While fashionistas are gripped by the famous running of the vapor-thin models in New York every fall, for local gardenistas there's Autumn Project Month, kicking off August 29th, at Swansons Nursery (Crown Hill, 9701 15th Ave. NW; 206.782.2543).
For months, Swansons' buyers have been working with international and local growers to curate their fall flora line. "I am constantly looking for new or underused garden-worthy plants," says Alex LaVilla, Swansons' Perennial Plant buyer, and a longtime Great Plant Picks selection committee member for the Elizabeth C. Miller Botanical Garden. LaVilla is a big fan of noted Netherlands plantsman Piet Oudolf, whose plantings are featured in Chicago's Lurie Garden and New York's famed Highline Park. "The perennial plant selections from Oudolf's nursery in Holland are top notch, so I try to get as many of them in here at the nursery (or grown for us) as possible," explains LaVilla. "I thought the Purple Prairie Clover Dalea purpurea, a Midwestern native plant used in the Highline, also would work in the Northwest, so I asked locally based Skagit Gardens to grow some for us." Other Lavilla for-fall favorites, sure to add texture and visual interest to autumnal gardens, include the intense, steely blue Festuca ‘Beyond Blue' evergreen grass (perfect, he says, for rockeries and containers) and the lacey, silvery blue Athyrium x ‘Ghost’ fern (try in shady garden spaces).
Favored for fall: the feathery Ghost fern and late-blooming Endess Summer hydrangeas
Whereas Swansons' Woody Plants buyer Gabriel Maki favors a flowering plant for fall, the Bloomstruck Hydrangea. "It's a recent introduction from the high-technology 'Endless Summer Series' of hydrangeas," he says. "They repeat bloom very well from around May to November, and unlike old-fashioned hydrangeas, if they are pruned at the wrong time of the year, they will still bloom well that same year." Adds Maki, "Almost all of the plants we offer during Project month were just recently received. They have not been sitting here for months deteriorating."
A la those high-fashion design houses, this year, Swansons has put together its own online "lookbook" showcasing some of their Prêt-à-Planter fall looks: http://www.swansonslookbook.com. (For more design inspiration, visit Swansons' Pinterest page or Twitter project boards.) Dedicated gardenistas also will want to check out this Thursday's, 8/28, 6-9 p.m., Autumn Month preview event, featuring landscape experts, food truck fare, 30-percent off all perennials, trees and shrubs, and the chance to win $1,000 in Swansons' garden goods. To attend, just click here
And may all your fall garden designs be runway beautiful.