The Garden Life: Find your different points of seasonal interest

By Robb Rosser, Columbian Gardening columnist

Published:

 
photoRobb Rosser

While some gardeners are closing up their gardens for the winter, many continue to add plants to the garden, especially those collected in late summer and autumn. There is no limit to the recommendations from fellow gardeners but at this time of year, references should be limited to hardy trees, shrubs, vines, perennials and groundcovers. When you include spring-blooming bulbs that we plant now for next year, the list includes any plants that are hardy to the climate zones in your area.

Even the smallest garden benefits from the stature of a tree. Trees offer the unique attributes of height and a leaf canopy that rises above all other plants in the garden. The vine maple, Acer circinatum "Burgundy Jewel" is high on my list of choice Northwest garden plants. This vine maple is carefree, with a delicate charm that enhances a natural garden landscape. Its unique characteristic is the deep purple-red leaves which hold their color until fall when they turn from brilliant orange to scarlet red.

"Burgundy Jewel" is smaller than the typical vine maple, growing to about 6 feet tall by 4 feet wide in 10 years. In full sun, this tree will be shrubbier than not, but like any ornamental maple, this tree responds well to pruning for shape. If planted in shade it will grow leggier

than in full sun. Even though the vine maple is often described as a small tree, it's imperative to place this and any other tree correctly in the garden. Small does not mean it can be planted within a few feet of the wall of a house or too near a door or window. Give all plants the space they need to grow to maturity.

Any gardener striving for a garden with all-year interest will include a selection of needled and broad-leaved evergreens. One of the most visually rewarding, all-year-interest plants is the dwarf Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa "Nana Gracilis"). This softly textured, evergreen shrub looks beautiful all year round, with branches that come off the main trunk in flat, sculptural clusters of scalelike needles.

There is a Hinoki Cypress for every garden. "Lemon Twist" grows in a rounded form with bright, golden threadlike foliage. "Filicoides" is an irregular pyramid with pendulous clusters of bright green foliage that frames an entry like stately guardsmen.

Color, durability

For an out of the ordinary deciduous shrub, Caryopteris "Lil' Miss Sunshine" is a fantastic introduction from this plant group. "Lil' Miss" is a low to midsized shrub with bright yellow foliage that holds its color throughout the growing season.

The amethyst-blue flower clusters stand out like sparkling jewels against this chartreuse backdrop in late summer. Friends of mine surrounded the base of their caryopteris with a stand of golden yellow daylilies.

I continue to recommend spireas for their colorful foliage and long-lasting flower clusters. "Glow Girl" is a new introduction, a deciduous shrub with dramatic lemon-lime foliage. Many of the newer spireas feature spring foliage as brilliant as seasonal flowers. At the height of the summer, red buds open to pure white blooms in flat clusters. Plant them in groups as a low border ground cover. Its fall leaf color is a vibrant burgundy red and serves as the perfect backdrop for autumn asters.

An incredible assortment of Cranesbill geraniums grow to perfection in the Southwest Washington garden. Most of the perennial varieties establish easily. The majority will rebloom if cut back immediately after a flush of blossoms begins to fade. There are a couple of choices that are known to rebloom without deadheading.

"Rozanne" is a vigorous grower with a prolific display of blue-violet flowers with pale centers highlighted by razor-thin burgundy stripes. "Bees Jubilee" forms a larger clump of healthy, deep green foliage and has an exceptionally long flower season in my garden. "Bees Jubilee," which I planted in a large planter and placed in a semi-shady position on the front deck, has bloomed steadily from late May all the way into October.

With so many choices, the hardest decision for most of us is where to start and when to stop when adding plants to the garden. Plant a selection of trees, shrubs, vines and groundcovers. Mix evergreens and deciduous plants into the garden.

Think of perennials as points of seasonal interest. When you see a plant you love, write down the name. Talk to gardeners and ask for their suggestions. Go out on a limb and grow the plants that inspire you to garden. As for when to stop …