Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Pacific Northwest
September, 2009
Regional Report

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With the right plant combination, fall gardens can remain colorful right up through December.

Autumn Gardens

As summer ends and garden colors fade, we often think about putting our gardens to rest. But this time of year doesn't have to symbolize the end. Instead, think of it as a new beginning. Autumn gardening is challenging, but it is also rewarding. It takes advance planning, but gardens can and do survive well into the winter months.

Form and Structure
The strong lines of evergreen trees and shrubs become the focal points of the garden once summer blooms fade and because of this, I'm always on the lookout for plants with interesting shapes and intriguing bark patterns. In our gardening zone, there are many hardy species with good structure. Rhododendrons, maple, beech, willow, yew, holly, juniper, and pine are a few that add structure and shape to the late-season garden. Some cultivars of these species display amazing color in the fall. The vibrant foliage acts as a backdrop to annual displays. Often adding just one specimen, like a maple, can bring color and attention to your garden space.

Playing with Color
Once you have structure and interest, you can add color. Planting perennials that bloom during late September and into December is one of the most important aspects in extending the life of your garden. Some late bloomers I love are garden mums, sedums, ornamental cabbages, and fall asters.

Don't Forget Garden Art!
Garden ornaments add whimsy and fun to summer plantings. In the fall they can become focal points in a garden bed. A carefully placed birdbath, statue, or garden stone will only add to the ambiance. But be particular about your art. Choose wisely and tastefully, and think about placement. You want to draw the eye to the garden, not overwhelm it. I've noticed that under a blanket of snow even an old worn bench can have a wonderful presence.

If you use concrete ornaments, be sure to seal them before leaving them out during the winter. Wooden ornaments also need some protection. Check with your local garden center or hardware store for the appropriate products.

Having a garden that is enjoyable and pleasing throughout the four seasons is not impossible. It just takes a little thought, a touch of inspiration, and a dash of whimsy. Enjoy!

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