If you're an annual plant, you are quite picky about temperature: you either like it hot or cool. Warm weather annuals start to shiver if the mercury dips below 50 degrees at night, but this is when cool weather species thrive.
- The first key to making successful container combinations that last through the fall is, knowing which species to select.
- The second is to find two, three, four or more varieties that will happily coexist in the same container.
Cooler Shades of Green
When it comes to vegetables, cool season plantings are all about greens and root crops. Lettuce, kale, collards, turnips, radishes and rutabagas are in; tomatoes and squashes, along with their many heat-loving relatives are out.
In the legume family, sugar snap peas thrive, but green beans don't stand a chance during the shorter days and long nights. Parsley and cilantro are available for culinary punch, but basil and dill will have to wait until May.
Flowers to Match the Harvest
Among container gardeners, pansies are much adored princesses; they wilt in the heat, but reign supreme from fall through spring. They come in nearly every color of the rainbow, offering choices to match the color palette of any container composition. Mixing pansy varieties containing deep oranges and yellows is particularly appropriate for fall.
|Pansy 'Delta Blaze Mix'|
While pansies stay low in their pots, snapdragons rise confidently above in white, yellow and other warm tones. Sweet alyssum and lobelia are two annual groundcovers that flower for months on end, spilling over the edge of their pots in a colorful waterfall.
|Pansy and Alyssum combination|
Nasturtiums, fast-growing annual vines with bright orange flowers, are natural choice for framing a planter full of winter vegetables.
|Swiss Chard and Nasturtium combination|
Easy Food-Flower Assemblies
Tall fall veggies—mustard greens, kale, collards and peas, for example—are perfect as centerpieces. Surround them with pansies or fragrant alyssum, which is known to keep insect pests at bay.
|Pansies with Garlic Chives|
Most of the other seasonal veggies are quite small in stature and best complimented with a backdrop of upright flowers, rather than mixed together. However, some are quite ornamental on their own. For a colorful potted salad bowl, mix light and dark green varieties lettuce with those that have colorful highlights, such as 'Oak Leaf" and “Speckled Trout" lettuce. In larger planters, try seeding “Mesclun Mix," a time-tested medley of tangy baby greens, together with edible cool-season flowers, which include pansies, nasturtiums and calendula.