Fall Containers, Not Just for Pansies Anymore


Fall automatically brings to mind changing colors and inspires us to change out our tender summer annuals for new shades. Traditional pansies and mums are a classic seasonal adornment to bridge the gap from summer to winter, but have you tried combining them with other late-season color? Try some of these ideas and you’ll have containers you’ll love through to Thanksgiving. Most of these are perennials, so they can be pulled out and planted in the ground when you are ready to change out for holiday decorations.

Ornamental Kale/Cabbage- most commonly found as large rosettes in shades of green, icy blue-green, purple, pink, or red, kales are long-lasting and easy to maintain. Annual.

flowering kale
Sedum- covers a wide range of colors, textures, and heights. Some varieties are only a few inches tall, while others such as Autumn Joy can reach 2 feet. Mixing varieties in the same container can produce an amazing results—a tall, billowing sedum in the back of a pot can be nicely balanced by ‘Dragons Blood’ spilling off the front in shades of red (or ‘Angelina’ for yellow). Many varieties have quarter-size fleshy leaves that shift in tone from cool blues to fall tones.
Euphorbias- flower vividly in the spring and have red/orange/yellow leaves as fall sets in. Foliage texture can be rigidly upright to wispy and delicate. Some have a full & fluffy look, while others are more airy.
Heucheras/ Coral Bells – Available in a wide range of fall colors from deep, rich purples to caramel. Green varieties blend to reds and purples as the season progresses and add a sophisticated flair.
Rudbeckia- Plants (and flowers!) can be mammoth or miniscule depending on variety. ‘Toto’ reaches a pint-sized 1’ in height and bronzed ‘Autumn Colors’ will reach 2+’. Also in the tall group are ‘Indian Summer’ and ‘Prairie Sun’. ‘Goldsturm’ has smaller flowers but a ton of them.


Ornamental Grasses- Easy fillers that come in a range of tones. Provide structure and overall form for the combination.


Now that you have some ideas, how to put them together? Generally speaking, container plantings look best when you follow the adage “Thriller, Spiller, Filler”. Sedums can be any of those, depending on the varieties you select. Euphorbias are likely to be fillers or thrillers. Rudbeckias make a great thriller, and heucheras are lovely fillers. Adding back in the mums and pansies, a large patio pot might contain:

1 Autumn Joy Sedum
1 Grass, Zebra (yellow and green)
2 Heucheras- one purple, one red or caramel
1 6pk pansies, any colors , 2 Mums, any color
1 Kale

For a smaller container, try:
1 kale
1 mum
2 small sedums


Remember to pull out and plant perennials in the ground if you would like to have them come back next spring- plants are less likely to overwinter successfully in containers.









Fall Bulbs for Spring Color

072 Muscari Dark Eyes

Planning for continuing color through the season is one of the most challenging aspects of gardening. Planting bulbs in the fall is one of the best ways to begin the succession of bloom that can begin as early February depending on the weather.

086 Nectaroscordum siculumImagine having flowers to admire while winter is still on the calendar. Snowdrops and early crocus are usually the first cheerful reminders that spring is on the way. They are succeeded in the following weeks by many of the other minor bulbs including Iris reticulata, striped squill and the early flowering botanical tulips. For the best display of these early bulbs plant them in groups of 20 to 50.


013 Daffodil Dutch Master

Daffodils and tulips are the focus during the weeks of high spring. There is always room to tuck in new varieties that will provide pleasure for years to come. You will find early, mid-season and late varieties of tulips and daffodils, so be sure to plant some of each. Other spring flowering bulbs to consider are hyacinths, alliums and frittilarias for their unique flowers.

075 Fritillaria persica

Tulipa Flaming Jewel

The alliums (ornamental onions) will continue flowering into the summer and develop interesting seed heads for additional interest. The Asiatic and oriental lilies are the stars of the summer gardens with their bright, jewel-toned flowers and elegant foliage. As temperatures cool and the colors of fall return the autumn crocus and colchicum bring a surprising finale of rich color to the garden.

Colchicum 2

Iris reticulata Harmony (2)

Bulbs are packages of promise for gardeners. The rewards arrive as each of the packages opens and flowers, each to its season. Plant bulbs this fall for next years color and for future years as well.

What’s in Store for Spring 2015?

If you’ve ever visited the garden center this time of year, you know you can find plenty of personal assistance. We feel a bit like the Maytag repairman at times. While the surface looks vastly more calm than it does in May, the undercurrent is moving swiftly to meet deadlines for planning and ordering seeds, cuttings, tubers, bulbs and corms for 2015.  We attend trade shows and visit several trial gardens during this time of year.  They are a vital part of the process of providing you with the best plants and gardening products available.

One of the great joys of late summer is the opportunity to visit the   annual trial gardens. Growers and plant propagators send countless rooted cuttings and seed samples to the College of Agricultural Sciences at CSU. Dr. Klett, with his team of students and Master Gardeners go to work growing these samples so we can see how they perform in our Colorado climate. Universities and many businesses across the country participate in such trials, providing the industry with an overall performance review of each of these new introductions. They are often planted, side by side, with plants considered to be the current top performers.  This provides a direct comparison between varieties.  Last week, many representatives from our industry made the annual pilgrimage to the trial gardens at CSU, to evaluate the plants that propagators hope we will add to our plant production for spring of 2015.


CSU Trial Garden

What do we look for in a plant? I suppose it’s something like judging a dog show.  We look for the best examples of what that type of plant should be in the garden.  We look for qualities that indicate it will be a good performer in our high plains climate and those that suggest they will do well at higher elevations, too.  It’s not easy to be quite that selective, sometimes.  There are so many pretty plants, it takes a bit of self discipline to avoid distraction from our purpose.

Two new petunia introductions for spring of 2015, Berry Velour and Red Velour
Two new petunia introductions for spring of 2015, Berry Velour and Red Velour

Next year may very well be the “Year of the Petunia”.  Some years we see a concentration of new introductions of one particular plant or another.  2015 promises to provide us with some incredible new petunias.   There are more new petunias than I could count.  Below is just one of the more promising varieties.

Petunia Sanguna Radiant Rose
Petunia Sanguna Radiant Rose

Geranium Glitterati Ice Queen is one of the best new plants for 2015.  It’s stunningly bright white and green foliage is a standout on its own.  The bright red blooms are the icing on the cake, or geranium, in this case.  Variegated geraniums of old weren’t the most prolific bloomers but Ice Queen is the polar opposite, producing scads of bold blooms.   It’s spreading habit makes it an excellent choice for container gardens, larger hanging baskets and wherever you may need substantial coverage in border plantings.

Geranium Glitterati Ice Queen
Geranium Glitterati Ice Queen

Coleus are a favorite, here at Echter’s.  We’re always on the hunt for new, beautiful foliage to dress up the garden.  We look for sturdy stems, the ability to adapt from shade to partial sun, firm foliage that doesn’t flop in the first breeze, colors that don’t fade and resistance to disease.  Coleosaurus is one of the more exciting introductions for 2015.

Coleus Coleosaurus
Coleus Coleosaurus

If you’ve been a longtime fan of impatiens, you probably already know about the disease that has been a bit of a challenge to them in recent years.  Impatiens Downy Mildew (IDM) can defoliate a group of Busy Lizzys within a week.  IDM affects only the traditional Impatiens walleriana.  It does not affect New Guinea Impatiens.  There are treatments that can be used if you want to stick to the traditional impatiens, but it may be worth giving some of the New Guinea types a try.  Since the risk of IDM became apparent, plant breeders have been racing to provide us with alternatives.  Bounce and Big Bounce impatiens are the result of such efforts.  They provide the flower count of traditional wallerianas while being resistant to IDM.


Interspecific Impatiens Big Bounce Lavender

Look for some stunning new verbenas next season, too.  Newer introductions have amazingly vivid colors and large bloom clusters.  We look for vivid colors that don’t fade, sturdy stems that don’t break easily in the wind, habits that make them good companions in hanging baskets and planters, and disease resistance.

Verbena Wicked Great Grape
Verbena Wicked Great Grape

We can’t give away all the surprises for 2015.  When spring arrives, look for more information about new plant introductions for annuals and perennials.  If you have some plants on your wishlist, we’d love to hear from you.  Leave us a comment or share your list with us on Facebook.  https://www.facebook.com/echtersgreenhouse

The trial gardens at CSU are open to the public and we encourage you to visit there sometime.  They can be found at 1401 Remington Street in Fort Collins.




What’s Bugging Your Garden?

Once the heat of summer comes along it seems every aphid, spider mite, and leaf miner and thrips pay a visit to my garden. In the case of most garden pests, high summer temperatures create the perfect environment for rapid reproduction. Learning to identify the what creatures are munching on the garden plants is the key to gaining control. Once identified, we can learn a little about their life cycle so we can choose the best method of control.

Many garden pests can be controlled with a garden hose and a strong spray nozzle. If we scout out the garden regularly, chances are we can find them before they become a serious infestation. Most pesticides (organic, natural, or otherwise) are effective on specific pests. There isn’t a single pesticide that is effective on every garden pest, which is all the more reason we really need to identify what’s chewing away on our plants in order to form a responsible plan of attack. After all, no one wants to spray anything willy-nilly through their garden. Not only would that be a waste of time, energy and money, it may also pose a risk to those beneficial insects we actually need in our gardens.

Thrips are super tiny insects that aren’t easily seen without magnifying lens. Most often we see Western Flower Thrips in the garden. They are slender, tan insects, about .2 mm long. They are so tiny, we usually see the damage to our plants long before we notice the insects. They are notoriously difficult to treat because they often feed on the tender tissue inside buds or the folds of immature foliage. They are sucking insects so they often leave buds and leaves deformed and scarred. Thrips are particularly attracted to blue flowers. Knowing this, I usually plant a few dark blue petunias and use them as sentinel plants. Once I start to see stippling on the flowers and areas that have clearly lost their color due to tissue damage, I can bet they have decided to make a home in my flowers. A strong spray of water can drown them. If they persist, try using an insecticidal soap, neem oil or pyrethrin spray.  Thrips are also known to spread tomato spotted wilt virus, spreading it from plant to plant as they feed.

Below you can see the damage and the thrips.

Western Flower Thrips


Thrips damage to flowers


Western Flower Thrips


Aphids are probably the most common and devastating garden pest.  They may be green, red or black.  They are plump, soft bodied, little insects and we can usually identify them by their cornicles (tubes that sort of look like horns protruding from their abdomen).  Aphids are also sap sucking insects that leave our plants with deformed, stunted buds, blooms and leaves, reducing productivity of vegetables.  Aphids are also capable of spreading many plant viruses.  They are, however, one of the easiest insects to control when they are found early.  Hosing off plants with a strong stream of water will go a long way toward eliminating aphids.  Neem oil and pyrethrins are very effective treatments, too.  Aphids can build up a tolerance to pesticides with each generation, so alternate whatever you use to insure the best results.

Aphids pictured below.



We often see spider mites after we’ve noticed their webs.  These teeny-tiny insects can make foliage appear gray-green and speckled.  We see the damage primarily on the back side of the leaves.  The top of the leaves may appear a bit discolored, faded and the speckling may be obvious.  They can be hosed off with a strong stream of water.  They may also be treated with insecticidal soap, neem oil, or pyrethroids.

Spider Mite on Croton leaf, pictured below.


Spider mite damage to Mandevilla pictured below.

Spider Mite Damage


It’s important to note that any chemical, organic or otherwise, should be used according to the directions on the label.  All chemicals are expected follow specific protocols established by the EPA.  In other words, the label is the law and there is no substitute for reading the fine print.  Don’t spray on a windy day when the chemical may drift onto other people, plants, wildlife, or toward beneficial insects.  Water the day before you spray and spray in the early morning or late evening hours.  This helps reduce the risk of damage to your plants from the spray.  Be sure to wear gloves and the appropriate protective gear when handling any chemical.



Late Season Vegetable Gardening


Late summer is a great time to plant fresh crops of lettuce, spinach, broccoli, and cauliflower. Starting them from seed in late July and early August allows us to grow them into the fall. Cole crop vegetables thrive as the temperatures begin to cool in September and October, taking frost in stride. Most short season root crops will do the same. It’s a good idea to keep a frost blanket handy, though. Frost blankets will prevent your late season crops from suffering damage in the event of an early hard freeze.

What can you grow? There’s quite a list, but one of the important things to consider is the number of days the crop needs to reach maturity. This is usually on the front of the seed packet. Stick to plants that need less than 75 days to mature for late crops. How do you know when to start fall crops? Count back the number of days the crop needs to mature, from the average first frost date. In Denver, that date is October 11. So if your lettuce takes 60 days to mature, count back from October 11th and seed them on August 12th. If you don’t have a calendar handy, this website is easy way to calculate dates; http://www.convertunits.com/dates.


Here are some favorite fall crops to try:

Beets, Bok Choy, Broccoli , Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Collards, Endive,  Kale, Mustard Greens, Peas, Radish, Spinach,  and Turnips

Choose varieties that are less susceptible to powdery mildew for fall gardens.   Cool nights and moisture condensation on the foliage is all the spores need to wreak havoc on your vegetables.


Planting crops a week apart, successively, will extend harvest well into the fall.  Enjoy!