Autumn Story Starters

September 13, 2014

Take a fast flip through these three autumn story-starters. They’re sure to start you thinking…

  • A place to sit
  • Refresh your ‘gorgeous’ pots
  • Late season color blast
Sitting areas in garden

Sometimes gardening is all about getting nothing done – and it’s easy to imagine that happening as you sit on this ad hoc arrangement surrounded by marigolds and Bonfire begonias

1. A place to sit

Most gardening tips are all about how to grow things well and how to put plants together to create beautiful gardens. All of which is good, but sometimes we forget to talk about enjoying being out in the garden. Whether we’re weeding or reading, it’s good to have a place to relax. A place to sit. And here are some tips on how to set something up…


Tip one: take a folding chair and use it to test a few spots for setting something up more permanently. We all tend to work out pretty quickly where this sweet spot it – out of the wind, away from prying eyes and usually in the sun or shade depending on the time of year.


Tip two: decide whether the sitting place needs to cater for family lunches or solo cups of tea. This will help you work out what sort of furniture you’ll want to set up. Of course the term “furniture” should be used very loosely as a strategically placed boulder is just as much a seat as a purpose built flower arbor with a bench beneath.

Flower Carpet Scarlet

A place to sit . . .

Tip three: it’s important to decide between permanence or ephemera. An outdoor dining table and benches cast in concrete (literally) in situ is a commitment. A wicker lounger left in a forgotten corner, entwined with vines is another thing altogether. One conquers the space, the other can make a garden seem larger than it really is by virtue of its mystery.

outdoor dining

When you’re expecting company, sometimes something a little more flash is needed.



container gardening

A joyful combination!

This combination is joyful. The hero is Tropicanna canna with portulaca as a ‘spiller’ and a mad mix of bright annuals (marigolds and petunias among them) to boost the colors even further.


2. Refresh your ‘gorgeous’ pots

Winter might be coming, but it’s weeks and weeks away and depending on where you live, many more kind gardening days to come. Which is why it makes sense to refresh your planter pots. Here’s how…


Take a good look at your larger containers, the ones filled with a mix of beautiful plants. These are the ones you probably put together earlier in the year and by now they could be looking a little tired. Grab your pruners or sheers and dead head the spent flowers, trim off any lanky growth and anything else that looks a little browned off. There may even be some annuals that you popped in during spring which are ready to be replaced with something new. Throw a few handfuls of slow release fertilizer, then water it all in.


Most great mixed container plantings succeed because of the plants people choose to put in them. It’s a bit like flower arranging where you need something for a bit of height, something to fill the middle ground and the ‘spiller’ or naturally cascading plant that grows out and over the lip of the pot. If you haven’t tried this approach before, now’s a good time when you can add in the missing elements.

 Rock and Roll AlstroemeriaThere are times when one plant can provide all the action you need like  Rock & Roll alstroemeria which offers brilliant red flowers on top of its astonishing foliage.



Container Gardening

Sweet Spot roses and Color Flash astilbe steal the show in these containers, offering loads of color in one single plant!

3. Late-season color blast

Something happens when you sense the summer’s midpoint has been reached and the days are now shortening – we crave color even more. It’s as if we know the monochromatic days are looming and we need to feast on a rainbow to tide us over through winter…


This is a great time of year to plant anything because plants become established and it allows them to get a head start for spring next year. So take yourself to a garden center and gather up armfuls of perennial color – plants that will grow and give you a gorgeous show before resting through the colder season to be ready to rock in the spring. Roses are a great bet and perhaps the most colorful of the lot at the moment are the Sweet Spot roses.

sweet spot decorator rose

Not that color needs to be limited to flowers, as cordyline Festival Raspberry proves. It’s a cousin to Festival Burgundy and there’s a new one (Festival Lime) on the horizon. Plants with color options are worth mentioning because it shows how working with various shades of the same plant works well in massed plantings. This is a great strategy especially in contemporary garden settings where you need to add some punchy color.

colorful foliage plants

Festival Raspberry is one of many great plants that help bring color into the garden using just the foliage.


For hi-res downloadable images, click each image and you’ll get instant links to each image on Flickr.  Click here for additional images for this story-starter piece.  Need help?  Contract Judie Brower at

Click here for a downloadable Word version of this piece.

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