You've dusted, vacuumed, washed the windows, scrubbed the bathroom, polished the floor and purged yourself of those piles of old magazines and newspapers. You've created an autumnal centerpiece, ironed the linens, washed the fine china and set out a few mini pumpkins, gourds and Indian corn. Your house is finally ready for Thanksgiving guests.

Or is it?

What will guests see as they stand on your porch with their hot dish offerings, bottles of wine or pies, waiting for you to answer the doorbell?

Homeowners who obsessively turn their homes into roadside attractions for Christmas with lights, wreaths and decorations may completely miss the gravyboat when it comes to setting the stage for Thanksgiving.

The entry is an easy place to forget, says Fionuala Campion of Cottage Gardens Nursery in Petaluma.

"Most people go in and out through the garage. You honestly don't even see the entryway unless someone you know is at the door. And when you're not walking back and forth on your front porch, you may not even notice, or take care of, the plants on your doorstep. You don't even see the your porch until your guests arrive," she added.

To create a cozy autumnal feeling, try adding some pots or containers to your porch — or freshen the ones you already have — with plants whose colors will telegraph the season and make your home more inviting.

This doesn't have to be a big project, just a trip to the nursery for some potting soil and a few plants.

Choose pots that are terra-cotta or have earthy tones. They don't have to match, just work well together, says Susan Hatch, co-manager of King's Nursery in Santa Rosa.

You might also create several sizes for visual interest, like several tall urns with a few low pots or bowls.

If your existing pots are too bright or summery, Campion says, you don't have to buy new ones. Simply tone them down for fall by wrapping them in burlap or raffia ribbon.

"You could even use old flour sacks. Just be creative," she says.

Start with a good potting soil with fertilizer. Hatch likes Master Nursery brand soils, which are organic with a nice texture that's not too fine or too chunky. Adding a fertilizer like Osmocote will provide food for your plants throughout winter and keep the containers looking good.

Plants look best if you put something tall in the back of the pot and plant densely so the soil is completely covered. Plant something that drapes to hang over the edge. For interest, choose plants with a variety of forms and textures.

Succulents make great potted plants, and they can remain year round. Nice for autumn is the Sedum "Angelina" with bright green foliage that turns orangish or reddish in the fall.

"Another succulent that is very effective in any autumn arrangement is the Sedum 'Coppertone,'" Campion says. "It's slightly upward growing and muscular looking with orange tones over a chartreuse green base. It's got more orange than any other succulent I know, which makes it great for Thanksgiving."

Also good for autumn and a nice companion in a pot with Coppertone is Jovibara "Irene," a succulent with dark maroon leaves with a nice little edging of green.

Hatch acknowledges that autumn is nothing like the embarrassment of riches you can work with in summer. But there still are many plants to choose from during the cooler months to beautify your entryway containers.

Big, bodacious ornamental kales and cabbages, like Tokyo Rose, are striking in arrangements. Combine them in pots with calendulas, euphorbias, lantana, yellow Iceland poppies, nemesia, perennial alyssum and Coprosma "Rainbow Sunset," which presents bright colors in winter.

Don't forget that grasses make nice foliar additions to containers. Consider, says Hatch, various Carexes or Cordyline, also known as Festival Grass, which is a striking purple.

You could also keep it simple with a single potted tree like an olive or a Cotinus, commonly called Smoke Tree, which gives a burst of flaming orange, red or purple in the fall.

<i>You can reach Staff Writer Meg McConahey at meg.mcconahey@pressdemocrat.com or 521-5204.</i>