In the Garden:
Oregon grape and red huckleberry provide seasonal interest and an irresistible snack for local birds.
Rethinking the Garden
I think December is an excellent time to take inventory and honestly assess your garden's performance. Cooler weather may slow the pace of gardening here in the Pacific Northwest, but in our maritime climate we can coax a good 8 to 10 months of beauty and productivity from our gardens. All it takes is a little advance planning - and some comfortable rain gear.
Cull the Poor Performers
If a plant isn't performing as expected, move it to a different place, or remove it completely from the garden. If it's healthy but reluctant to flourish, pass it along to a friend or family member who may have better luck with it. You may even be able to strike up a deal, exchanging your unhappy plant for one of theirs.
Now is a great time to place new plants in prepared beds. Also, overcrowded woody perennials can be lifted and transplanted during the remaining mild weeks before winter weather officially arrives. With abundant seasonal rainfall, most plants won't even notice they've been moved.
Extend the Flowering Season
When selecting new plants for your garden, choose those that will help extend the season by providing fragrant flowers, showy berries, or striking foliage late in the year. Plants in peak performance right now include the orange-and-gold-flowering crocosmia, Aster frikartii, in a range of flower colors from white through pink, purple, lavender, and blue, and Acanthus spinosus. Acanthus produces showy white flowers hooded with purple bracts. Another favorite is the smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria) with its rich, purple-bronze leaves that redden as the temperature dips.
Plant a Shrub
I have a special affinity for well-behaved, berry-producing, low-maintenance shrubs. Oregon grape (Mahonia nervosa) and red huckleberry (Vaccinium parvifolium) fall into this easy-care category. Another favorite is American holly (Ilex opaca), a widely adapted, non-native shrubby tree. These plants produce attractive berries that persist throughout the winter months.
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