Now that fall is upon us it’s easy to stay inside instead of venturing out into the chill, but it’s the best time to grab a light jacket and take walk around your home to take note of the plants and garden design.
For the kids, the best part about fall is creating a mountain of crispy leaves in the yard, then racing each other and the dog to see who can crash into the pile and make the biggest mess. This is not exactly what I mean by "fall garden design", but I agree, it is a highlight of the season.
By starting your garden design in fall, we mean this is the best time to start looking around the yard at how the plants are positioned. Are some overgrown or crowding each other? Would some grow better in a new location? Are there particular plants that grow so well, you want to fill in with more of the same? Are there areas that were lacking color during the various seasons or are there empty holes? Now is the time to make your plan, create a list, and talk to a landscape specialist.
Try to visualize how the plants appear in your garden during each season. Think about the colors, the heights, and location. For those of us who are a little forgetful, marking perennials with a small sign or tag before they go dormant might be a good idea. This way you will know where that specific plant is that you want to transplant in a couple months.
Transplanting in fall
Once most plants that have lost their leaves, by late fall or early winter, they can be transplanted quite easily. Winter is when we do our transplanting. Just wait until after our first good freeze. We have successfully moved larger maples and fruit trees this time of year that would become very stressed if relocated in the summer. Here is a good rule of thumb: if the ground is not frozen, it is an acceptable time to move plants about. Some plants are more resilient than others.
Anything that is drought tolerant does not really like being transplanted at all, but this is my favorite time of year to give it a try. Your spirea and berberis will thank you for being as gentle as possible when you transplant them. Okay...the berberis may fight back, but if it is large enough and has a developed root system it will have enough time and the water it needs to heal before the heat of summer arrives.
Fall is also a decent time to move evergreen trees and shrubs. As you begin digging in the garden, be careful of wires, sprinkler systems or pipes that could be hidden just below the surface. If you are feeling adventurous and decide to move bigger shrubs and trees, it is a good idea to call 811 before you dig. I once accidentally cut the cable television feed to a house of a gentleman from Canada during a very important hockey game…and barely survived with my life!
Buying garden plants in fall
If you want to purchase interesting plants for your garden design, it is possible to find some good prices this time of year. We are right on the cusp of many native plant sales, as well as exotics. In the next few months, you can get native trees and shrubs from the King County Conservation District (kcd.org) and other municipalities at deep discount prices.
You need to be ready to plant in the garden as soon as they are purchased because instead of being sold in fancy plastic pots, they come in wet newspaper. These bare root plants may seem puny and sad when they first arrive, but, if planted properly, they generally thrive and even surpass their potted cousins in just a season or two.
For a helpful listing of plants that grow well in the Pacific Northwest, refer to our Plant Database. Also, read our recent blog post Perennial flowers -- fall bulbs for a listing of bulbs to plant in the garden.
Fall garden design includes hardscapes
We have talked about designing your flower garden in fall, but the landscape includes much more than that. Fall is also the best time to arrange for building hardscapes, like walls, patios, decks, and walkways. Generally, a landscape design company will be able to work your project into their schedule more quickly if contacted in October or November. In the Pacific Northwest, garden design begins in fall, but continues all winter and into spring.
Environmental Construction Inc. can help with your fall garden design. Ask us a question or give us a call.
By the time the pile of leaves is gone, and the poinsettia plants have withered, new plants will be just starting to pop up out of the soil. The landscape will be healthy and attractive in spring if we take the time for garden design in fall.