If you need some inspiration for planning a garden that goes full-steam from fall through early winter, get some help from Autumn Gardens, by Ethne Clarke (Soma Books, 1999; $35). It's full of spectacular color photos, and provides suggestions for a wealth of combinations of foliage, flowers, grasses, berries, and bark that keep the color coming right into winter.
Favorite or New Plant
Echinacea and echinops are listed next to each other in garden books and catalogs, and it doesn't hurt to put them next to each other in the garden as well. The spiny, spherical, steel-blue flowers of Echinops humilis (globe thistle) set off the hot pink daisies of Echinacea purpurea (purple coneflower). Both perennials are excellent for Northwest gardens. They are among the most carefree perennials you can grow. They're disease-free and cold-hardy, and both have flowers that last a long time. For best growth, plant in full sunshine, in well-draining soil; then just stand back and enjoy!