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Archive for Fall Gardening – Page 2

3 Colorful Shrubs for Fall

Compact Burning Bush
The most popular variety of Euonymus alata ‘Compacta’ because people think it will be small, say 3′ x 3′.  It is not the least bit small and easily grows into a beautiful small tree.  The smallest variety on the market is called ‘Rudy Haag’ 5′ x 5′.   Even the variety called ‘Pip Squeak’  is 6′ x 5′.  If Burning Bush is not placed with room to grow, these shrubs get turned into ugly muffins by frustrated gardeners.  If it is sheared properly, thinner at the top and wider at the bottom, this can be a very attractive hedge but it will need to be sheared two or three times a year.  Ugh! Too much work for me.

pipsqeck burning bush monrovia 8959268-largeI love to use this shrub as a shree (part shrub, part small tree).  A client of mine, Ruth in Scappoose has hers planted in full sun and pruned into small multi-stem trees.  They are underplanted with a hot orange summer flowering Euphorbia which is a wow combination.  These “shrees” have been in their location for over ten years and they are not irrigated at all. Other than having a professional pruning every year or three, this privacy planting is very low maintenance and simply stunning. The ridged and winged bare stems of the Burning Bush are attractive and add winter interest.  To establish this plant, water it once a week, or twice in hot weather.  Once established, it will thrive with once a week watering.  As it ages in place it needs less and less water.  A plus … The deer don’t bother this plant in Ruth’s garden.

Fothergilla 'Mt Airy', (Bottlebrush) in full fall color.

Fothergilla ‘Mt Airy’, (Bottlebrush) in full fall color.

Witch Alder (also called Bottlebrush)
This shrub has two seasons of wow, one is spring where the fragrance is heavenly, the bottle brush flowers are attractive in flower arrangements and if pruned properly, the shape of this “shree” will look good year round.  The 2nd wow is the fall color.

Fothergilla (BottleBrush) fragrant flowers on naked stems delight in spring

Fothergilla (BottleBrush) fragrant flowers on naked stems delight in spring

This plant, Fothergilla ‘Mt. Airy’ will need regular water until it has been in place for many years. Almost all plants, even those listed as drought tolerant, look better with some irrigation in our Pacific NW Mediterranean style summer. See fabulous colorful art made from these leaves!!!

Gatsbys Moon Hydrangea

Hydrangea Quercifolia Oakleaf Hydrangea ‘Gatsby’s Moon’ is a new variety from Proven Winners.

Oakleaf Hydrangea 
I’ve written about this plant many times but that’s because it’s so great.  The full size plant may not fit in most landscapes but there are two semi dwarf plants that will.  These plants have huge white conical flowers in mid- summer that fade to a nice pink.  In fall the large and well textured leaf turn the most fabulous rich reds and stay on the plant well past Thanksgiving.  These leaves always go in my Thanksgiving table centerpiece.  Once the leaves fall, there is great rusty exfoliating bark on the stems that glow in the winter light.

Hydrangea quercifolia, Oakleaf Hydrangea ‘Sikes Dwarf’ and ‘Pee Wee’ are the two varieties I use the most. They are NOT tiny shrubs, still expect a 3′ to 4′ wide and tall plant.  My experience is that ‘Sikes Dwarf’ is taller than ‘Pee Wee’.  The leaves are smaller than the species, 4 to 5 inches instead of 8 to 10 inches and they still have the interesting grainy texture and great flowers. One drawback … deer seem to like the leaves.  It is native to the South Eastern United States.

It’s easier to prune than a traditional hydrangea AND it doesn’t need as much water.  If you want you can cut it off at the ground in late winter and start over.  Here is a video “How to Prune Oak Leaf Hydrangea”  by Cass Turnbull of Plant Amnesty.

Protecting plants from winter cold starts in summer

One More Reason to not over water this August.   It will help keep your plants alive this winter.

Plants that don’t get the message to slow down in late summer and fall, don’t go dormant in time for winter cold. Your plant needs dormancy to survive. Start now to protect them before old man winter arrives.

Iron gate design with snow

1. Do you over water in August? This is a biggie for a plant tombstone. Overwatering in summer and fall can cause plants to ignore the signals, such as shortened days that tell them to slow down. Try to learn how to water properly.

TIP: A garden coach session could solve this problem for you!

2. Fertilizing plants that don’t need it causes lush growth and can interfere with dormancy.  80% of your plants don’t need any commercial fertilizer at all. The best practice is to place an inch or two of mulch (or compost) around your plants in spring and in early winter …. prior to Thanksgiving is a good time these days with our early freezing temps in the recent past.

3. Severe pruning late in the summer or fall can signal plants to push growth. Signs of tender, new growth in fall or early winter is not a good thing. There are exceptions to this rule of course, nature isn’t fair and makes learning which plants are fine with “whacking” and which are not, takes time, concentration or a good teacher.

4. Plants that are considered drought tolerant are especially sensitive to over watering, fertilizing and severe pruning.  Italian Cypress, Crape Myrtle and rosemary are good examples of plants that can be cold hardy here with knowledge based care.

5. Placement of Zone 7 and 8 plants into areas where the winter east wind will reach them is risky. Plant these evergreens such as large leaf hebes and New Zealand flax plants where the house or other plants will shield them. (Tiny leafed hebes are a better choice anyway). If you are in our East county and can’t shield plants from the winter wind from the Columbia Gorge, consider a different plant palette, plants that do well in Boise (zone 5) come to mind. Small leafed evergreens like dwarf conifers are a great choice. Plants that are deciduous (leaves fall off in winter) are completely dormant and therefore safe from the cold East wind.

Five Important Garden Tips

Landscape Designer Irvington Portland Landscape Designer Carol Lindsay in M Wynton design

Carol Lindsay at Garden Designers Tour 2013 M. Wynton Design

Five Important Garden Tips You Need

Weeds and Garden Mulch

Use mulch or even bark dust initially. The first two years in your new landscape are critical for controlling weeds. While installing your new plants, the soil has probably been disturbed and this wakes up dormant seeds causing perhaps hundreds to germinate a a time. If you are diy, cover your soil with 2″ of garden mulch. Mulch is best for your soil and plants but if you have to have low maintenance no matter what, top dress your soil yearly with a dark hemlock bark for the first two years. After you are through the worst of it start applying a garden mulch at least once a year. This mulch will feed your soil and you won’t need fertilizer. 90 percent of plants live happily and healthily with applications of garden mulch and do need commercial fertilizers. There are many exceptions to these rules: SW desert style or xeric plantings like manzanita should not be fertilized or even top dressed with garden mulch ever. Gardenias are fertilizer pigs. Edibles like tomatoes….need fertilizers to produce food.

Get rid of blackberry and ivy

Treating blackberry and ivy with Roundup at the wrong time of year (spring and early summer) is pretty much useless.  In the Pacific NW late summer and early fall is the time when blackberry and ivy are most susceptible to glysophate (Roundup) herbicide. It’s a million times more effective in late summer and early fall.

In an ideal world we would not use herbicides at all;  if you are going to use them, use them sparingly correctly, and at a seasonal time when they will be effective.  For more information see my blog:  Treating blackberry and ivy .  I want acknowledge in light of recent research and court cases, we don’t know the full extent of harm Roundup and other herbicides cause.  It’s still the most practical way to reclaim our native plant areas from the stranglehold of Himalayan black berry and English ivy.  Digging out small areas of blackberries is also effective and better for the health of  mammals and other life forms.

Learn how to water-Watering every day is not your friend

Over watering or under watering new plant material is a typical cause of plant loss. Your common sense watering will kill your plants if you don’t have the specific information for the specific plant type.  You can’t water a new tree the same way you would water your petunias.  I insist my garden coach clients have a written watering plan for the first two years of their new landscape.  I tell them how long to water and to hand check the soil to see if their efforts are successful.  Last, but not least, if you’re watering every day you are in line for losing a lot of new plant material.

Sedum s Red Carpet in winter

Colorful tough ground cover for full sun

Plant labels lie.

Trust me it’s not a conspiracy, but they write the label so that it makes sense for the entire country.  In the Northwest we have the ideal growing conditions so plants will grow taller and wider than indicated.  In addition, just because a plants mature size is 15’ tall, does not mean it will stop growing once it gets there.

Learn light requirements for your plants

It’s not so easy. Labels don’t have enough room to explain the complexities of sunlight, let alone the four different kinds of shade.    Great Plant Picks is a great information resource in many ways, and has an excellent explanation about the different kinds of shade.   There is no perfect solution, even checking the Web will get you four different suggestions for light requirements on a single plant.  This is why experienced gardeners often move plants that don’t seem to thrive in the first location they select.  Others hire designers who know these things first hand.

Carol on a garden coach appointment in Irvington neighborhood Portland Oregon

“Thank you so much for all your information today and your helpful phone call Saturday.  I was pulling out plants in my mind as I was going to sleep last night.  I can’t wait to get started!”  D’Anne Oneill

No hedge pruning unless it’s a hedge

Pruning.  My best advice is don’t let your father-in-law prune your Japanese Maple!  Do not do hedge pruning on plants that are not hedges.  Too much learning already? most of my clients don’t want to become an expert gardener anymore than I want to become a computer technician!! Most just want a healthy and attractive landscape.  In which case, hire someone else to prune for you. While I certainly advocate for hiring a garden coach (since I am one) you can learn from a local nursery, community college or someone who has trees and shrubs that don’t have a bunch of stubs on them.  We want pruning that will enhance a plant’s natural and unique shape. Better yet, contact me to see if I have a real gardener I can refer you to.  Twice a year visits or less to handle pruning will save your trees and shrubs from your good intentions.

Mushroom Season Dangerous to Dogs

Dog with mushrooms

Are these mushrooms poisonous?

Mushroom season dangerous to dogs.

While walking with a friend and her dog in late November we noticed a miniature forest of mushrooms under a large tree right next to a dog park.  My advice is to presume they are toxic even though they may well be harmless.  Pick them as soon as you see them; (make sure you are wearing gloves) bag them and put them in the garbage and not in your compost.   When they are toxic they can be deadly.  Humans can have a liver transplant but dogs cannot.  Watch closely wherever you have removed trees.  The roots will decompose and fungi will grow.

“If your dog becomes ill, and you suspect mushroom ingestion, place the vomitus and any bowel movements in a plastic bag for identification, and refrigerate the bag. Try to have the contents identified within 24 hours. Notify your veterinarian that your dog may have ingested a mushroom, so that he or she can be alert to clinical signs that may require treatment.”

I’m not fond of creating blogs with scary content, but there are many people who do not know about poisonous mushrooms in their home landscape.

Hydrangeas: More Popular Than Ever!

So much it deserves repeating: hydrangeas are more popular than ever! They belong on the list of plants for new gardeners who demand low care plants and also on the lists of seasoned gardeners who live to be working in their garden. They are easy care. Some people do almost nothing at all and the plants give them lots of satisfaction. Some gardeners fine tune their hydrangeas with thoughtful but simple pruning and applying the correct fertilizer to create the most vivid colored flowers.

The selection and diversity of hydrangeas has expanded to a dizzying level. You probably will need me to help you find the right plant for your location, and personal style.  Fall is an excellent time to plant hydrangea.

That said, here is a list of most kinds of hydrangeas available at nurseries and garden centers:

Oak Leaf Hydrangeas
Rustic good looks followed by dazzling fall color on leaves, a backbone garden plant and easy care. Select a dwarf variety unless you are among the rare homeowner with tons of land. The species can easily be 8′ x 8′ given time. There are dwarf and semi dwarf plants to fit every landscape. I will repeat myself, this is a very low maintenance plant IF you get the right size. Its a sad day and a no win situation if you get one that gets too big. You’ll chop on it and spoil it and it will have to go. It is low water once established but must have good drainage. No fertilizer is needed, I would use garden mulch or compost each fall for the nutrients needed.

Basic Mop Head Hydrangea
The old tried and true Hydrangea macrophylla is beloved by old and young, in modern and cottage garden styles.

Mop heads need a special fertilizer called Nitroform Blue if you want the intense blue flowers they are so well known for. It can take a few years to accomplish so be sure no other fertilizers get near these plants. Joy Creek Nursery stocks it.  The new thing with this plant is the twice blooming or ever blooming hydrangea such as Endless Summer and Blushing Bride. The 2nd flowering of fresh flowers in the fall is beautiful. It was developed for areas that are so cold you can lose the first flowering.  Here on the west coast the price you pay however, is you lose the subtle and yummy intense coloring of the flower that ages in place.

Hydrangea paniculata
The biggest changes in hydrangeas have occurred in this species. We now have many varieties that require nearly full sun. The size of the flower has also increased dramatically. They use to only come in whitish green (such as the old Pee Gee Hydrangea) but now they have created varieties of palest pink to raspberry sherbet.

Here is my list of hydrangeas you should know about.

Lace-cap Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Blaumiese’)

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Blaumeise'This vase shaped hydrangea can take a great deal of shade but don’t get crazy. There are no hydrangeas for deep shade.

Mine was attractive in deeply dappled afternoon sun.

It’s also listed as a Great Plant Pick so other experts have picked it out of the crowd.

Mountain Hydrangea (Hydrangea preziosa ‘Serratta’)

Hydrangea serrata 'Preziosa'
This smaller hydrangea (highlighted in my October enewsletter) takes a lot of sun, has intense fall flower color changes and the leaf has strong fall color which is unusual for a mop head.


Dwarf Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea Quercifolia ‘Sikes Dwarf’)
Hydrangea quercifolia 'Sikes Dwarf' at The Morton ArboretumThis hydrangea will mature at 24 to 30” tall. Be sure to plant it where it has excellent winter drainage, so never in a low or a heavy clay area. Hydrangea ‘Pee Wee’ is larger, more like 4’ x 6’, so don’t be fooled by the name Pee Wee. (Pee Wee can also take a lot of sun.)  Sikes Dwarf is best with some afternoon shade.

Photo courtesy of The Morton Arboretum

Mop head Hydrangea Pistachio (Hydrangea Macrophylla ‘Pistachio’) 
Hydrangea Pistachio
This is a new “over the top” chartreuse and raspberry sherbet colored flower and has to be seen to comprehend. Portland’s own famous garden writer, Kym Pokorny loves it!

I am not sure about it using it casually in a design.  It needs integration and special placement.

Photo courtesy of Ball Ornamentals

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Pinky Winky’

hydrangea paniculata pinky winky

Its roots will mature into taking a full sun position but the plant will show sun damage for several years even with much needed regular irrigation.

For more fun and less fear, plant it where it will get shade at the hottest part of the day.

Photo courtesy of Proven Winners