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Fall into a second spring next month when the weather in the Northwest is the best time of year for outdoor living.

Your summer-weary pots and hanging baskets can be refreshed with autumn color from mums, herbs, dahlias and winter pansies. Order topsoil and mulch now so you’ll be ready for lawn restoration and new garden projects this fall. Nurseries will be putting trees and shrubs on sale soon, so do your research and make a wish list so you’ll be shopping with a master plan in mind.

Here are some tips for upgrading your landscape with the change of seasons:

1. Start with the front door — and work outward.

Landscaping an entire yard can be overwhelming, so begin at the front door to add curb appeal. Painting pots or investing in frost-proof ceramic containers that match your door color will give yearlong color to your entry. Add a new door mat and house numbers in the same accent color.

2. Clear out overgrown shrubbery from windows and entry areas.

Your plants are not family members. You do not owe them a lifetime commitment. If they grow too large or become ugly and demanding, off with their heads. Dig them up roots and all and start fresh. You’ll be surprised at how much the added sunlight from unobstructed windows can change your home’s interior.

3. Invest in dwarf evergreens as foundation plants.

Dwarf evergreens come in many forms, colors and sizes. The true dwarfs grow as little as one-half an inch each year. These mini shrubs are perfect under windows and near front entries because they won’t require annual pruning or block the light from windows.

Look for super dwarf Alberta Spruce such as Pixie Dust, a true dwarf spruce with golden new growth in the spring. Super dwarf evergreens also are great for containers. In the shade, use dwarf hemlock or yew shrubs that stay under four feet tall. There also are compact hydrangeas such as Bobo, low-growing Black Mondo Grass that looks good all year and the various globe forms of Thuja that love our climate, but won’t outgrow your welcome area.

The savvy buyers’ tip: Do not trust or believe the “mature size” stated on the plant tags of most shrubs. If the tags states “grows 4 feet wide by 5 feet tall,” you can sometimes double that estimate in Western Washington.

Many of our nursery shrubs are grown in California where the lack of rain makes them grow much slower than they will in Western Washington.

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Best shopping advice: Visit a local nursery in the fall on a day when there are no crowds — a weekday or when it is raining. Ask at the nursery for recommendations on shrubs that will not outgrow their space or need pruning. Local growers are the best resource for the actual size and growth rate in our climate.

4. Pick a palette for fall color. You can turn up the heat in your landscape with warm, autumn tones or cool things down with shades of purple and pink.

Pick one color theme for each area of the landscape and play up the color family. When you visit the nursery for your fall shopping, head for fiery reds, yellows and orange tones or the cooler colors of lavender, purple and burgundy.

Warm tones: Japanese maples, burning bush, orange heucheras and rudbechia daisies will fire up any landscape with hot color tones. Pee Gee hydrangeas with rust-colored blooms add more warm tones and can be grown as small trees or large shrubs in full sun.

Cool tones: Purple smoke bush, lavender asters, burgundy heuchera and the silver foliage of artemesia and Dusty Miller create a rich tapestry or color from a different part of the color wheel.

Mother Nature is fully prepared to end the growing season with fireworks and an awe-inspiring show. Plant some fall magic in your own landscape for years of enjoyment.


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