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DIY Pumpkin Planters

Perk up your fall porch or table with a pumpkin packed with blooms. Instead of putting a candle in a jack-o-lantern, hollow out a pumpkin and use cool weather plants for a festive look that is sure to impress every guest. We recommend soaking your cut pumpkin in a quick bath of bleach before placing plants in. This will prolong the pumpkin once it's been cut. Poke a few holes in a tin can or small container and place inside your cut pumpkin. Add your plants, some soil and a little sprinkle of fertilizer. Try pansies, ornamental cabbage and kale, mums, or hardy succulents. Top off your finished planter with floral picks, sprigs of berries and even strands of lights. After Halloween, enjoy your planter into Thanksgiving. When the pumpkin declines, simply pop your plants into a new pumpkin or into a garden bed or container. So go for it -- think outside the pot, grab a pumpkin and get started!

TIP: In addition to pumpkins, try mixing butternut squash and gourds as well for container options.

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Trees for Beautiful Fall Color

by Kathy Van Mullekom, a lifelong gardener and gardening writer living in York County, Virginia

I’ve always wanted an October Glory maple tree for its red fall color. Finally, several years ago, I got one and I couldn’t be happier. About this time of year, its vivid red foliage warms me on cool October days.

Maples, among my favorite trees, are just a few of the shade trees that put on an eye-catching display of color when temperatures begin to cool and prepare us for winter. In fact, sugar maple entertains you with a color wheel throughout the year – pale green leaves that mature to dark green and then to yellow, orange and red.

Our bald cypress features finely textured green leaves that turn nice shades of bronze and brown before dropping to the ground where they are so easy to rake up and place in beds as naturally decomposing compost.

Crape myrtles, the 100 days of flowers in summer, provide several weeks of fall color, their leaves in shades of red, orange and yellow, depending on the variety.

Our Japanese maples – Coral Bark and Crimson Queen -- change from lime green and dark green into yellow and red, respectively. In winter, Coral Bark lives up to its name, its bark a showy red-pink that stands out against the starkness of the winter landscape.

Last, but not least, “my girl,” as I like to call our female eastern red cedar, takes on stronger bluish-green hues with bluish-green fruits decorating her boughs as the holidays arrive. She’s among my favorite trees in the yard because she provides songbirds with shelter, nesting spots and food.

Other trees that provide spectacular fall color include black tupelo that can contain many shades of yellow, orange, red, purple and scarlet on the same branch; sweet gum with star-shaped leaves that look yellow, purple and red; and our native dogwood with its fiery red leaves and ornamental fruits.

If your yard lacks trees with autumn color, now is the perfect time to add one, two or three. Fall planting is best for trees, shrubs and perennials because the root systems establish before hot, dry weather arrives again. Then, you can add a few pumpkins, as well as pots of mums, pansies and ornamental kale, for a picture-perfect fall décor.

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It's all about Pansies!

Lucky for us gardeners, planting isn't just a spring activity. Your gardening season doesn't have to be over in the fall. Pansies are a great way to extend your blooms into cold weather.

When selecting pansies, think about the surrounding area that they’ll be planted in. Annuals are used to not only provide beautiful color but to also give contrast in the existing landscape. With so many beautiful vibrant colors to chose from, the last thing you want to do is pick a color that will blend in with the existing landscape. Choose colors to POP! One of the best things about pansies is how low maintenance and care free they are. They are a tough annual that survive even the harshest environments. With just a little TLC, you can keep a tight form and keep them blooming all season long. Pansies tend to get a bit leggy at times. If this occurs, simply pinch them back. Depending on how large they have gotten you may even take them back to half of their existing size. This will stimulate new growth resulting in a tighter plant. You may lose a few blooms right off the bat but in the long run it will make for a much more attractive plant.

Another tip to encourage flowering and growth is proper fertilizer. When you fertilize, pay attention to the nitrogen (the first number listed on a fertilizer), and the phosphorus (the middle number listed). Those are the components of a fertilizer that promote leaf growth and flowering. We recommend McDonald Greenleaf fertilizer specifically formulated for Hampton Roads… it’s what we use on our own plants and it has been a customer favorite for years.

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