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I've been keeping quiet about something I'm not proud of. You might even say that I'm been trying to hide it. The truth is, I'm ashamed of the sad, pathetic state of the flowers in our front urns. It's a disgrace in fact. With limited opportunity for curb appeal, having no yard to speak of nor having a home that has vast architectural interest, making the most of what we have out front is of utmost importance. 

Earlier this spring, we spruced up the front of our home by overhauling the small planted area surrounding our city tree, as well as taking special time and care to select, plant, and care for the new flowers in our cast iron urns. We were thrilled with the results, and once the flowers came into bloom, we had showstopping urns. 

Despite our best efforts, the scorching summer temperatures took their toll on our poor flowers. They were teetering on the brink of death, and when returning home from our vacation earlier this month, we learned they had lost their battle. Although still lively in places, the vast majority of our flowers were dried, brown, and lifeless.

With a long fall season ahead of us, I knew we couldn't live with this sad mess for the next couple months. So I picked up a multipack of mums at our local Lowes for around $10, hoping to infuse a little color and life into these planters. 

So I got to work pulling out the dead and dying flowers. I also decided to yank out a dead section of the sky pencil in the left urn, seen in the picture below. The only things I left in there were the trailing sweet potato vines.

Alex has been saying for months that he thinks this sky pencil is in a death spiral, and boy was he right. After I pulled out the dead section, the sky pencil looked hollow and wimpy. It was so bad in fact, that I had to turn the urn around, so the open section was better concealed by the house.

After removing the dead flowers, I got to work planting the mums, hoping these new fresh flowers in yellow, purple, and orange would somehow round out the look. The results? Mediocre at best. It definitely looks better now, and I know the mums will fill in a bit as they grow, but I'm not wowed by the results. 

I'm going to give it a week or so to see how the mums are doing. I have an itching to just ditch everything in the urns and create pumpkin topiaries for the season, but then again, knowing how pumpkins tend to disappear from doorsteps in our neighborhood, it might not be worth the time and effort.

Apparently the squirrels voted that they didn't like the new look. This was the view this morning after one of those little bastards ripped a sweet potato vine from its location in the dirt. That poor little vine has seen better days, that's for sure.

What do you think? Should I give these new guys a chance, or simply cut my losses and go big for the fall season? Have you been doing any fall planting to spruce up your garden or home? Are there any other cool weather plants you might recommend? I'm a gardening novice, so any advice is appreciated. 

Comments 18


10/3/2012 at 10:48 AM
kay. Your sky pencil is not getting the right amount of light/water. You may want to re-eval. Boxwoods should get at least four hours of sunlight from 11 to 5, and be constantly moist... but not damp.

for the mums... they're not gonna get much bigger this year. So, you'll have the problem with squirrels no matter what. Two ideas.. get mesh screen, cut holes in it to plant your mums and sweet potato vines, and then bury in mulch mixed with hot pepper flakes or Sour Apple Spray.

As for the plants... this summer was a killer. the planter took a beating because of the dry conditions. They needed less mid afternoon light, and more water.

I love to look at BHG's website for ideas...

try stacking with trailing plants, mid-levels that will fill in above it, and then something with height.

Fall is tricky, so maybe some licorice plant, a beautiful grass, and some million bells/ornamental peppers/coral bells (perennial)/trailing thyme or something like that.

Some other places for inspiration...

you lost that tree in the front, you can put some really pretty shrubs in there to echo your color schemes. I am dealing with blues/bronzes/burgundies out in front right now, and am in love with

Purple emperor sedum

There is a chick at Merrifield in Fair Oaks that I love talking too.. I don't know her name but she is about our age, my height, and is about to get married to another dude who works at merrifield. She has helped me out a ton over the past six months in planning, and i am pulling the trigger and couldn't be happier.
I bow down to your amazing knowledge of all things gardening!! Thanks so much for all the helpful tips and links. We were thinking about possibly relocating two of the tall grass plants from the front planting area around the tree to the urns, and now having seen the inspiration pic from BHG, I think I'm sold. :-)
10/3/2012 at 10:49 AM
PS Don't get discouraged. This year was a killer for everyone unless you watered every day. Vacations killed my plants, and *ohwell*
Carrie Cole Jolly
10/3/2012 at 10:49 AM
I saw someone who had hollowed out pumpkins and planted the mums in the pumpkins it looked really cute
Sounds adorable! We did something similar for our wedding -- used hollowed out pumpkins as the vases for our center pieces. I love fall!
10/3/2012 at 11:21 AM
You're not alone in what the summer did to your plants. And, those bastard squirrels love to dig up my annuals and eat the roots.
You too, huh? Every day I'm out there replanting that sad sweet potato vine! I think I'm about to surrender. :-)
10/3/2012 at 12:10 PM
I didn't plant very much this year thankfully, since summer kicked their asses. Even in the shade!
Our garden didn't do well either. Unfortunately it was a lot of wasted effort!
10/4/2012 at 10:25 AM
For next summer, research succulent plants. They hold moisture in their fleshy leaves and are forgiving if mother nature or you forget to water them, in fact they prefer it a bit dry once established. They come in a wide variety of colors and textures, and are beautiful and artistic when combined.
Thanks for the tip, Linda! I'll definitely have to look into that next year.
10/4/2012 at 10:29 AM
I like the mum idea, I just think you need bigger ones. I got some 8" mums at the local food store for $4, a few of that size will fill up the bottom urn. Plants don't grow much now so I try to fill in the space now, not plan for growth.
Good point, Kim! I think we need to add a few more plants to round out the look. It's pretty sparse as is!
10/6/2012 at 12:35 PM
I pulled up a tuber from my sweet potato vines last year. I must not have gotten them all because there was some new growth this year. I have two large planters in front of my house. It is a pain when one side dies and not the other. I have orphan shrubs in pots in my back yard! My house is in the Irish Channel in New Orleans, and sits on the street very much like yours, and my backyard is mostly brick. When I tried to plant fruit trees I found more brick under an inch of soil. I am scared to really dig down for fear of what I might find!
I know what you mean about orphan plants. :-)

I bet you could find some really cool artifacts given your location! When we were digging the hole for the pond in the backyard, we found shards of china, glass, and old oyster shells.
10/8/2012 at 9:53 AM
You might also want to consider some winter cabbage/kale for the planters. They're available now at most garden centers, and will mature into some pretty colors during the colder months anyway. you could plant them around the sky pencil! I just got some for my planters, and have been happy with them so far.
Thanks for the tip! I love winter cabbage/kale, especially this time of year.
10/11/2012 at 11:48 AM
Ditch the mums. They only bloom once in many cases and don't grow quickly.

Get pansies. They'll put on a show all winter and some varieties will come back in the spring. You know the Wave Petunias? They've now made a Wave Pansy. Southern Living featured them and they seem like a great option:
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