Get thee to a nursery this week because as fall settles in the prices on trees and shrubs goes down. Fall closeout sales are a good investment especially for larger trees and shrubs.
Fall is best for planting trees and shrubs because the soil is still warm from the summer encouraging new root growth but the autumn rains mean you can let nature take over your watering chores.
This is also a good week for buying spring blooming bulbs. Tulips, daffodils, crocus and other spring bloomers are planted in the fall but will sprout and bloom in the spring. Buy bulbs as soon as you see them for sale for the best selection.
If you can pick them from an open bin reach for the largest bulbs you can find. Bigger bulbs bear more blooms.
Q. I am going to buy more tulip bulbs this fall but I have been disappointed in the past as very few of the 50 bulbs I planted actually bloomed. Why?
A. Tulips need to be a mature size to flower so make sure you invest in full size bulbs that are firm with no signs of rot. Tulip bulbs at least 12 cm in diameter are considered superior.
Tulips also need soil that drains quickly so pick a raised bed or area with sandy soil. Mice and voles will eat tulip bulbs and deer will nip off the buds before they bloom. Try planting tulips in a large container to keep them safe from rodents.
You can even plant groups of tulips in recycled plastic nursery pots that can be set into the ground when in bloom and then easily removed when the tulips fade.
Q. Are there any spring bulbs that the deer will not eat? What about bulbs that will survive in dry shade? My idea is to plant a host of yellow daffodils under a maple tree that I can see across our field. I have seen deer in this area however. L.P., Yelm
A. I like your idea. Daffodils are naturally rodent and deer resistant and they will thrive even in the dry shade of a tree. The miniature or dwarf daffodils are the earliest to bloom and easiest to plant as you need only dig down a few inches before popping in a dwarf daffodil and covering it back up with soil and fallen leaves.
Look for the varieties Tete a Tete, February Gold, and a sweet smelling mini daffodil called “Minnow.” Dwarf daffodils also have the advantage or returning year after year and spreading into larger colonies.
Q. I want recommendations for an evergreen shrub that can handle dry shade. I need to screen off a compost pile and other unattractive sites in my landscape. Please don’t recommend rhododendrons. I tried a row of large leaf rhodies and then watched them slowly die because I never remembered to water. W. R., Email
A. At least you fessed up about never remembering to water your rhododendrons. No tree or shrub will do well if the soil is allowed to dry out before a new root system has had time to spread out and find moisture. This can take one to two years.
Rhododendrons suffered tremendous stress from the high temperatures this past summer and fall is the time when the rhododendron is setting flower buds for next year. Everyone with rhododendrons should remember to water them in late summer.
Give up on growing rhodies in your dry area. Instead of adding a shrub you may want to consider a screening fence instead. This will take up less room than a hedge and you won’t have to remember to water.
If you do want a living green hedge, add compost to the soil before you add the new plants, mulch the top of the soil with two to three inches of bark chips and then next summer lay a soaker hose at the base of the hedge so that it will easier to keep the new planting watered. A few evergreens that can adapt to dry shade include yews, viburnums, laurel, nandina and aucuba.