Cooler temperatures may signal the end of summer, but they don't have to mean the end of color in our landscapes. Unlike summer loving annuals, fall annuals relish cooler temperatures and happily replace tired annuals in borders and containers.
What would the fall landscape be without mums? Although technically considered perennials, most mums planted in the fall have trouble making it through the winter. Plant them as annuals and they will shine in a wide variety of colors from white and yellow to gold and bronze, red to burgundy, and pink to lavender and purple. The mums at your local garden center have been pinched repeatedly and have so many flower buds the plants are literally blanketed with blooms.
Pansies are the next must-have plants for the fall landscape. Often considered partners for tulips and daffodils in the spring, pansies are just as nice in the fall. They add a bright splash of color in the garden or are perfectly paired with ornamental cabbage or kale in containers. These compact plants can be found in a range of autumnal shades, some solid colored and others with "blotches" in the center.
Ornamental cabbage and kale provide long-lasting color in the fall. In fact, they must have cool temperatures to reach their color potential. Large rosettes of gray-green foliage are marked with cream, pink or purple centers that become more intense as the weather turns cooler. Use ornamental cabbage or kale to brighten up gardens, window boxes and containers.
Million bells (Calibrachoa) is another flower often chosen in spring, but this cool weather-loving annual is also a charming pick for fall. The Cabaret series is a good choice for trailing over the edges of fall containers. They bloom heaviest in cool weather in shades of peach, purple, red, white and yellow. The only requests million bells make of their gardener is to provide good drainage and be careful of over watering.
Add spikes of color to containers with a garden classic. Snapdragons are available in a wide range of sizes -- from barely 6 inches to almost 3 feet -- and every color imaginable, except blue. Combine snaps in a fall container with purple sage, pansies and dusty miller.
Marigolds are often exchanged for cool-season annuals, but they continue to bloom in cool weather, too. If marigolds were players in summer containers and are still performing, leave them in containers for a final act in fall.
Don't forget herbs when planting fall containers. Some, like rosemary, sage and thyme, do just fine in cool weather and are useful in designs for their contrasting texture.
After fall annuals are planting, all that is needed to complete the scene are some pumpkins and gourds to nestle among the fabulous fall bloomers.
• Diana Stoll is a horticulturist and the garden center manager at The Planter's Palette, 28W571 Roosevelt Road, Winfield. Call (630) 293-1040, Ext. 2, or visit planterspalette.com.