Kitschy garden ornaments have never had much appeal for me, so I was pleasantly surprised last month at the good looks of a small, antique iron cart filled with trailing asparagus ferns and yellow chrysanthemums. It sat on an entry porch exuding a quiet cachet at a clubhouse in Santa Rosa, as it welcomed members and guests.
It may have been the woodsy setting or the proximity to Thanksgiving that set the tone, yet it was enough for me to pick up two autumn ferns (Dryopteris erythrosora) and a yellow mum on my way home and picture them sitting in an oblong bronze planter on my own doorstep.
This simple combination tolerates rain and cool weather and seemed just the right accent and informal welcome at our home.
Today, the mums are gone and a festive poinsettia has taken their place.
The initial planting wasn't actually a planting at all, merely pots set inside a 10-by-24-inch decorative planter of open metal work. Now the grouping rests in potting mix held in place by a coir insert the same dimensions as the container.
The poinsettia sits snugly in the center, still in its pot. In a week or so, it will come out and pansies (Viola) or primroses (Primula) will take its place, this time transplanted directly into the potting soil. These should be content to bloom and re-bloom alongside their ferny companions until summer.
Dressing up entryways for holidays seems easy enough because we rely on traditional symbols, but it's even easier to create long-term décor with plants. Unless the front yard is landscaped up to the doorstep, an entry area remains fairly austere. Whether filled with evergreens or seasonal colors, containers can banish the bleakness of an empty concrete stoop or faceless flight of steps.
A vibrant, living focal point creates a welcoming impression, always at its peak if you're willing to treat it as a small, working garden.
For the most part, that means changing out all or some of the plants each season, deadheading repeat blooms on flowering species, and watering and fertilizing regularly.