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A LOT OF PEOPLE (myself included) give up, somewhat, on window boxes and outdoor containers by the time November rolls around. Others keep going… like the owners of the swell Manhattan townhouse, above, who’ve created an arresting display with gourds and berries.

My go-to place for inspiration in all seasons, including fall and winter, is the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, above (that’s a side view of the Brooklyn Museum as seen from inside the garden), where crews were busy on Sunday repairing Sandy damage. Thankfully, it doesn’t seem to have been too extensive there.

Some go all out in autumn with mums. Usually that’s not particularly interesting, but I like the front yard planting, above, where the lavender mums are interspersed symmetrically with juniper, a yellow grass, and a deep purple leafed thing whose name is not springing to mind.

Sweet potato and coleus hang in through Thanksgiving, at least, the chartreuse of the always-satisfying sweet potato vine a vivid contrast against the brownstone.

A red annual grass is flourishing now in the concrete window boxes of a fine house on St. Marks Avenue in Prospect Heights. Is there anything being built today that matches the elegance of that hefty iron stoop railing and brownstone window ledges? No, there’s not!

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forgotFOR SOME CRAZY REASON, this Roy Lichtenstein parody (once a popular T- shirt), right, popped into my head the other evening when I saw the vivid bed of annuals at LongHouse Reserve, Jack Lenor Larsen’s extraordinary East Hampton sculpture garden.

The explosion of color, designed by Dennis Schrader, owner of a North Fork nursery and co-author of Hot Plants for Cool Climates: Gardening with Tropical Plants in Temperate Zones (Timber Press), is made up entirely of plants that were seeds a few short months ago (or tubers in the case of the banana-leaf-like cannas), and will be compost (or dug up and stored away) by November.

So if right about now you’re saying, “I can’t believe I forgot to plant a garden,” take heart. You can have a midsummer floral fantasia with cannas, coleus, verbena, and other hot-colored annuals in three months — by next July, anyway, provided you start in April. In fact, with annuals on sale now, you can have one instantaneously.

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I also enjoyed the creative entries in LongHouse’s yearly container competition, below.

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Fish-shaped containers set in shells and blue glass…

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A mannequin as planter…

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Simple ferns and ivy in a hollowed-out tree stump…

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An abundance of succulents crammed into one pot.

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THE FALL BULB CATALOGUES have started to arrive, and with them a certain annoyance, as in ‘Who wants to think about summer ending already?’ Still, they are seductive, and paging through them is a pleasant way to spend a July evening.

Sadly, John Scheepers list of deer-proof naturalizers (bulbs that spread year after year) is short, consisting mostly of small early bulbs like snowdrops (of which I have plenty, thanks to some long-ago gardener) and Siberian squill. Anyway, my experience hasn’t borne out their suggestions. My deer did gobble up the muscari (grape hyacinths) and the Spanish bluebell foliage.

But waking up to a few new Turk’s Cap lilies, top, as I did yesterday, makes up for a lot. These are by my front door, and I have kept a spritz bottle of Deer-Out handy these past two weeks,  practically spraying each bud individually to insure their safe passage into bloom.

I’ll probably order some more bulbs. Alliums, surely, and a few other things I have circled…because hope springs eternal.

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Above, a new hanging basket: ‘Saturn’ coleus, Lysimachia ‘Outback Sunset,’ and, in back, some purple-leaved wandering Jew.

IMG_0203I HAVEN’T BEEN DOING AS MUCH WITH CONTAINERS this season, as I’m getting enough satisfaction from how my perennial beds are coming along in this, their second year. But sometimes I can’t resist potting up a few things for my front deck.

Pots allow you to fit many different shapes and textures into a small space, and when I see something unusual, like the ruffly upright Prince Rupert Geranium (lemon-scented!) at one of the area nurseries I’ve been avoiding this year, for fear of overspending on non-essentials, sometimes I just have to go for it.


In this one 15″ diameter pot, below, are:

  • Scented geranium ‘Prince Rupert,’ aromatic and ornamental. The label says it can be trained as a standard. Deer-resistant (though they wouldn’t dare come up on my decks… or would they?)
  • ‘Glennis’ coleus, more delicately colored than some of the more common coleus. Though I do love coleus in all its forms, and the deer don’t.
  • Good old sweet potato vine, ‘Bright Ideas Lime’
  • Juncus inflexus ‘Blue Arrows.’ As the name implies, an upright, blue, ornamental rush.
  • There’s also an elephant ear bulb in the middle, planted two months ago, starting to push its way up through the soil.

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Yay for containers! That’s all.

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TIME FOR A MID-SEASON APPRAISAL of annuals.

Some are disappointing. I won’t show pictures of them. You don’t need to see ‘Durango’ yellow marigolds that for some mysterious reason are not thriving, despite sun and even some Miracle-Gro, or common ‘Hawaii Blue’ ageratum turning all brown at the centers (why?).

In other years, I might not bother much with annuals, but because this is my first season gardening here in East Hampton, and my perennials are still babies, I wanted some additional spots of color. And of course, I always do annuals in containers.

There are quite a few successful, satisfying plants, both in the beds and in pots. The winners are pictured here.

To all a happy 4th!

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‘Bada Boom’ white begonias, ‘New Look’ dusty miller, and caladiums, thriving in shade.

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Chartreuse coleus? Can’t find the label, but its color really pops in the beds.

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Celosia ‘Fresh Look’ – my favorite new annual. I may never go without its bushy gold plumes again.

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‘Sweet Caroline’ green/yellow Ipomoea batatas — a type of sweet potato vine. More commonly used in hanging baskets, but I’ve planted it in a bed near the front door.

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Dark rose ‘Angel Mist’ angelonia, caladium tubers, dusty miller, and a supermarket oxalis left over from St. Patricks Day, flowering white in a pot on my front deck.

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