In the Garden:
Pacific Northwest
October, 2012
Regional Report

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Divide and conquer is my motto when it comes to overgrown perennials.

Assessing 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 eight months of beauty and productivity from our gardens. All it takes is a little advance planning and some comfortable rain gear. I think fall is an excellent time to honestly assess each area of the garden, and the perfect time to make needed changes.

This is also a great time to place new plants in prepared beds. Overcrowded woody perennials can be lifted and transplanted during the remaining mild weeks, and with our normal autumn rainfall, most plants won't even notice they've been moved.

Remove the Non-Productive
During my annual fall renovation session, if I find a plant that is not thriving, I try moving it to a different location. Perhaps it needs better drainage or more or less sunshine. After moving, I give it a year to settle in and grow. If it still doesn't perform as expected, I completely remove it from the garden. Sometimes, if a plant is healthy but reluctant, I offer it to a friend or family member who may have better luck with it.

Extend the Flowering Season
When selecting new plants, I always try to 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.

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.

Other winter-blooming shrubs include witch hazel (Hamamelis mollis), which produces fragrant, bright yellow flowers; and various cultivars of heath and heather. My heaths and heathers are mounding, about 24 inches tall, and in bloom every three to four months throughout the year. The 6-inch spikes of lavender, purple, white, and pink blooms make attractive additions to fresh flower arrangements.

However you change or rearrange your garden this month, you're sure to enjoy the results for years to come.


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