time of year getting my plants into pots for the winter. I have about 12 rosemary plants that I planted directly in a gravel driveway and they have grown great. I want to pot some to bring in for the winter. I also have boxwood and lavender planted in gravel that has been there for years and have done great. I simply dug down to dirt and then covered up with remaining gravel. I think they love the good drainage they get.

    Hi Sandy, thanks for all that good info! Drainage is everything in containers. Using the right planting mix is crucial. I use one coffee filter paper in the bottom to help keep out the bugs and the water runs easily through it. My containers are sitting on gravel, the ones on the wall have feet under holding them up. Clay pots will still crack here, even with that treatment. I have found the hypertufa to be very strong and the good glazed pots, not the cheapo ones, last well.
    Frances

    • Sandy Bridenbaugh says:

      Love the idea with the coffee filter and will try it. I have a habit of putting shrubs and trees in pots and they will winter over just fine here and I think they look so cool. I will put some in half barrels and they really get really large, but no moving them around. As for potting soil I mix half peat moss and a really good potting soil and things do great, but I also feed them once a month in the growing season. Have a great day.

      Hi Sandy, thanks for continuing the conversation. Your containers sound delightful. Maybe I need to feed mine once in a while. I barely even water them. Things have to be tough around here!
      Frances

  7. Those containers are super cool. I love the red, and the Japanese blood grass at the beginning makes me smile.

    Thanks Dee. Red has not been my favorite color in the garden, but it really grabs the eye, doesn’t it? The blood grass loves this time of year with the lower angle of the sun on the slope. If only I could take a photo that looks as good as it looks to the human eye.
    Frances

  8. Leslie says:

    I love containers and also consider them planted for permanency. But there are always a few that need redoing. I love the grasses you’ve used…will have to keep that in mind!

    Hi Leslie, thanks for the support. I know you use a lot of sedums and succulents, and I have found those types of plants to be more permanent than many, as long as they are hardy ones. I think that Stipa would work for you.
    Frances

  9. commonweeder says:

    I am hoping to get a skilled friend give a hypertufa workshop in the spring that will provide each of us with a container, and a container for our beautiful Shelburne Falls Bridge of Flowers.

    I hope so too, Pat. You will love making the hypertufa and love planting it even more!
    Frances

  10. Just a comment to add about Stipa arundinacia, the ones I have planted in the ground came through last winter here in the UK even though -15 for some nights. The one in a pot died !! Hope you are more lucky with yours in a pot!

    Oh oh oh oh! Thank you Pauline! I will get those Stipas in the ground today, thanks for the heads up. Surely there is something else that can go in that container…
    Frances

  11. I also like containers, but plant mostly veggies in them. I find the decorative ones hard to put together, too, which is ironic since I teach a class on it. HA!

    HA Monica, that is pretty funny! I do like herbs and lettuce type things in the containers, they do well during the winter but need too much watering in summer’s heat.
    Frances

  12. Cindy, MCOK says:

    Such gorgeous containers and plantings! I’m trying to limit the number of containers in my gardens because watering them is such a chore in summer. Only the ceramic pots are immune from the purge!

    Thanks Cindy. Watering can be a huge problem here, too. The containers need to be large and the plantings need to be extremely drought tolerant. I am lax in watering and we travel a lot, too. No small pots here unless they have Sempervivums or Sedums.
    Frances

  13. Donna B. says:

    I have to say, that stump planter with the surprised face – I must either have one, or make one. It’s possibly my favorite of your planters that I’ve seen yet! Well, also the hypertufa ones but they’re all amazing…
    [I wonder if they’ll survive overwintering outside moderately protected in Zone 6A?]
    Usually I forget about containers and they never get watered. Simple things like Petunia’s die by my wrath of never-watering that I usually don’t reuse the planters, and they get dumped into my stash of plastic wares… It is something I really need to work more on because you contribute both annuals and perennials in-ground and in containers, and the look is always FANTASTIC. Inspiration all-the-way!

    Thank so much for those kind words, Donna. The stump planter was sort of expensive, it is part of the Al’s Garden Art collection but is guaranteed frost proof. Look for a store that carries it near you. I had to order this one from a nursery catalog, worth every penny and the long wait! You should be fine with hypertufa in your zone. As for watering containers, I often forget, or just don’t want to. The largest pots work best with drought tolerant plants. Coleus are surprisingly tolerant that way. I can’t grow petunias to save my life! Recycle those plastic pots!
    Frances

  14. Catherine says:

    I love your hypertufa, especially the one with the fern and mosses. I try to plant more hardy plants in my containers too, especially ones that are evergreen. One of my favorites are the Spurges which are so colorful.

    Hi Catherine, thanks for visiting. The mosses love the hypertufas. The miniature conifers have done very well in the containers, with a nice gravel mulch to keep the roots cool and moist in summer. If only I didn’t need the occasional flower, all the containers would get those little cute evergreens.
    Frances

  15. patientgardener says:

    I am rubbish at containers too, they never turn out as I imagine them in my head plus you have to remember to water them and I am terrible at that.

    Hi Helen, thanks for joining in here. Maybe it is the watering for me too, I don’t want to do it. I want those plants to toughen up! I have zero design sense putting the plantings together, no vision. I just like pretty containers.
    Frances

  16. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Pots can be a dilemma. Do you fill them for winter interest or put them away?? I usually put most away. Some are brought inside. I have done so already and wouldn’t yo know it it has turned warm again. Such is weather… Have a great weekend.

    Hi Lisa, thanks for stopping by. We leave all of the containers out all year. I used to bring some things in, and still bring the few orchids into the greenhouse, but I don’t want to fool with it anymore. Violas and other winter things are planting in some of them, some have good winter hardy plants, like the two troughs, some have miniature conifers. Most of the containers are large, too heavy to move anyway. You too enjoy your weekend.
    Frances

  17. Faye says:

    Love those red pots…just what I need for one of our displays at our SW Florida Yard & Garden Show the end of October.
    Would you give me a clue as to where you found them?
    Thanks..Love your pictures!

    Thanks Faye. I bought the red pot at a nursery in Lenoir City, TN, Meadowview Nursery. They have the best selection of good quality glazed pots in my area. The selection constantly changes, though. I would check out local places for something similar. Good luck with your show!
    Frances

  18. I had Sedum ‘Black Jack’ in a large fibreglass container on my patio for years, until I got tired of the stupid plant. I’ll be attempting to keep the blueberries alive in containers this winter. I’ll probably put them up against the foundation of the house for extra protection. Your containers are so wonderful, it’s no wonder you pay less attention to what’s planted in them. I think your Campanula might be ‘Pantaloons’.

    Hi MMD, thanks for joining in. I have moved Black Jack into the Matrona planting since there is no difference between them at this point. Dang those reverting Sedums! Good luck with the blueberries and I will check out Pantaloons for a match.
    Frances

  19. I love the red pots! And the Japanese Blood Grass and the other grasses are spectacular! Beautiful!

    Thanks Plant Postings. I fell in love with the red pots, but planting them was a bit tricky. We are hoping this Sedum will overwinter. If not, there’s always next year. The blood grass is a workhorse here and is great backlit in the fall and spring.
    Frances

  20. I keep saying I am going to cut down on containers but I never do! Mine are very temporary and nothing winters over except sometimes creeping jenny. Yours look great and very natural.

    Eileen

    Hi Eileen, thanks for joining in. It very much depends on the climate as to how containers are handled in the winter. We are lucky to be able to keep things growing in them all year.
    Frances

  21. Lola says:

    I must have some of the blood grass. It would have to be in pots though as I would like to move it around.
    Those red pots are so adorable.. Love all your plants.

    Thanks Lola. The blood grass is a favorite here, used all over. It is easily divided and seems to do better when so treated.
    Frances

  22. Rose says:

    You have such beautiful containers, they’re eye-catchers even without the plants. Love your bench with the pumpkins and gourds! It’s too cold here to have containers last through the year. But I enjoy planning how to plant them each spring; it gives me a chance to experiment with new plants and combinations and gives me an excuse to buy all those annuals that infatuate me every spring in the nurseries.

    Thanks Rose. It is fun to play with short term plantings in the containers, if it is a failure or you don’t really like it, there’s always next season! The pumpkins and gourds make me smile, I will be cooking the squash and will have to buy more for the display. Dang! HA
    Frances

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