It's the end of August. The annuals look terrible, and they're done; even deadheading can't save them now. What can you do to replace them for something to fill that gap between the end of summer and when the snow flies?
I may start off with some ideas of what to look for in the garden centers, but sometimes, the pickings are slim.
It's too early for mums, those gorgeous round globes of mauve, white or yellow blooms.
What there is available are still only in bud, and although I may get a couple for later on into October, that's not going to fill the need right now.
There are still some options, so don't despair.
Ornamental Kale and Cabbage are fabulous, but there's nothing like that around here. In larger centers, you could find them, but out in the sticks I'm out of luck.
So how about some ornamental grasses, mixed with some super overgrown annuals like capsicum? That would work, and fill in the spaces with some Sedum and Jovibarba heuffelii that I grew from seed. That works for me.
The grass is Carex comans 'Frosty Curls' (unfortunately not hardy in my area - only to Zone 6 USDA) and the very appealing peppers are Capsucin 'Medusa' and another ornamental or Christmas pepper. These are not edible, just grown for their brightly colored fruits, and also not hardy.
The Sedum is a variety that isn't easy to find, but there is absolutely nothing I don't like about it.
Early spring growth is blushed with pink or bronze, and then in late summer the pale pink blooms will cover this well behaved little plant. This is Sedum cyaneum 'Willy Bellot'.
Using some battered enamel ware buckets gives the container that added panache.
You could also use baskets, harvest bins, wooden crates or any other type of autumn themed planter.
But what do you do with those root bound plants? Grasses are especially prone to this, where the roots just don't know when to stop.
So, cut up into the root ball, and give those poor strangled roots somewhere to go.
I make several cuts up almost to the crown of the plant, then spread them apart, and pack some fresh soil in between.
When they're planted into fresh soil, watered for a week or two to support new root growth, and given some fertilizer like compost tea, they'll look great all the way until the killing frosts arrive.