Good to Grow: Keeping your garden exciting through fall

My retail past is a strong part of who I am, and old habits die hard. If the calendar says fall, regardless of the temperature, it’s time for fall. Clothes, accessories, food and, yes, the garden all must reflect the change in the season.

The first day of fall was Sept. 23 — last Tuesday — and in preparation, I have been wearing summer clothes and using summer items one last time over the past weeks.

Now it’s time to begin transitioning my garden. Today was that day at my little house on a big hill.

Goodbye, leggy geraniums. Leggy works for supermodels and basketball players, but not geraniums. So long, dried-up verbena. You have been difficult all summer. Diamond frost, you were a rock-star filler. I’ll find a place to keep you around a few more weeks.

That’s the key to transitioning. Being firm about what needs to go and reworking what is still viable for fall.

For me, that means keeping the dusty miller. The silver leaves look so lovely against the flowering kale and ornamental cabbage. In my window boxes I also kept the spikes, really for no particular reason other than they were once the center thriller, but now blend quietly with the kale.

The kale and cabbage often have purple or white tips throughout the leaves. This lends to a very cool arrangement (cool as in color, but also cool as in chic).

Here would be a good place to mix in trailing ivy, creeping purple heart vine or a bit of lamb’s ear. I would suggest adding white pumpkins and green gourds to keep the cool factor going and finish it off to reflect the season.

A new annual for me this fall is celosia. It was hard to miss as I walked through Capitol Market this week. I saw it en masse and mixed into containers.

Such a pretty, sun-loving fall plant with long blooms that fade from dark pink to a much softer shade. And the bees! You know how I love a pollinator, and this plant was doing its job — there were bees everywhere.

I had to have it. Once home, I added it to a pot of my yellow lantana and mixed in new ornamental cabbage. It looks good and will continue to brighten the garden until our first hard frost.

My waxy begonia is still blooming its heart out. The dark reddish leaves help plead its case for fall, so it can stay. If it remains healthy, I will try to bring it inside for the winter.

On my walk through the market I also saw fall pots with a combination of mums, ornamental grass as the thriller, my new favorite celosia as the center, and sedum as the spiller. Dragon’s breath and heliotropes also blend nice for fall combo planters.

Pots of mums and asters will come later. I like to buy them in October and keep them around through Thanksgiving I will get the larger mums to stand alone in pots on the porch and in the garden, but may also add the smaller ones to my window boxes and other potted arrangements.

Same goes for my major pumpkin purchase. I love all the colors and textures of pumpkins and gourds and will buy way too many of them in October. I use them outside on the porch and decks and scattered through various rooms inside the house. Again, I expect them to be part of my fall displays through November.

We have talked mostly about the garden, but the cabbage mixed with small mums and gourds makes a lovely centerpiece for indoors. I have also used tiny ornamental pepper plants clustered in a funky container for a casual addition to the dinner table.

Thinking of fall arrangements, cut the hydrangea blooms — use them now, but know they will dry nicely and work for months to come. Try letting the celosia I love dry in arrangements.

“Make new friends, but keep the old.” Remember this saying when transitioning your garden into fall. Add seasonal elements to the plants that been star performers for you all summer. They will take on a new presence and with a little help from the new additions, keep your garden exciting through the fall season.