Hardy, local-source, native species can be planted virtually anytime you can work the soil easily and keep a new planting well watered. Many native plant nurseries restock in September to offer good selections for the fall gardener. There are lots of unique natives from which to choose. Consider an alternative like Fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus), Deciduous Holly (Ilex decidua) or Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea) instead of the usual Bradford Pear, Lilac or Flowering Crab.
And if you're not so interested in planting, remember that now's a great time to cultivate a knowledge of native plants and landscaping through books. Gardening with Prairie Plants by Sally Wasowski, Go Native! by Carolyn Harstad, and Gardening with Nature by James Van Sweden & Wolfgang Oehme are just a few from my bookshelves that would make great holiday gifts for the green thumbs in your life.
Armed with knowledge, you're ready to do what may be your most important gardening job this side of weeding. Inventory and planning. And while you can do a lot on your own, consulting with a landscape professional is an important investment toward your ideal landscape, especially if you are considering using native species that may be unfamiliar to you. Hiring a professional is not a luxury for the few, but an important investment that can be tailored to fit any budget and save you money in the long run.
A landscape professional will discuss your long-term landscape goals with you. For example, he or she will be interested in how you use or want to use the entire area as well as spaces within it. Will the area have regular activity or do you envision a quiet retreat that will attract watchable wildlife? And how much time, money and labor are you willing to commit to the landscape, both in the beginning and on an annual basis.
Next, a site study will be done. For this part, winter's bareness will be an asset, revealing the area's structureboth its man-made hardscape, e.g., walkways, fencing, etc., and the leafless forms of existing plants, shrubs and trees. The study may culminate in a comprehensive master plan, including drawings or written ideas to improve traffic flow, reduce noise or unattractive views, and to improve your home's overall curb appeal. Or the study may result in simple verbal recommendations, revealing existing specimens in need of pruning, removal and possible replacement. From this landscape "ground zero," the professional designer will suggest new plant additions for seasonal interest or ones that would be better adapted to your site conditions.
For a holiday gift that keeps on giving, you could give these professional landscape services. There are a number of local, qualified professionals who specialize in native landscape design, installation and maintenance. These pros can provide a general site inventory and recommendations, a complete landscape design proposal and project plan, or something in between. They will help the recipient of your gift achieve goals for a beautiful, low-maintenance landscape, filled with songbirds and other watchable wildlife. Something to dream aboutand look forward to--on those cold, blustery days to come!