Books for Garden Inspiration!

on Friday, 14 January 2022.

Summerdry edOne of my favorite things to do during the slow days of midwinter is to settle down with a good garden-related book or two; to fuel my imagination and get me inspired for the upcoming garden season. If that’s something you enjoy too, we’ve got a few recommendations for you.

One of our recommendations (Gardening in Summer-Dry Climates) is a fairly straightforward gardening book; two (The Bees in Your Backyard and Entangled Life) focus on some of the non-plant neighbors you’ll meet in your yard; and one (Braiding Sweetgrass) is a lovely, lyrical celebration of the interrelationships between humans and the green world. Find yourself a comfy chair, grab a cup of tea, and let’s take a look!


Gardening in Summer-Dry Climates by Nora Harlow and Saxon Holt (above left): This is the gardening book we need right now; specifically written for the summer-dry climates of California, Oregon, and Washington. It’s also the first gardening book I’ve come across that not only deals with things like living with wildfire, adapting your gardens for a changing climate, and learning to ‘garden where you are’; but also gets you excited and hopeful about the process. The book has a huge plant list that includes lots of native plants, with information about where the plants are originally from and what their cultural preferences and water needs are. Best of all, Gardening in Summer-Dry Climates is loaded with gorgeous photos and inspiring ideas that prove that you can have a beautiful garden that is both lush and water-conscious.

BraidingBraiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer: One of my all-time favorite books about plants and the natural world. Robin Wall Kimmerer is, in her own words, ‘a mother, scientist, decorated professor, and enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation’. Braiding Sweetgrass effortlessly combines these different perspectives and ways of understanding the world. This is one of those rare books that actually changed me as a reader and enriched the ways in which I relate to the natural world. You should read it!

Entangled smEntangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake: And now, a book that focuses on all the strange and mysterious things that happen in your garden below ground and out of sight. If we think of fungi at all, we tend to think of their fruiting bodies: from Chanterelles and Morels to Amanitas and Psilocybin. But the wonderful world of fungi is much bigger and stranger than that. Take a journey into this fascinating world and see ‘how fungi make our worlds, change our minds, and shape our futures’. A really fun and eye-opening read.

BeesBackyard smThe Bees in Your Backyard by Joseph S. Wilson and Olivia Messinger Carril: When someone says “bees”, most people probably think of the European Honeybee – but there are actually over 4,000 native bee species found in North America (approximately 500 are found in Oregon!). This book is a great introduction to the incredible variety of bees that can be found in your own pollinator-friendly garden. Great photos, ID tips, and information about the different plants that these bees rely on; The Bees in Your Backyard will open your eyes to the beauty and fascinating life histories of our native bees.

What’s on your garden bookshelf this winter? Stop by the nursery and let us know!

It's Time for Bareroots!

on Saturday, 08 January 2022. Posted in Edibles, Fruit trees

Fruit Tree and Berry Season

homeWinter2017 Bare Root Fruit Trees and Berries

Foggy mornings, cold nights, and soggy ground - that means it’s a perfect time for planting bare-root trees and shrubs! Our first shipment of bare-root berries and shrubs have already arrived, and our bareroot fruit trees will all be coming in over the next few weeks. This is a great time to start putting together your 2022 edible landscape wish list.

Bareroots, for those unfamiliar with them, are dormant plants (generally fruiting trees and shrubs) that are sold with exposed roots. We hold them here at the nursery in bins filled with soil, to keep the roots from drying out. When you buy them, we dig them out, pop them into a plastic bag, and you’re on your way! And although bareroots look a little…unimpressive…at first glance, there are a lot of great reasons to consider planting a few this winter.

              Selection: You’ll find the biggest selection of fruiting trees and shrubs of the year during bareroot season - ranging from nut trees (walnut, pecan, and pistachio) and hard-to-find food plants like quince, jujube, elderberry, and currants; to a larger selection of sizes (dwarf, semi-dwarf, and full-sized) and varieties of fruit (four kinds of strawberries, four kinds of grapes, ten kinds of peaches and three persimmons!).

              Price: Because these are bareroots, nurseries have a lot fewer costs invested in them: no containers, no soil, no fertilizer - and they haven’t spent months (or years) caring for them as they’re growing out. Those savings are passed along to the buyer, and they can be significant.

              Mid-winter is a great time to plant: It might seem counter-intuitive, but this is a wonderful time for planting trees and shrubs. The ground is moist and plants are dormant, so plants are far less likely to go into transplant shock than they are during warmer and drier times of the year. In addition, because the ground is soft, tree-sized holes are a lot easier to dig!

              Getting to the root of it all: Plant roots are amazing structures: they hold plants in place, pull water out of the soil, and store the nutrients plants need to grow and be healthy. And root structures are incredibly variable. Some plants produce lots of thin, fibrous roots; some rely on a long taproot; and others have root structures that branch as widely and intricately as the above-ground part of the plant. And yet, we rarely get to see them! This is probably the only time you’ll have the opportunity to see the whole plant you’re working with. And that can help give you a better understanding of what your trees and shrubs need in order to grow and thrive.

blackberriesapple treepeach

There are just a few things you’ll need to keep in mind when planting bareroots, in order to get your new plants off to the best start possible:

  • Try to get them planted within a few hours of getting them home. Your bareroot plants are dormant, but they’re not indestructible. If you can’t get them planted immediately, make sure you keep roots from drying out between the time you bring your plants home and the time you get them planted. You can keep them moist inside the plastic bag for a couple of days, but it's best to heel them into some soil or moist bark if you can’t plant them right away.
  • Hold off on fertilizing your new plants until all risk of frost has passed. Fertilizing too soon can push leaf growth before their roots have had a chance to get established. In addition, new leaves are thin and tender and can be killed by late frosts.
  • It is best to prune back the branches of your bareroot tree.  You want the top of the tree to be more in line with the root system.  This will help give the roots a better chance at supporting what is up top. 
  • Please feel free to ask us questions! The staff here at Shooting Star is happy to help you with suggestions about the best varieties to plant, how much space your plants will need, and what pollenizers (if any) your plants will need in order to produce fruits. We can even give you a few simple pruning suggestions to get you started on the right foot with your new plants.

Selecting and Caring for your Live Christmas Tree

on Sunday, 05 December 2021.

'Tis the Season for...Conifers!

Live Christmas tree sm

This year, instead of bringing home a cut Christmas tree that was cut weeks ago and kept in cold storage or putting up one of those “trees in a box”, consider getting a live Christmas tree.

It’s easy to understand the charm of a live Christmas tree; one that can be planted outside after the holidays and go on to brighten your garden for years to come. Here are a few tips that will help you pick the best live tree for your home, and keep it alive and healthy until you plant it after the holidays.

 Let’s start with a few basic conifer facts:

  •  Most conifers don’t actually stop growing. Some may grow very slowly (less than 6”/year); others can grow much quicker (over a foot a year). When you see the mature size of a conifer listed, that size is just a snapshot of the size the plant will be in 10 to 20 years.

Unless otherwise noted, most conifers prefer at least 5 to 6 hours of sun per day. Most can take full sun

Conifers generally prefer soil with a neutral to slightly acidic pH; most prefer well-drained soils

When planting your conifer, if it is wrapped in a burlap ball, cut the twine that holds the ball together but don’t loosen the burlap (that can damage the roots) – the roots can grow through the burlap, and the burlap will eventually disintegrate

Remember to plant the crown slightly above the level of the surrounding soil (link to planting guide)

Caring for your live Christmas tree:

If you are bringing your tree into the house, be sure to keep it away from fireplaces and heat vents

Minimize the time your live Christmas tree spends indoors. Ideally, your tree won’t spend more than 3 or 4 weeks inside.

The best way to keep your live Christmas tree watered is to place ice cubes in the pot. They’ll melt slowly and the plant will soak up the water gradually – and you won’t be left with big messy puddles on the floor!

When you’re transitioning your tree from your house to the outdoors, do it gradually. Remember: your house is a good 30 to 40 degrees warmer than your yard at this time of year! Once the holidays are over, move your tree into a sheltered place outside – maybe on an unheated porch or under a sheltered overhand. While your trees will be happier in the ground, you don’t need to plant them right away - as long as you keep your tree from drying out.

For more information on some of the varieties of dwarf and compact conifers we have in stock, check out this Plant of the Week post!