The first week of September is time for a second spring. Fall refresh is when gardens and gardeners prepare for the change of seasons and with a new look and a fresh start. September is the month to clear away the old, the weary and sad and refresh the garden with plants that celebrate the change of seasons. Here’s how to get started:
Q: What to plant now?
A: Just about everything. Roses, trees, shrubs, groundcovers and many perennials. The cooler nights will encourage autumn planted trees and shrubs to send down roots towards the soil, still warm from the summer sun. This means your plant investments will be well tucked in beneath a protective blanket of mulch before the first hard freeze of winter sets in.
Q: What’s the good news for dirt-cheap gardeners?
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A: Local nurseries have fantastic plant sales in the fall. There is nothing wrong with the nursery stock left over from a summer of selling, but retailers do not want to care for too many plants over the winter season so they offer deep discounts. In Western Washington, our autumn season is mild and long so nurseries will restock in September with fresh plants grown especially for fall plant sales. You can snag great deals on trees, shrubs and even perennials.
Q:What are the best plants for fall color?
A: When it comes to trees and shrubs look for shrubs such as the burning bush (Euonymus alatus ‘compacta’) with brilliant orange leaves or maples that turn gold and crimson. You can also find shrubs with autumn berries and rose plants that produce fat red seed pods called rose hips for long winter color. Clematis such as Sweet Autumn Clematis (Clematis paniculata) is a fast grower with pure white, fragrant blooms. My personal favorites for fall color are the sun-tolerant pee gee hydrangeas. Creamy, pointed blooms turn pink then russet as fall progresses. All these fall favorites can be found at nurseries now and do best when added to the garden in the fall.
Q: Are there any plants that should not be pruned in fall?
A: Yes! Pruning always stimulates new growth, so don’t get snippy with roses or other tender shrubs in the fall or they could be damaged when an early frost hits. Hardy fuchsias, many evergreens, jasmine and some other flowering vines should not be pruned until late spring. For more detailed pruning tips sign up for a class on fall garden care.
Q: What is Fall Magic?
A: All the tips and tricks that designers use that take a landscape from a summer look to a warm autumn display are called “magic” because the change of colors can be so quick and dramatic. One example is to pull out a few summer-weary annuals from your porch pots. Insert a potted mum, aster or winter pansy in the same position — no need to change the potting soil or add fertilizer. Next add a few mini pumpkins to sit on top of the soil or arrange corn stalks or larger pumpkins on the porch. Display your dried hydrangeas or winter squash in a wheelbarrow or atop of bale of hay. Your home is now ready for fall — like magic.
Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of several books. Reach her at binettigarden.com.
Sept. 3: 10 a.m. at Windmill Gardens in Sumner. Fall Refresh: What to plant, what to do and some garden magic for the Autumn season. Sign up at windmillgarden.com or 253-863-5843. $5 fee.