Even if you don't have your own backyard, you can still have a colorful garden throughout the year. Simply plant your summer containers full of cool-season plants.
Shown here: ornamental cabbage
• Try to plant in early fall (while the soil is still warm) to establish a good root system.
• Place containers in a bright, protected location -- away from strong winds.
• Flower containers, in particular, need to be placed in sunny locations, while plants with colorful foliage and berries can tolerate shadier sites.
Shown here: barrenwort (Epimedium), a semi-evergreen
• Use containers that are 14 inches in diameter (or larger) and made out of nonporous material (so they don't crack during a cold spell).
• Poly resin and faux stone pots, like those pictured here, are well-suited for winter plantings.
• Use a potting soil that has good drainage. Adding compost to the mix helps to create additional heat and adds nutrients.
• Use a slow-release fertilizer that will last until spring.
• Select plants with a hardiness rating colder than your temperature zone.
• Try underplanting with spring-flowering bulbs. Plant bulbs in containers at regular depth (three times the size of the bulb), but space them closer together than you would in the open ground.
• Create long-season interest by selecting a mixture of low-growing conifers, broadleaf evergreens, grasses, and interesting foliage plants.
Shown here: grape hyacinths (Muscari)
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• Water in the morning when soil is dry and especially at the onset of severe cold weather. Do not water if the temperature is below freezing.
• Group containers together. This will create added protection.
• If temperatures are going to remain extremely low for a long time, either wrap your container with bubble wrap or fill a garbage bag with newspaper (twist newspaper as you would when building a campfire) and wrap around containers.
• Winter protection should only be done after the plants have acclimated to the cold, but before danger of subfreezing temperatures.
Shown here: Benenson ornamental and dwarf conifers
For more gardening tips, visit The New York Botanical Garden.
--Sonia Uyterhoeven, garden expert, The New York Botanical Garden