Archive for Fall Gardening – Page 2

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.

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

Apple Tasting at Portland Nursery


Designer Carol Lindsay with her grandboy Becket at apple tasting event

Landscape Designer Carol Lindsay, (with nicely chilled grandboy Beckett) samples heirloom apples at Portland Nursery

I am sharing my top three apples out of 50 selected at Portland Nursery’s 25th Apple Tasting Celebration.  A  garden tip is to research (hint taste)  and plant special varieties of edibles in your garden, not common types.  The Peoples Choice apple this year  is Ambrosia which is wonderfully sweet and fresh tasting.   David, a mid sized red is a different sweet tasting apple but like Ambrosia it will not keep for months in a cool place.  But you don’t care about this!!!  Buy em when they are in the stores and enjoy!   My third apple, Ashmeads Kernal, a late season apple, will keep til January or longer if properly chilled.  Liberty  (not in my top three),  is very good and the plant is mildew and apple spot resistant so great for the home gardener.    My grandboy, Becket is a serious apple connoisseur so this was the perfect event us. The price for apples?  99 cents.

Garden Tip: Plant Your Trees in the Fall

Before we forget how hot it was this summer and how precious shade was, let’s talk trees. Is it time to consider planting trees for shade or privacy? I love to plant trees, especially if I am starting out with a bigger specimen……….in the fall. If you are looking to prioritize what to do first in your design, consider planting one large specimen tree. A big sized tree planted now will make a big impact. Paul and Leah hired Design in a Day 5 years ago. We planted a 6″ caliper shade tree. (6 inches through the trunk at 4″ above the ground). They sold their home two years later. The completed ‘ready for fun’ back yard was a help getting that sold sign during these tight market conditions.

Consider a “Wireless” Elm. It’s called “Wireless” because it fits under secondary power lines. It grows wide but not so tall. Because it has strong wood, it is the perfect shade tree for near the house. It also has great fall color, early leaf drop and is a low water needs tree. What more could we ask for?