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Autumn offers many garden gifts

Garden Muse

Is there anything more beautiful than an autumn sky? One minute it's dark gray with the threat of rain. Then down come sheets of it, only to stop suddenly, leaving the air fresh. Out comes the sun until it hides once more behind a new cloud bank, and more rain descends.

When the sky clears again, white clouds sail across the blue canvas, making the wind visible. In my garden, a tall 'Britzensis' willow, a mulberry tree and a ginkgo tree glow golden. Sweet gum leaves drift slowly off the tree, decorating the lawn with yellow star-shaped leaves. The fernleaf full moon maple has turned orange red, even more brilliant than 'Grace' smoke tree, wearing its red fall coat.

A visit to Gossler Farm Nursery

I love to take road trips in autumn to see the color changes in regional gardens and nurseries. My friend Marian Kuch, who belongs to the McMinnville Garden Club, invited me to the club's late October tour of Gossler Farm Nursery, www.gosslerfarms.com, in Springfield.

Roger and Eric Gossler and their mother Marjory make this family owned nursery a pleasure to visit. They host tours by appointment, and will even order box lunches for your group. We arrived at the nursery at 11 a.m., with plenty of time to stroll through the garden and the greenhouses, and to buy plants in a leisurely fashion.

Fall may be the most beautiful time to visit Gossler Farms - that's when the leaves on stewartias, maples, fothergilla, enkianthus and witch hazels turn shades of gold, red and orange. Roger took us around the mixed borders, identifying unusual plants as we went along. His dogs Gus and Sophie trailed along, worshipfully watching Roger each time he stopped to tell us about a particular specimen.

The garden is an amazing collection of outstanding trees, shrubs and perennials, yet it flows together gracefully. The layered effect of tree canopy, understory shrubs and ground-covering perennials and bulbs is beautiful in an understated, naturalistic style. Gossler places a greater emphasis on texture and foliage color than on flowers,creating a subtle landscape with a very tranquil atmosphere.

Many of the same plants are for sale in the greenhouses, so you can take home a little piece of Gossler's garden for your very own. I was captivated by 'Flaming Silver' andromeda (Pieris) - its white-edged leaves were luminous in the shade. White autumn-flowering crocus (Cochicum) also lighted up the woodland floor.

In a sunnier area, 'Gold Bar' maiden grass, striped yellow, and Panicum 'The Blues' were standout ornamental grasses. A drift of pink schizostylis lighted up the front of a low fence line.

On that sunny autumn day, we ate our box lunches on the sunny patio, while Roger regaled us with stories of his visits to other gardens and nurseries. Afterward, we hit the greenhouses to gather treasures for our own gardens.

I found a 'Summer Rainbow' ginkgo to add to my swelling collection, and a 'Lemon Gem' Japanese holly (Ilex crenata) with golden evergreen foliage. I decided to try my first manzanita, 'Pacific Mist.' I managed to resist the 'Flaming Silver' andromeda, thinking I didn't have a shady place for it at home.

But the next week I discovered a large patch of shade that needs to be cleared of irises, and regretted leaving the andromeda behind. Now I have an excuse to return to the nursery. A visit early next spring, when camellias, magnolias, rhododendrons, hellebores and epimediums would be in bloom, would feature another palette.

If you can't get to Gossler's any time soon, you might like to browse through 'The Gossler Guide to the Best Hardy Shrubs.' It's informative, entertaining and inspiring.

Fry Road Nursery

On our way back to Portland, Marian and I still had room in the trunk, so we headed to Ann Dettweiler's Fry Road Nursery, www.fryroadnursery.com, in Albany to find some more plants. We first learned about this place at a pot luck for Ron and Debbie Monnier, who were closing their fuchsia nursery and passing the torch to Ann.

When we pulled into the parking lot, we had no idea of the many greenhouses we'd find behind the office. Woody shrubs in affordable small pots, conifers, flowering maples (abutilon), myriad perennials, hebes, herbs, and of course, many fuchsias. We browsed until the daylight faded, stopping to pet a little cat that followed us.

This time I didn't resist anything. Instead I came home with 'Little Richard' abelia and a handful of hebes - 'Sussex Carpet' and 'New Zealand Gold.' Where will I put them? Only time will tell.


Coming events

Introduction to Taxonomy and Plant ID, with botanist Sarah Kelsey, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., Nov. 13, Leach Botanical Garden, 6704 S.E. 122 Ave., just south of Foster. Fee: $10 members, $15 nonmembers.

Learn to identify plants, botanical Latin terminology, and more, with a focus on plants of the Pacific Northwest. Find out what scientific names mean, why some plants are in the same family, and why plant names can even change.

This program will include a taxonomic walk in the garden, weather permitting. Preregistration required; call 503-823-1671 or send e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .