Late September and October provide gardeners with one of the most pleasant times of the year for planting. The cooler weather presents a special opportunity for gardeners to fill the vacant spots in their yards. What is planted now has a better chance of establishing itself during a chilly, wet winter than if planted during spring to face summer’s heat and frequent droughts.
Best Time to Plant Trees and Shrubs
If searching for new plants, consider adding some native trees and bushes to the framework of your garden. Native plants are not only beautiful and sturdy, but also will lure wildlife to your yard. Yes, that probably includes deer and rabbits, but they appear no matter what you plant.
Essential Native Trees and Shrubs of the Eastern United States (Charlesbridge Publishing, 2018) by Tony Dove and Ginger Woolridge will guide gardeners and landscapers to the best native plants for our area. These plants were chosen based on the authors’ experiences during their extensive careers. Dove‘ is presently employed at the Smithsonian Research Center, but has been a past horticulture director of Tryon Palace Historic Sites and Gardens in North Carolina. Woolridge works as a landscape designer, editor and consultant in Maryland.
To best use this book, choose the main requirement for a specific plant’s success at its planned location from this volume’s list of ”desired landscape traits.” Size, light needs, seasonal attractiveness, water needs, bark appearance, fruit and flowering capabilities are among the twenty or so traits that are designated by letters.
Next, turn to that group of trees or bushes presented with that chosen trait. Beside each plant’s botanical name is a page number and a list of letters identifying all other “categories that apply” to that specific bush or tree. By cross-referencing the listed letters to the traits, one can choose plants that more closely match what your location requires.
I used this book to choose a future replacement for a dogwood currently being smothered by shade. I wanted a small tree with blossoms and small fruit. By looking for these additional characteristics in the list of shade tolerant trees, I was able to decide on an Eastern redbud as best among several choices.
Though redbuds are relatively familiar, I enjoyed the lovely photographs displaying its leaves, blossoms and shape that defined that tree’s appearance through out the year. Recommended companion plants, types of wildlife attracted and cultivated varieties are also discussed in the pages devoted to each plant.
The book’s last section, Secondary Plants, lists vegetation “with desirable landscape features,” but with “limitations.” Members of certain plant families such as rhododendron, azaleas and viburnum are mentioned as tricky to grow. Their problems are primarily due to requiring special weather and/or soil as well as being extremely yummy to deer or insects.
As the weather cools, go shopping for plants at your favorite nursery. Ask questions about the native trees and shrubs that grow best in North Carolina. Choose only the plants that will give you lasting visual pleasure.
Christine Thomson is a Raleigh gardener obsessed with plants. She is a volunteer at the JC Raulston Arboretum and fills her spare time reading books, especially volumes about vegetation.