The “Kodiak Orange” Diervilla shrub pushes fall color to the limits with its glowing orange foliage. (Proven Winners)

The “Kodiak Orange” Diervilla shrub pushes fall color to the limits with its glowing orange foliage. (Proven Winners)

Get to the nursery soon to find some ‘fall color in a can’

Thanks to our hot and dry summer, a selection of plants are already starting to sport their autumn apparel.

I’m not one to rush into the fall season — our summers are far too short as it is, and the longer I can convince myself that September is really late summer, the longer I can enjoy backyard picnics (socially distanced, of course) and shorts.

Despite the cool June, this has been a great summer. This has been a summer of grasshoppers, blooming silk trees and even a crepe myrtle or two — all of which would not have happened without a modicum of sun and heat.

But unfortunately, hot, dry summers also tend to rush us into the fall season prematurely. The reason, of course, is that plants grow faster when it’s warmer and consequently mature sooner. Go to any garden center this time of year, and you will find ample evidence of plants that are finishing up their growth cycle and are starting to sport their fall apparel.

These plants are not sick, just a little stressed. I like to think of them as plants that have been preconditioned for the real world, weaned from the nurturing care of the nursery professional and ready for the harsh reality of your garden.

Here are a few that are looking especially fall-ish around our nursery right now.

“Love Child” sweetspire: Itea virginica is a native to the East Coast, but is well-adapted to the Northwest. Bailey Nurseries, with growing grounds in Yamhill, Oregon, has introduced, through their First Editions line of shrubs, a dwarf form of sweetspire called “Love Child.”

They describe it as follows: “A compact form of Virginia sweetspire, blooming in spring with white, fragrant racemes radiating out from a rounded plant with bright green foliage. In autumn, the foliage turns gorgeous shades of burgundy. The small size makes it perfect for smaller gardens and foundation plantings. A versatile shrub for sun or shade. Thrives in moist soil but somewhat drought tolerant too. Deer resistant.” What’s not to like about that!

“Kodiak Orange” Diervilla: Marketed under the Proven Winners label, this North American native is tough as nails. Here’s what they have to say about it: “‘Kodiak Orange’ Diervilla pushes fall color to the limits with its transformation to glowing orange. New growth emerges a showy russet, accompanied by bright yellow flowers in summer. It is completely pest free, growing in sun or shade, and stays a tidy 3 to 4 feet tall and as wide.” “Kodiak Red” is similar, only with darker and brighter red coloration.

“Opening Day” Viburnum: This doublefile Viburnum is another First Edition introduction from Bailey Nurseries and, while the spring blooms are absolutely perfectly round and the size of baseballs, the fall color is incredible! Bright green leaves in spring are heavily corrugated and turn shades of cabernet in the fall.

While I wouldn’t normally advocate buying plants that are all stressed out, in this case, it’s OK. These guys are just finishing up the season a little early and, with proper planting, they will be rearing to go come springtime.

So, if you want to get a jump on the fall color season, get out to the garden center this month to check out some “fall color in a can.” If nothing else, it will surely put you in the mood for a pumpkin spice latte. Stay safe and keep on gardening.

Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at

Make your own terrarium

Sunnyside Nursery’s free gardening classes are back — but they’re online for now. A class on making your own terrarium is scheduled for 11 a.m. Oct. 4 via Zoom. With registration, you’ll receive a Zoom link to attend the online class. For more information or to sign up, visit

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