Thinking ahead to fall containers

Judith Adam

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Ornamental cabbages (Photo from McKenzie Seeds)
Ornamental cabbages (Photo from McKenzie Seeds)
Ornamental cabbages (Photo from McKenzie Seeds)

There has been lots of rain this week, coming down in torrential drenches. Forgive my cynical appraisal, but what plants weren’t yet lying down from drought are now smashed. It’s time for me to begin cleaning up by emptying containers and cutting back exhausted perennials. I intend to get some fall ornamental plants and find satisfaction in the cooler months before winter.

It might be interesting to make a big bouquet of fall plants in a large container, using the rose-form white ‘Sunrise’ and pink ‘Sunset’ ornamental cabbages. It’s too late to start these from seed, but they’re frequently offered in garden centres at the end of summer. These colourful cabbages love the cold and will last to the end of November.

Another ornamental brassica I like is the ‘Peacock’ series of thread-leaf kale, with finely cut red or white foliage, and wonderful texture that makes you want to touch it. These spreading kales spill out of containers, and are perfect with tall grass like ‘Fireworks’ red foxtail grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Fireworks’). Garden centres usually offer a selection of tall grasses and even burgundy millet (Pennisetum glaucum ‘Purple Majesty’) for containers and it’s smart to start looking for them now, before they’re snapped up. The one ornamental autumn plant I’m going to start from seed is ‘Neon Lights’ Swiss chard, with intense red, bright orange, hot pink and pure white stems. I’ve seen the pictures, and it’s true, they are brilliant — and you can eat them!

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