While you’re outside planting daffodils and tulips for next spring, it’s easy to slip in a few pansies, perhaps along a garden walk so you can enjoy their flowers as you come and go. In mild climates, pansies and charming little violas will bloom all winter and into spring. Calendulas, sometimes called pot marigolds, keep putting out their intense golden flowers through cool fall days, too.
A garden full of fall flowers will also be alive with butterflies. Coneflowers will be finishing their intense cycle of bloom, but goldfinches and chickadees perch on their handsome seed heads and help themselves. Especially at this season, migrating birds, as well as those that spend the winter in your garden, will take a keen interest in the seeds and berries your trees, shrubs, and flowers have produced during the long spring and summer.
Flower pots filled with cool-season blooms bring the palette of the season up close, to a porch or patio. “I love the idea of taking the plants and colors in the landscape and putting them in a pot — isolating them in a container. It’s pretty cool,” says Andrea Pellumbi, who works in the custom container department of a garden center in Portland. She likes to plant one large pot with strikingly variegated foliage plants or ornamental grasses, and stages smaller pots full of flowers around it. The plants in the big pot may hold up for a year or more, and you can change the color scheme in the smaller pots as often as you like. At this season, place a few pumpkins, gourds, or fancy ornamental squash among your flower pots: the abundance of the harvest will fill you with inspiration.
Flower colors are more intense in the fall, and gardens are less demanding: plants will not need as much water as they did on hot summer days, and even weeds slow down as the days grow shorter and the temperature cools off. Cool-season annual and perennial flowers flourish in these conditions: they bloom vigorously, and their flowers last a long time.
Here are some of the best choices for flower beds or for pots:
Annuals: pansies, violas, petunias, snapdragons, callibrachoa, calendula.
Perennials: Japanese anemone, perennial sunflowers (Helianthus), sedum, ornamental grasses, asters, chrysanthemums (also grown as annuals).