US (OR): Six attractive plants to brighten winter days in western Oregon

Fall is a good time to plant shrubs and trees that will cheer up western Oregon's often gloomy winter days.

"Fall is often a better time of year to plant trees and shrubs because the soil is still warm and plantings can get their roots established," said Barb Fick, a horticulturist with the Oregon State University Extension Service. "It's also a forgiving time of year if you forget to water your plantings because of seasonal rainfall."

Here are six of Fick's favorites for shrubs and trees that will balance winter and early spring landscapes:

  • Dogwood shrubs: There are about 30-60 species of mostly deciduous dogwood trees and shrubs. "The stems of many species provide winter interest and range from orange to yellow to red depending on the species," Fick said. "'Midwinter Fire' flowers in the summer but the yellow stems tipped with red twigs really glow in the winter. It's really gorgeous; it just pops. The yellow fall color of the foliage is an added bonus."  
  • Mahonia shrubs: Oregon grape, the state flower, is included in this genus. Known by its scientific name as Mahonia aquifolium, its clusters of golden yellow flowers bloom in March and April and are followed by black berries. It can thrive in western and eastern Oregon. Known by the scientific name Mahonia x media, the varieties "Charity" and "Arthur Menzies" bear fragrant upright clusters of flowers. Hummingbirds are also attracted to these evergreen shrubs.
  • Camellia: This is a genus of broad-leafed evergreen flowering shrubs and small trees with about 100-250 species. Fick recommends Camellia sasanquas, a tea flower from China and Japan coveted for its pink, white and red blooms. It flowers fall through winter and its glossy, green foliage makes it a great background year-round. With a height of about eight to 10 feet, it can be grown on a trellis. Prune it after it flowers. "Yuletide" is a favorite for small yards as it is a dense, compact, upright plant.
  • Daffodils: "Fall is a great time of year to plant bulbs," Fick said. "If you have deer, they won't touch daffodils. They're also bright and cheery in the early spring. They make great cut flowers in the house." Fick recommends the large-cupped Trumpet variety and the small-cupped Narcissus. They bloom February to April.
  • Himalayan honeysuckle or Himalayan Pheasantberry: A deciduous shrub that grows eight feet tall, this East Asian plant has a striking flower structure that stands out against the light foliage. The black-purple seeds ripen from October to November and the birds eat the berries from summer through frost. According to Fick, the "Golden Lanterns" variety is "a must have for the garden." Its foliage comes in a distinctive lime-green shade year-round that makes a splendid accent in a yard dominated by dark evergreen leaves.
  • Gingko biloba: Many botanists call this tree a literal living fossil. It has no close living relatives and may be the oldest living seed plant. Unique and tough, it is native to China and has survived the centuries from the time of dinosaurs, Fick said. Its distinctive autumn leaf color ranges from chartreuse to bright yellow to deep gold, depending on the tree, and it loses its leaves all at once. In eastern Oregon, gingko biloba should be planted in spring. 

For more information, check out the following OSU Extension guides:

OSU's Professional and Noncredit Education unit also offers an online course, Landscaping With Native Plants as well as an online course on woody landscape plants.

Author: Denise Ruttan
Source: Barbara Fick

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