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!

Getting Your Garden Ready for Winter

on Monday, 18 October 2021.

Leave the Leaves!

leaves 20163145791The days are getting shorter, we've had a few nights below freezing, and leaves are falling fast. Our summer songbirds have been replaced by winter residents like dark-eyed juncos, golden-crowned sparrows, and hermit thrushes. The signs are inescapable – it’s time to start transitioning our gardens into winter mode.  

Even though the sounds of leaf blowers are everywhere, there are some really powerful and compelling reasons to leave those leaves right in your garden. This fall, instead of bagging your fallen leaves and putting them out on the curb, consider raking them on top of your garden beds instead. Why?

  • Creating a leaf much for your garden beds is the equivalent of tucking your plants in with a nice warm blanket. Mulched leaves help insulate plant roots against extreme cold snaps and are a great way to help insulate your perennials over the winter.
  • Fallen leaves – and the dead stalks from this summer’s perennials - provide shelter for overwintering beneficial insects and pollinators (native bees, butterflies, etc.). These beneficials will more than repay you next year by helping to control any garden pests that might try to get established. Once cold weather has passed, you can prune back your perennials to get them ready for their spring growth.
  • Your leaf mulch will break down within a few months; creating a free source of nutrients for your plants. Leaving the leaves is also a really simple way to introduce more organic material into your soil; something that’s beneficial to all soil types.

Finally, if you absolutely cannot stand to have leaves on your garden beds, this is a great time to start a compost pile. Add green trimmings, vegetable scraps, manure, and turn a few times over the winter and – voila! – you’ll have fresh rich compost ready for next spring’s growing season!

To learn more, visit this helpful blog from the Xerces Society.

Gardening With Native Plants

on Tuesday, 05 October 2021.

SisyrinchiumHere at Shooting Star Nursery, we’re hearing from more and more people interested in gardening with native plants, and that makes us very happy. We’re big native plant fans here and think there are lots of great reasons to add native perennials, shrubs, trees, and vines to your garden.

To begin with, native plants are the ultimate low-maintenance plant choice. They’re already preadapted to our climate (cool, wet winters and hot, dry summers) and don’t need the coddling that many of their highly cultivated counterparts require. As a result, you’ll find yourself spending less time working in the garden, and more time just enjoying being in the garden. 

blue on buckwheatNative plants also provide essential high-quality food – pollen, nectar, berries, seeds, other insects - and shelter for pollinators and other wildlife like songbirds. And finally, many of our native plants are just plain beautiful – the ultimate justification for any gardener! 

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you start exploring the wonderful world of gardening with native plants. 


Mimulus guttatusNot all native plants are drought tolerant! Some - like Red-twig Dogwood, Western Columbine, Seep Monkeyflower, Mock Orange, Pacific Ninebark, and Douglas’s Spirea - are native to shady riparian areas or wet meadows and will need more shade and water than other native plants.

Carpenteria californicaThis is not the Pacific Northwest. Here in the Rogue Valley, we are actually part of the California Floristic Province, which extends along the Pacific coast from Baja to southwest Oregon. The plants native to this region share a set of adaptations to cool, wet winters and hot, dry summers. So even though we live in Oregon, we’re more likely to be successful with native plants from the California chapparal – or even the southwestern US - than plants from the cooler maritime climate of northern Oregon. As they say in Grants Pass: It’s the Climate! 

AquilegiaMicroclimates! Success with native plants is all about putting the right plant in the right place, and our yards are all full of microclimates that can be the perfect niche for a native plant. Do you have a dry, shady place under some trees? Sounds like a great place for some Heuchera. A place that gets good morning sun that could use a 6’ tall shrub? Philadelphus would do nicely there. A hot, dry sunny spot that gets sun all day long? A combination of Eriogonum, Monardella, and Zauschneria would bring a splash of bright color there from late spring through fall. A moist, shady area along a creek? A glade of Aquilegia and Mimulus would be perfect. The more you pay attention to the microclimates in your yard, the better you’ll be able to match them to the preferences of your native plants.

Zauschneria Everetts ChoiceAbout Watering: Native plants have adopted a number of elegant strategies to help them survive in a climate without any appreciable rainfall from June through September. One of these strategies is summer dormancy: some plants actually shut down and stop growing during the hottest months to minimize their need for water, and regular summer watering can actually damage or kill them. When planting drought tolerant natives, make a point of keeping them away from lawns or areas of your yard that receive regular (2 or more times a week) summer water. As always, feel free to ask our staff if you have any questions – we are always happy to help! 

Rosa nutkanaGo Take a Hike: Seriously! One of the very best ways to learn more about native plants is to get out into the many beautiful wild places around the valley where these plants occur naturally. While you’re there, take note of the area. Is it sunny or shady? Is there a nearby creek or is the location hot and exposed? What other plants are growing nearby? Are plants all crowded together, or do they seem to like a bit of space? Are they growing in the understory, or out in the full sun? Bit by bit, you’ll develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of these wonderful plants – and likely come up with a list of plants you’d like to try growing at home!


Want to learn more? We’ve got some great resources for you to check out:

Arctostaphylos Howard McMinnShooting Star Nursery’s newly updated Native Plant list has a list of the different natives that we carry or have access to, along with information about drought tolerance, pollinator-friendly plants, deer resistance, plants that tolerate clay soils, and plants that prefer wet soils. Our website also has a list dedicated exclusively to Manzanitas (we're big fans)!

The Siskiyou Chapter of the NPSO is a great source of local information, with monthly presentations, hikes, and plant lists.

The California Native Plant Society has developed a website called Calscape, which contains a wealth of information including native plant profiles, information about pollinator gardening, and even some design suggestions.