Native plants ‘great’ option for fall gardening

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As temperatures begin to steadily decrease and rain averages increase, it’s time to start thinking about planting for fall.

Good Year Farms, led by Hannah Schrager, is a native plants nursery in Washougal that services the greater Clark County area.

“My biggest tip is to plant in the fall and winter. It is the best hands down,” Schrager said.

Planting seeds and bare roots, or plants with established roots, in the fall and winter has many benefits, she said.

Bare roots look like sticks with roots at the end of them, Schrager said. Gardeners can relocate the bare roots, let them sit through the winter and then expect by spring that it’ll have roots established.

“When the sun comes back, it’s ... more likely to succeed because it has already grown for a couple of years, while a seed might not grow,” she said.

Some examples of plants that can come as bare roots include raspberries, rhubarb and other native berries.

Native species have evolved to the area, so they have adapted to last through periods of cold, and some of the native seeds need those cold and wet months before they sprout, which is called stratification.

By August and September, plants have gone through their process of blooming, flowering and generating its seed. The plants drop its seed and leaves in the fall, signaling a new part of the cycle, Schrager said.

The native plants “go dormant,” so when spring comes, it will be ready to grow.

“They’re not usually the showiest in the fall,” she said.

When gardens have a variety of native plants, it connects the yard to the larger ecosystem, Schrager said. Native plants help pollinators, like bees and butterflies.

Pollinators require plants that bloom at different points in the season for pollen and nectar.

“Native plants help something bigger than just humans,” she said.

Residents can source native plants through several avenues.

Both the Clark County Conservation District and Clark College have annual plant sales, specifically for plants native to the Pacific Northwest.

For more information about the conservation district, visit clarkcd.org/plantsale.

Another option is native plant nurseries, like Good Year Farms. Schrager said the nursery, 29610 SE 23rd St., Washougal, is open every weekend in October.

“I think it’s a really positive choice people can make if they include native plants in their landscape,” she said. “Just adding one plant is something you can do for yourself and for the bigger fabric of our community.”

Some of Schrager’s favorite native
plants include:

Wild Mock Orange: This native shrub is fragrant and has white flowers, similar to citrus blooms. Mock Orange can grow in habitats like streamsides and open woodlands.

Oceanspray: As part of the rose family, this plant is recognizable for its white flowers with lilac-like drooping clusters. According to Native Plants PNW, Oceanspray grows in both dry and moist open forests or coastal bluffs.

Currants and Elderberries: Red Elderberry can be commonly found on the west coast in moist, shady or open forests. It is most recognizable because of its small, red berries, Schrager said. The red-flowering currant will grow flower clusters then dusty-blue berries a few months later, according to the Real Gardens Grow Natives website. The currant is likely to attract hummingbirds and butterflies.

Ferns: Deer fern is native to Clark County. Schrager said it is a smaller type of fern, which can suit a smaller yard well. Meanwhile, Western Sword Fern is much larger and requires more sun than other ferns.

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