Pot Luck

The recipe for a spectacular cool-weather container? According to mood or decor, combine a handful of show-stopping plants, some bright berries and an evergreen sprig.

Never mind mums. Today’s late-season outdoor pots brim with personality. Richard Clark, owner of Clark Farms Garden Center in Wakefield, and Clark Farms designer Pam Tourtelott, who created these earthy delights, suggest five to seven plants for a fourteen- to eighteen-inch container. Think height, texture and color, Clark advises. In a pot against the wall, puffy trailing plants go in front, mid-high plants are fillers, grasses sit in back. Water two or three times a week; full to partial sun is ideal. At season’s end, perennials live on as mulch.

In the pot
1 Ajuga reptans ‘Black Scallop’ is a reliable perennial. This species, unlike some, is not invasive.
2 Salvia icterina, variegated golden sage, is a culinary herb.
3 Salix contorta, better known as ‘Curly Willow,’ lends architectural effect, says Clark.
4 Euphorbia efanthia sports burgundy-tinged foliage.
5 Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’ makes a great addition to rock gardens.
6 Coreopsis ‘Limerock Passion’ is a deer- and rabbit-resistant perennial that keeps producing color till mid-fall.


To convey holiday greetings, switch to an energized red pot. Many of the container plants Clark and Tourtelott use hail from Proven Winners (at provenwinners.com or local garden centers). Your backyard also holds treasures—evergreen sprays, pinecones, nuts, rose hips—so mix freely. “We’re not planning for much growth right now. This is all about instant gratification,” Clark says.

In the pot
1 Pine and arborvitae; any kind will do.
2 Winterberry’s bright red draws the eye.
3 Variegated kale’s leathery texture lightens the look.
4 Pennisetum rubrum, or ‘Purple Fountain Grass,’ is popular in dried arrangements as well.
5 Dried pepperberries; faux are fine—the birds won’t eat them.
6 Euphorbia efanthia, another perennial to snuggle in the border, has dense foliage making it a container showstopper.
7 Ajuga reptans ‘Black Scallop.’


Who said fall translates as the end of blossoms? Inject a bit of leftover summer into your tableau by also including some cheery, hearty bloomers. A simple vessel crammed with flowers and foliage is an undisputed spirit-lifter and a bountiful statement on a chilly day.

In the pot
1 Purple cabbage is a favorite autumn celebrity.
2 Osteospermum fruticosa ‘Soprano Purple’ is an annual. “Enjoy it now,” Clark says, “then say goodbye.”
3 Carex flagellifera ‘Toffee Twist’ is also an annual. This ornamental grass has a dried look perfect for fall arrangements.
4 Variegated golden sage is an edible herb you can cook with turkey.
5 Petunia calibrachoa, or Million Bells ‘Terra Cotta,’ is an annual mini-petunia that’s not easily deterred by frost.


Talk about presence. An artful but simple combo like this can hold its own near a formal front entry as well as by the back door. No foliage mimics the other and that—along with the vibrant berries and shiny container—is the key. Should a plant begin to show its age, pluck it out and plunge in a new variety or a couple of pinecones. 

In the pot
1 Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’ is a drought-resistant, creepy-crawly perennial that will happily work its way along a sunny path next summer.
2 Heuchera micrantha ‘Stormy Seas,’ a hummingbird delicacy in flower, also gains acclaim for its silvery, luxe leaves.
3 Variegated kale.
4 Pepperberry, arborvitae and pine.