Hello fellow readers,
Mums and ornamental cabbage have become the iconic welcome to the glories of fall, though there are other less common fall annuals gaining popularity. Lynda of East Stroudsburg PA asked what the bright pink caterpillar-like blooms that sit atop spiky foliage are? Celosia spicata is becoming one of my fall favs which are commonly known as wool-flowers. Their showy vertical flower spikes remind us of wheat, hence some call it wheat celosia. In parts of Africa and Southeast Asia, it’s a leaf vegetable much like spinach. While hot pink is not customarily a go-to fall color and doesn’t blend well with the rusty oranges of the season, it beds well with bright yellow mums, ornamental cabbage, or red ornamental peppers.
Another unusual fall potted garden pleaser is ornamental millet grass, Pennisetum glaucum, with a purplish foliage and oversized fluffy cattail-like plumes that start out golden and turn a deep purple as fall approaches complimenting its purplish corn-like foliage. It grows 3 to 5 feet taking center stage in garden pots that birds will love as the plumes ripen. Or, they can be planted in swaths for a dramatic display in the garden.
Assembling plants in pots follows similar design strategies to those in your gardens. Its pleasing to layer plants with an assortment of foliage texture and heights- tall in the back, medium in the middle, and short in the front, preferably in gatherings of odd numbers. Of course, if your potted garden will be viewed all around, the tall can be in the center. And, as with garden design, be sure the colors complement each other. Or, a single specimen can stand alone as a statement piece such as ‘Purple Majesty’ ornamental millet which stands 4 to 5 feet tall. There’s ‘Purple Baron’, a more compact 3-foot variety of millet, that mixes well with others such as the fine texture of ornamental peppers with the coarse texture of ornamental cabbage.
Speaking of mums, I always find it intriguing how they propagate them for sale. They’re pinch-pruned periodically over the course of the growing season to maximize their flower creating a round mound of color. Like a big yellow, orange, white, or purple basketball which appeals to folks. The thing is, once the basketball of blooms fades there’s essentially no visible foliage to serve a green role in your potted gardens. I suppose then it’s time to toss them and get ready for winter pots. Rather than toss them, I’m often asked if mums can be planted in the garden; they’re called hardy mums after all (Chrysanthemum morifolium). Indeed, they can be hardy if planted earlier in the season. Otherwise, it’s unlikely they will make it through the winter ahead. And, hardy mums planted from years previously won’t grow into a basketball of blooms unless you pinch-prune them every 2 to 3 weeks until the beginning of summer… no, thank you… Rather, you’ll enjoy a more natural and pleasing form of flowers atop foliage as nature intended. Garden Dilemmas?AskMaryStone@gmail.com