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A Cooler Container

A Cooler Container
September 2016
For lasting autumn interest, try this combination 

We’ve all done it at the first hint of autumn: grabbed a couple mums, nestled them into pots by the front door, maybe added a pumpkin or two, and called our fall display complete. And there’s nothing wrong with going that easy, cheery route. However, if you’re willing to devote a little more energy to the project this season, you can design a planter for full sun that combines evergreens with annuals for beauty that lasts.

Start by selecting a container—about 14 inches high and 16 inches in diameter—that works with your home’s exterior. Add into it the bright yellow-leaved ‘Sunshine’ ligustrum (buy a one-gallon size). This noninvasive cultivar won’t reseed, and you can easily prune the evergreen branches into geometric shapes (like a cube, cone, or pyramid) for a more formal appearance.

To create a pleasing color contrast, look to the dark maroon foliage of ‘Purple Daydream’ dwarf loropetalum (select a one-gallon size). The compact, drought-tolerant shrub will set bright pink blooms in the spring. Then mix in the chartreuse-striped ‘Eversheen’ carex (a four-inch size) for a variation of texture and leaf pattern. It forms a tidy mound that requires very little maintenance but provides big visual impact.

Underplant this trifecta with coordinating annuals (four-inch sizes), letting the pot spill with the vigorous purple ‘Blushing Princess’ alyssum and ‘Magic White Flame’ mimulus. Look forward to choosing a new duo for spring.

When your evergreens outgrow the container (circa 2019), simply transplant them into the landscape, where you can enjoy them for years to come.

Ask an Expert: When should I seed my rye grass?

“This is best done in late September, when daytime temps are about 70 degrees and evenings dip into the 50s. Rye grass is an effective winter cover that will provide beautiful green cover to established dormant lawns or reduce erosion on lawns that are not yet established. Before you plant, know that there is annual rye grass and perennial rye grass. The perennial variety (Lolium perenne) has better disease resistance and will live longer than the annual. To established lawns, apply five pounds of seed per 1,000 square feet; use a broom to tamp the seed, as this helps to ensure that it makes good contact with the soil. If you’re seeding a barren lawn, use twice as much—10 pounds per 1,000 square feet.” —Joan McDonald, garden editor

Tip:  Before doing any fall planting, have soil samples tested by the Clemson Extension (find directions at The results will reveal the levels of various nutrients present as well as the soil’s pH value and offer recommendations for adding fertilizer and/or lime, helping you grow more effectively.