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Berries, garlic, dogwood keep gardeners going in fall

Some plants are well suited to cool-weather planting


by: COURTESY PHOTO - Your brain may associate blueberries with summer, but fall is a great time to plant these hardy bushes.The sowing of new plants, flowers and crops is generally associated with spring and summer, when days lengthen and grow warmer. But according to Pukhraj Deol, an urban and community horticulture instructor for the Oregon State University Extension in Washington County, a number of hardy flora are perfect for planting this time of year, and may even brighten your garden through the gloomy winter months.

One of those plants, Deol said, is the high-bush blueberry whose plump berries are usually linked to memories of summer and heat. Healthy 2-year-old bushes may also be planted from March to April, but it’s a good project to do earlier for locals who are experiencing the gardening itch this fall.

Plants should be purchased from a reputable local nursery or garden store. If planting more than one blueberry bush, it’s better to group them in beds or rows rather than scattering them around your garden; space individual plants 4 to 5 feet apart, and rows 8 to 10 feet apart.

Deol also advised that blueberries require acid soil with relatively high organic-matter content and good drainage. A soil pH between 4.5 and 5.5 is considered ideal for high-bush blueberries (do-it-yourself test kits at reasonable prices can be found online or at most garden stores).

“October and November is also a good time to plant garlic, which will be ready for harvest by next summer,” Deol said. “Garlic grows very well in the Pacific Northwest.” For those more interested in color and aroma than sweet or savory nibbles, Deol said, fall is a good time to plant attractive trees and shrubs that can help ward off the seasonal gloom. The lingering warmth in the soil from long summer days, and the onset of seasonal rain, make for an ideal mix of conditions for newly sown woody plants.

Two of the most colorful and hardy are Dogwood and Mahonia shrubs. Dogwoods boast a wide variety (there are between 30-60 species), a number of which can add blazes of color to yards or garden spots even in the fall or depths of winter, with their fall foliage and striking red or yellow stems. The evergreen Mahonia shrubs, which include Oregon’s state flower, the Oregon grape, thrive in western Oregon, and flowering varieties bloom in March or early April.

Several plant genera native to Asia may also be worthy of considering. The camellia — a sturdy, broad-leafed evergreen shrub — has hundreds of varieties, some of which bloom fall through winter. Gingkos, a tough plant that is considered a “living fossil” by botanists due to its long history on the earth, can add a unique touch, and bird lovers may enjoy the Himalayan honeysuckle or pheasantberry, which grows dark berries in October and November that are sure to attract avian visitors to your neck of the woods.by: COURTESY PHOTO - Prepare for the early (February) -blooming of a host of golden daffodils, as poet William Wordsworth wrote, by planting bulbs right now.

Finally, for green-thumbed residents who already miss the sight of flowers swaying outside their window, fall is the perfect time to plant bulbs in the hope of an early spring. Daffodils are known for being among the earliest-blooming flowers; their delicate and colorful blossoms appear as early as February.

For more information and project ideas, visit http://extension.oregonstate.edu/gardening.




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