Evading Jack Frost

Lantana & Plectranthus windowbox in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Lantana & Plectranthus windowbox photo credit: Kathy Diemer)

I know it’s hard to imagine on a day like today, with the sun shining high in the crystal blue sky, but yes, Mr. Frost is planning his first visit tonight.  Although most of my annual containers have reached the compost heap, there are still a few that look wonderful and I am saddened by the thought of having to bid them adieu.  Sigh . . . it’s that time again.

But, instead of feeling glum about the end of the annual season, I’ll be optimistic about sharing a few plants that really stuck it out to the end.  A few flowering annuals that bloomed consistently all year, a few foliage annuals that flourished, and some of them that have actually evaded Jack so far . . .

Lantana 'Blaze' in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Lantana ‘Blaze’ (photo credit: Kathy Diemer)

For the hot desert heat of my southern exposure window boxes, lantana ‘Blaze’ and variegated plectranthus vine, plectranthus coleoides ‘White Surf’, continued to astonish me all summer.  Yes, I do water and fertilize religiously, but don’t deadhead or tend these plants in any other way.  The plectranthus falls out of the window boxes, determined to reach the driveway a story below.  Often the soft tendrils touch my head as I walk out of the garage.  And the jolly red-yellow-orange-pink blooms of lantana illuminate the boxes while luring bees, butterflies and hummingbirds in for closer inspection.  (It’s a lovely view from inside watching the various visitors as we have our morning coffee).  Because the window boxes are up higher, the bold colors and foliage contrast are important for making maximum visual impact.  This tried-and-true combination is perfect for a super hot spot where many other “sun loving” annuals have wilted away despite my best efforts.

Osteospermum & Solanum vine in A Garden for All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Osteospermum & Solanum vine after frost (photo credit: Kathy Diemer)

The front of my house has a covered porch that receives sun exposure until early afternoon.  This is the preferred climate for many light colored coleus and osteospermum, which together make a  combination I have grown with great success.   Coleus provides the complementary back drop and the gay osteospermum weaves between the foliage and peeks out with bright daisy-like flowers.  Coleus has become so popular, rightfully so, and there are a wide range of shades from chartreuse to deep burgundy.  This year I jazzed up the container by adding a variegated solanum, Jasminoides aurea, which whimsically vined up and down through the coleus and African daisy.  Osteospermum’s choices are also pretty vast, from white to peachy oranges, yellows and purples.  I chose ‘Voltage Yellow’ because it stands out from my shady porch setting and I love the way it looks with many shades of coleus. Osteospermum does have a few idiosyncrasies; it’s flowers open at sunrise and close at sunset.  And, this is one annual that laughs in the face of Jack Frost.  It will be blooming right alongside your pumpkins this Halloween!

So, take heart garden friends.  Although our summer is at an end, next spring will be here before you know it-and you’ll have the ammunition to create exciting new containers when it arrives!

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