Fall is the time potted annuals can start to look their absolute best. No longer are they getting fried in their pots during the day, and rescued just in time with the garden hose, the way they usually are in the heat of summer. If plants have managed to hang in there during a scorching August – when potted plant neglect can run high because I’m hiding indoors with the air conditioning on – they often really start to fatten up and shine in these last weeks before frost. Most of mine are now blooming like crazy.
The fact that they don’t have to withstand the extremes of temperature and moisture is the secret.
Nights are cool, days are still sunny and warmish. Plus, there is frequently rain, or even just dew to compensate for less diligent watering. The sun is lower in the sky, and days are cooler, so plants just don’t dry out as quickly to begin with.
The time of year provides the potted garden with a more consistent temperature and moisture content – the lack of these makes growing plants in pots difficult. How many of us have gone running over to scorched, drooping plants mid-summer with the garden hose, hoping we’ve caught them in time?
Pots of impatiens can look particularly good this time of year. Mine are positively dripping over the edges of their pots. Sometimes I think impatiens don’t really get started till September. Pots that have put out a few sporadic flowers are now dripping with flowers and glowing. It’s now October and mine are going great guns, and sadly there are really only a couple of frost-free weeks left. It seems a shame that they put on their best show just before the frosty weather blackens them and reduces them to watery mush.
I usually mean to take cuttings around this time, or to cut back plants, and bring a few specimens into the house to overwinter. The ideal way to overwinter is to bring plants in to get settled to their low light conditions before it gets really warm in the house, so that the transition shock is a bit reduced. But I find this hard to do. How can I interrupt this glorious finale? It will all be over soon, and I want to enjoy this last colourful aria before the final curtain closes.