Season 1 • Episode 7 - October 26, 2022

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In this episode we are taking a look at fall and winter plants. We have been telling people for years that fall is the perfect time to plant and we stopped at Portland Nursery to learn again why you should be planting now.

We met up with our friend and fellow Garden Time traveler, Laura Altvater, who is one of the plant buyers at Portland Nursery to chat about plants and see some of the plants she had pulled from the shelves for us to look at. She first talked about the benefits of planting in the fall. At this time of year, even though the outside temperatures are dropping, the soil temperatures are still nice and warm. Plus we are now getting a good supply of fall rains to water those plants well as they get established. If you don’t get the same fall rains that we enjoy in the Pacific Northwest, you should plan on watering in those plants to avoid transplant shock. Now is also the time to consider moving those tender and less hardy plants under cover or indoors.

We then started to show off some great plants (even though we had sound and video problems we pressed on). We had a great selection of plants that had colorful foliage or blooms in addition to useful seed heads and beautiful bark. We started with plants that featured white foliage. These plants included an ornamental cabbage called ‘Crystal White’ and a Lawson Cypress called ‘Pearly Swirls’. The cabbage has a bright white center and the deep green outer leaves. Cabbages are a cole crop and so they don’t mind the colder conditions, plus most of the ornamental cabbages are also edible. The Cypress has cream colored tips to its foliage and would really stand out in the winter garden. It can handle sun, but likes a tiny bit of protection from really bright afternoon summer sun. It also prefers a container as its home to help prevent root rot. According to the tag it will get 3-4 feet high in 10 years. That brought up a point about tags. The height listed on the tags of most plants lists a mature height for 5-10 years in the ground. The plant may still get bigger but they want to give you an idea of how fast it takes to fill a garden space. White isn’t the only color that shines in the winter garden. Silver is a popular color as well. Lavender ‘Elegant Snow’ was next on the list and it has a silvery foliage topped with white flower stalks that also ‘pops’ in the winter garden.

We then looked at a few lower stature plants for your garden. The Cotoneaster is a popular groundcover, known for its silver foliage and the bright red berries. This is a very hardy addition for your garden and it provides a food source for the local winter wildlife. Another bright plant for the garden is the Gaura ‘Whirling Butterflies’ with large white blooms that will keep going into late fall or until a frost. A very popular plant in a garden for any season is the Lambs Ear. We looked at ‘Helen von Stein’ which has the silver foliage and the soft texture. A perfect plant for petting (it is lovely to touch) and it stays interesting through the winter. Joe Pye Weed was next. It is a great pollinator plant during the late summer, but the seed heads still provide some late fall and winter interest. The regular varieties can get tall, but this one was ‘Baby Joe’ and will stay shorter. Ryan finished with his cart of plants by pointing out the Sourwood tree. This tree gets spectacular fall color in the leaves that includes reds, oranges and bronzes cascading down the tree. Then it also has seed heads that dance above the foliage and add even more interest as they respond to each passing breeze.

Then Judy stepped up and took on another cart of plants with Laura. This cart had a broader color palette to choose from. We started with an Itea or Sweetspire called ‘Little Henry’. This had its coat of fall colors shining brightly. Reds, burgundy and bronze leaves covered this small shrub. In addition to the great fall colors it has fragrant candle shaped blooms in the spring. Another great plant for feeding the winter wildlife is the berries on the St. John’s Wort. ‘Midnight Glow’ is a perfect St. John’s Wort as it was covered with bright red berries against dark green foliage and then in the spring it will be covered with bright yellow blooms to kick off the new season. A late summer and fall favorite are the dahlias, which can be hardy in our area if planted in a well-drained area of the garden. Dahlias come in lots of various colors and styles so you can find a type that can fit into any garden. They can also keep blooming through mid-summer through the late fall until the frosts arrive. The one we looked at was ‘Mystic Haze’. The next plant was a little unusual for most of us, it is the Sorbaria ‘Sem’. This one has great fall foliage color on a crooked and twisted stem. We hit a bright choice with our next plant, a Rudbeckia – Black eyed Susan called ‘Henry Eilers’. The small sunflower shaped flowers have tubular petals that make this one an eye catcher in the garden. It is covered with tons of blooms that keep coming throughout the summer and into fall.

An overlooked plant in the garden are the grasses. We pulled up a panicum ‘Shenandoah’. Most grasses give you two distinct seasons. One is the summer with clumps of fine green foliage and the other season is fall with the foliage changing color and the setting of the seed heads. This grass had all of that going for it. It was just starting to change color and the seed heads were perched on top of all that color. Not only do tall grasses look great, they also sound great in the fall garden as they move and dance in the wind. Another tall grass is the Pampas grass. This can get huge so watch where you put it and be sure to wear gloves as the leaves can have sharp edges and can cut you. Abelia ‘Kaleidoscope’ was also on the cart and it was hard to miss with its multicolored foliage. Pink fall colors mixed with green and gold foliage and even white flowers. It is a winner for the fall garden. We found another ornamental plant next, the Oregano ‘Kirigami’. This has the wonderful fragrance when you brush or crush the stems, but it also has colorful salmon colored blooms and a wonderful trailing habit for your containers. It can be used in the kitchen as well for cooking or just to have in a bowl to spread its fragrance. We then looked at a plant that looked past its prime, an echinacea. The point to having this plant on the cart was to talk about those plants with great seed heads. They can add structure to your garden but they can also provide shelter and food for those birds and other animals in your garden. Another hardy groundcover was next, a heather named ‘Hookstone Pink’. This is a plant that doesn’t mind the wet winters, but it does better with good drainage. The reward is the clusters of pink bell shaped flowers. It is wonderful in containers.

A plant that had us all chuckling was the Persicaria ‘Darjeeling Red’. On our recent tour to Holland and Belgium we visited the garden of Chris Ghyselen, a garden designer and plant breeder, who loved Persicaria. These are incredible plants and some of them can get pretty wild in your garden if you don’t keep them cut back and trimmed. Huge flower spikes fly over the green foliage and they can be a real show stopper as they were in Chris’s garden. Our final plants were from the Dancing Pixies series of Saxifraga. ‘Taja’ and ‘Toni’ were short ground covers that had bloom stalks supporting pads of flowers that danced in the breeze. Blush pinks and deep reds complimented the red stems and green foliage. These are a little tender for our area so you’ll want to make sure they are in a protected area or in a container so they can be moved to a greenhouse or under cover.

We finished by talking about coming to your local garden center over the course of a whole year. It is easy to find bright colors in the spring, but by visiting every few weeks you can build a garden full of color and interest for every season. Be sure to stop by your local independent garden center or nursery to find these great plants and many others.


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