Some observations made this week that may someday become columns, but don’t quite make the grade this time.  I call them “clippings.”

The “perfect” shade tree doesn’t exist, we all know that.  If it did, the tree would be seen in every garden.  Each tree has its merits, and its flaws.  The American Ash (Fraxinus americana ‘Autumn Applause’) in my garden is the perfect example.  We love to sit underneath its branches during summer afternoons, it provides deep shade for the southwest corner of the house and it’s virtually pest and disease-free.
It’s the perfect tree, except for the fact that it’s among the last plants to leaf out in the spring and it’s definitely the very first to lose its foliage in autumn.  One day it seems that the foliage turns from green to a lovely “pinot noir” burgundy and then the leaves are on the ground.  The peak of its autumn show generally occurs when I’m at work.  There is no perfect shade tree.

Despite the rains we had in late September and early October the soil is not that moist.  Compressors are being towed all over the valley right now to properties, where they’ll be hooked up to underground irrigation systems to blow out the water in preparation for winter. Be sure that the evergreens in your garden are well-watered before you shut your system down.  All plants want to go into winter with adequate moisture in the ground.  If soils are dry when they freeze it will be a long and stressful winter for them.

You should have brought any houseplants that spent the summer outside into the warmth of your home by now.  You likely brought a few insects indoors with you.  If you didn’t spray the plants with insecticidal soap or a pyrethrin-based product like Trounce you should at least wash down the plants in the shower with a gentle spray of lukewarm water.  This will remove accumulated dust and also dislodge some of the house guests.  Keep checking the plants throughout the next several weeks for signs of aphids, mites, mealybugs or scale.

I’m an advocate of raking the leaves once, after they’ve all come down, not several times during the season.  But leaves that are diseased from mildews or blights have got to go immediately.  The longer they are in your garden the more chance there is of diseases spreading to other plants.  Rose foliage that contains powdery mildew or black spot should be raked up or stripped off the canes and disposed of.  Leaves from apples, crabapples or hawthorns that are blighted must be dealt with, not left to sit and inoculate.

Winter is coming, we all know it; the wind, snow and grey skies, the slush, the bare trees and the brown lawns, all of it. What to do when confronted with this reality?  Dream about the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle in February!  It’s a perfect remedy for the winter blues and a terrific way to recharge the gardening batteries before spring arrives.  The 2008 edition happens February 20-24.  Go to www.gardenshow.com for details and start dreaming.

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