Fall in love with great plants to carry your garden through autumn

Aster prince

Trying to find the right career or a purpose in life is a common struggle. For Roger Gossler, the answer was simple.

In his recent talk on Orcas he was introduced to nearly 70 islanders as “one of the few people fortunate to know what he wanted to do with his life since he was born.”

He had his own garden by the time he was four and later earned a degree in landscape, design and maintenance. He is now an author, buyer and main grower at his family business Gossler Family Nursery and speaks about plants across the country.

On Wednesday, Sept. 18, Gossler presented “Fall, the Forgotten Season” at the Orcas Island Garden Club meeting in the Madrona Room of Orcas Center. His appearance was also sponsored by the Orcas Island Library and Friends of the Library.

Roger grew up in Springfield, Ore. on the Gossler family farm. His family has been in the Springfield area for 120 years and has farmed there for most of that time. In the 1960s, the family produced their first catalog and began shipping their plants around the country.  In 1985, they quit farming and established the nursery. Gossler became interested in plants at an early age and  became a leader in promoting the use of woody trees and shrubs.

For the program, Gossler provided slides of red and yellow plants with backdrops of green and purple foliage. He also shared information about plants that are ideal to have on hand in the fall.

“You can have a year-round garden with lots of color,” he said.

At his family’s nursery there are 5,000 different varieties of plants. He shared about 70 plants with his Orcas audience.

Here are a few highlights from his selection:

Amaryllis belladonna or naked lady are easy to plant and smell like vanilla.

Cyclamen hederifoliun is a tuberous perennial that blooms and sprouts leaves in autumn, grows through the winter and goes dormant before summer. Once you have these in your garden for two to three years you will have them forever. Interesting fact: The seeds of the plant are distributed by ants.

Melianthus major smells like peanut butter and will bloom into the winter. The foliage is described as incredible.

Gossler’s “favorite” is aster prince because it’s easy to grow and is mildew resistant. It blooms for a month and a half from late August into September.

Buttercup winter hazel has brilliant yellow leaves in the fall.

Parrotia persica or Persian ironwood in the wild can grow to be a 150-foot timber tree in its native Iraq and Iran. Gossler recommends not planting this tree unless you have an acre and a half.

“If you do have room, this is one of the most beautiful trees imaginable,” he said.

Hamamelis Jelena, also known as witch hazel, can thrive in full sun and flowers from December to February.

Blue billow hydrangea turns deep crimson as they age. Fall foliage reveals an attractive shade of burgundy.

“Instead of putting the garden to bed we are going to keep it awake,” said Gossler.

For more info, check out his book “The Gossler Guide to the Best Hardy Shrubs.”

For more info and a lineup for this year’s lecture series put on by the Orcas Island Garden Club, visit http://www.orcasislandgardenclub.org/.