Flashback Friday – Golden Head Planter with a native Autumn Fern

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For this week’s Flashback Friday

Brilliance Autumn Fern in a Golden Head Planter

Dryopteris erythrosora ‘Brilliance’
Zone 5-8/9; Perennial and Native

Head Planters ContainerCrazyCT_0001

In season, this fern’s upright fronds remain a dark green color, as shown in the photo above when it was growing in the container during the early 2012 summer. The beautiful golden face planter with splashes of black was a find from the Pottery Barn store. Knowing it would glimmer in the summer sun, there was no hesitation to get one. Placing a fern in it was a good choice because the planter did not have a drain hole, and this fern can take moist conditions. I did not want to risk cracking this pot so a drain hole was not drilled into the bottom, as typically done so the roots may breath and not rot from overly wet soils. However, ferns can withstand moist conditions with appropriate controlled watering in pots. If I felt the soil was too wet from a rainfall, I would tip the pot to let the excess water drain out.

Head Pots (1)

The fern’s name includes the word ‘Autumn.’ I’ve read this is because when the plant is young, it is a copper color, but it also takes on highlights of copper later in the summer season. Here it was moved to a shadier spot on my deck that season because this fern prefers dappled shade.  It was easy to grow in a container garden (or head planter). Some perennials will return in stored containers – which is a topic I will be teaching in detail in the 2015 season when two Container Garden Workshops are scheduled in May.

Head Pots (3)

The golden color of the head pot is really rich.  As it was sitting next to another container garden with mixed plantings, including the thriller – a dark leaved Colocasia (elephant ear or taro), which was the cultivar, ‘Diamond Head,’ the effect was gorgeous. Colocasias are plants I plan to include in my plant ordering list every year. I love foliage and love how the big leaves toss from side to side in the wind and the plant will last all the way into the fall season, up to the last frost date, plus they are easily stored over the winter for regrowing every season here in my Connecticut planting zones (5-6).  By the way, the plant with yellow and red leaves in-front of the elephant ear is called Amaranthus tricolor – it was noticed during a “Walk and Talk” Pond Garden Tour last summer in my friend’s planter near her three-tiered water gardens which everyone seemed to like it and asked what the plant was. It really stands out in the right situations and has a unique look to it.

This particular Colocasia cultivar was not too big for its pot, even though its leaves reached about 3-4′ tall, because it has a compact habit.  While the Autumn Fern is a semi-evergreen perennial (hardy to zones 5-9 – and native), the elephant ear is a tropical type plant (not hardy to CT), but hardy to zones 8/9-10.  The Colocasia is a sun to part sun/shade plant so the exposure was fine next to my beautiful and elegant golden head planter with faces all around it.

So, again, the two pots near each other in a shady spot on my deck was a good combo for they enjoyed the shady mornings and dappled sun later in the day.  By the way, Autumn Ferns are deer resistant – good for gardens with deer eating issues. Most ferns grow best with a high organic matter content in the soil when grown in the garden.

Head Pots (2)

The following year, I planted a succulent in my golden head pot, a Kalanchoe. But, because I was unable to drill a drain hole, I inserted the plastic pot it was in into the golden head pot so water could drain freely below it without creating a overly wet base.

Kalanchoe plants prefer the opposite exposure of ferns.  They enjoy sun and dry soils, able to withstand drought like conditions, within reason, in a small pot. Ironically, the leaves on this plant also highlighted some copper to red coloring on the edges. Matching plants to pots should not be exact matches (what I call matchy-matchy) but connect to the pot somehow perhaps in a subtle way – as done with this fern and succulent because the pot of golden to copper colors highlighted the copper tones of the plants used – it just worked – at least for me – I loved the look!

Why Use Head Planters?

Head pots make heads turn – When used in your gardens as art, or in special pots as decor elements in your outdoor spaces, and inside the home during the winter season.  And when you change up the plant in a pot – you change up the feeling, look, and affect of the pot or planter itself.  A big fern like plant gives it an exotic hairdo style, a smaller succulent may keep the head pot looking tidy and neat – it is fun to play with and – thus – I will share more in my ‘Flashback Friday’ posts about my head planters of other styles soon.

Happy Friday Everyone – T.G.I.F.

Cathy Testa

“A Blog to share Container Garden Passions and Nature Combined with Art”

For more information about this fern shown in my new Flashback Friday posts, see the Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder.

Beautiful Houseplants can be found at Moscarillo’s

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Sometimes when I enter a garden center, I can spot their strong suit. In the case of Moscarillo’s of West Hartford, CT, it was definitely their beautiful selection of healthy house plants. This is not to imply they don’t have much more to offer, because they do, but I was particularly impressed with their house plants, dish gardens, and orchids.

But before going to their greenhouse filled with them, I ventured into their perennial section. The outdoor tables were labeled with individual wooden letters by alpha order to help you find a plant. Need an Epimedium for example, go to the big E on a stake. Clever and unique, I thought. It helps the customer find their way.Soil

They also had nice neatly stacked bags of soil for the garden and containers, which I thought was well labeled and placed on the grounds. Although I must admit, I like when soil is under some type of cover because we all know what it feels like to carry wet soil.  I always prefer bags which are clean, not wet or torn, and when under cover it helps. However, their bags were in fine and in clean conditions.

As I walked past the soil area, I noticed a back door to greenhouse was open, so I pushed my shopping cart inside and spotted pitcher plants and bonsai specimens in front of me, but also saw many house plants in this greenhouse. It was filled with good looking house plants. I think I said out loud, Ah Nice.

Alpha lettering

Why are good looking and healthy important?  Because insects spread quickly on unhealthy plants, especially if moved into a home where perhaps conditions are not ideal, and it can happen quickly. It’s best to select a plant with no problems from the start.


Another aspect that pleased me, was the cleanliness in general. This greenhouse was fairly packed but not unkept.  And then, I began to notice their dish gardens with orchids. The orchids were pristine, and the dish gardens well done. My mind said to me, someone here knows what they are doing.

There were some Jade plants that I thought were perfect for creating head planters, like mine shown below. They also had small plants of Norfolk island pine next to a large specimen on display. The pine has handsome foliage. Its an evergreen plant, great for the patio with medium light, or as a house plant. It grows to 8′ tall so high ceilings are helpful.


Jade head

There was a gift shop and even a little section with fresh veggies. Nice touch.  As I paid for my items, I laughed at the register person’s shirt which read — Stay Calm and Moscarillo’s On.  We discussed the origin of the saying, but that’s another story.


Moscarillo’s is located at 2600 Albany Avenue, West Hartford, CT 06117.

Website:  www.moscarillos.com

Telephone: 860-236-5487 or 800-464-9106

Dish Gardens

They have a small ad in the Garden Trail book, but a big area and offerings at their nursery. Worth a visit on your travels, especially if you are looking for a beautiful houseplant.

more Dish Gardens



Written by Cathy Testa