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 Our summer songbirds have been replaced by winter residents like dark-eyed juncos, golden-crowned sparrows, and hermit thrushes.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. 

Four Great Reasons for Fall Planting

on Sunday, 12 September 2021.

So What's The Big Deal About Fall Planting?

Reasons for Fall Planting smBy now, you’ve probably heard that fall is the best time for planting. But did you ever wonder why? Here are the top four reasons you should consider doing the majority of your planting (and transplanting) in the fall.


Easier to Get Plants Established: When you plant in fall, top growth is already slowing and plants are beginning to go dormant for the winter. However, the soil is still warm – so roots have plenty of time to grow out and get established without having to focus their attention on supporting tender new top growth. As a result, fall-planted perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees generally put on a spectacular burst of growth the following spring because their root systems are already well developed.


CercidiphyllumWatering is Much Easier: When you plant in spring, getting your watering right is absolutely critical: your plants are growing quickly and all that tender new growth requires a lot of water to support it. If we get some unexpectedly hot spring days and plants haven’t been watered sufficiently, your plants can easily be damaged. In contrast, the cooler temperatures of fall really favor deep, infrequent watering. And, with the arrival of cold weather and winter rains you can stop watering altogether until things begin to warm up again in spring.


Pollinators on SolidagoSome Plants Really Prefer Fall Planting: Almost all plants benefit from fall planting, but some actively prefer it. Big shade trees do best when planted in the fall, so they have the whole winter to grow out their roots before they have to support tender new leaves in spring. Drought-tolerant native plants can be really touchy about water – especially the frequent watering you need to do in spring and early summer for spring-planted natives. They’re much happier with the deep, infrequent watering you can do in fall, and will be well on their way to becoming established and drought tolerant when the next growing season comes around. When you plant pollinator-friendly plants in fall – especially those that provide larval food for butterflies – you’re planting after butterflies have finished laying their eggs for the year. By the time spring rolls around, plants are well-established and able to withstand the attentions of hungry baby caterpillars.


Great selectionGreat Selection! Has this ever happened to you: you go into a nursery in early spring with a big list of plants you want to add to your garden, only to end up only coming home with just one or two – because the rest weren’t ready yet? It takes plants awhile to break dormancy in spring and start growing and flowering – we’re ready for them long before they are ready for us! But by fall, those plants are beautifully established and in prime condition to be brought home and planted. Shooting Star Nursery is usually at peak availability in early fall.