I’ve reached that point in the gardening season where a bit of . . . assessing . . . is in order.

I do this each year as things begin winding down out in my garden . . . just a little run-down of what worked and what didn’t. I capture ideas for next year, and I take a lot of pictures to remind myself in the off-season about what-was-what in the on-season. I pull it all together in a series of lists and notes and hand-drawn diagrams in my little garden journal. It works.

Anyway. I thought it might be interesting (or maybe not so much?) . . . if I shared some of my garden assessments here on the blog.
Welcome to  . . .

Assessment, Part 1: Front Containers

I plant big containers flanking my front door every year. I usually go for bright colors, eye-catching foliage, and over-the-top drama when I plant my containers. And I’m generally pleased. But . . . I really hate having to pull up the spent plants and toss them into the compost heap each fall. It feels . . . wasteful. And now that I’m spending more and more time up north in the summer, it’s harder and harder for me to keep my containers adequately watered (even with the “plant dildos,” which I still use by the way).

So I had a Grand Idea this year . . . to plant perennials (instead of annuals) in my front containers. Specifically, I decided to plant perennials I actually WANT in my garden beds . . . so when the container season ends in the fall, I’d (theoretically) be able to transplant them right into my garden beds. No more composting good plants!

Because perennials don’t bloom all summer long like annuals do, I chose perennials that would cover the summer bloom-time as a whole. I planted a penstemon (June bloom), a heuchera (you might know this as Coral Bells) (which starts to bloom in July and keeps right on going – if the deer don’t eat them – through fall), and sedum (which is just beginning to bloom now, in September). I have all of these perennials in my garden beds already, so I know they’ll fit right in this fall when I transplant them. I also threw in a couple of my favorite container annuals — verbena and lantana – just in case my idea didn’t pan out very well.



It’s an idea that works, sure. On paper. Theoretically.

But I’m pretty . . . meh . . . about how these containers worked out for me on my porch this year.

On the plus side, I do have 6 healthy perennials to transplant in my garden this fall. And that’s a big plus in my book. And my containers didn’t require as much water as my usual, annual-heavy containers did. They didn’t look terrible . . . just dull and kinda boring. Even though I timed the blooms, the color was just too subtle for containers. If I hadn’t had that lantana in the mix, there would’ve been no POP on my porch at all. (Which is kinda the point of containers. . . ) I think brighter, more vibrant pots would have really helped here. (I’m in the market for new pots for next season. If you look closely at the second photo in this post, you can see big cracks developing in the sides of my very, very ancient pots. They’re goners after this season. . . ) I really do like the containers of annual grasses I have next to the perennial pots on the porch. But not in combination with those dull perennial pots. It’s just all too blah . . . (But won’t those grasses look great with mums and pumpkins next month?)

One thing I didn’t really expect . . . was how much deer-traffic I’d attract with these containers. Seriously, I fought the deer all summer long. They really, REALLY wanted those Coral Bells. Right up at my front door!!! (My deer-fighting approach was to leave the front porch light on all night long, every night. It seemed to work.) Coral Bells are usually listed as “deer resistant” . . . but I’d have to differ. On more than one occasion this summer, all I had . . . were stems! (Luckily, they bounce back quickly.)

And there you have it: Assessment 1 in the books. Big takeaways?

I tried something different.
I had mediocre results.
I learned a few lessons.
And . . . I need new pots!

(Also. If you’re looking for reliable color in the late summer months – anywhere in your containers or garden beds – try some lantana. Works like a charm!)