Amaryllis. For immediate, dependable bloom, shop for potted plants with buds that are already showing color. You can also buy bulbs; they may bloom in a few weeks but can take as long as three months. Give them plenty of light and regular water.
Orchids. Winter is the peak bloom period for many orchids. In Seattle you can see thousands of plants and buy some at the Northwest Orchid Society Fall Show & Sale (9-7 Nov 13, 9-4 Nov 14; $3 donation suggested; in the Snoqualmie Room at Seattle Center, 305 Harrison St.; www.nwos.org or 206/297-3708).
Shrubs and trees. Autumn is a fine time to plant deciduous trees and shrubs; to see how they'll look when they grow up, visit one of the Northwest's many public gardens this month. In Seattle, visit the Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Garden at Hiram M. Chittenden Locks. Take along a copy of Trees at the Locks, horticulturist Arthur Lee Jacobson's updated and map-keyed tree and shrub list; visit www.arthurleej.com to order a copy ($2). In Portland, visit the campus of Reed College; view a tree list and map at the school's website ( http://web.reed.edu/trees) and take a stroll among the stately old trees that adorn the campus.
Spring-blooming bulbs. In outdoor beds, plant drifts of anemones, bluebells, crocuses, daffodils, grape hyacinth, hyacinth, Iris reticulata, ranunculus, and tulips. Species tulips multiply naturally; reliable long-term performers include Tulipa batalinii, T. clusiana, T. clusiana chrysantha, T. greigii, and T. kaufmanniana. For indoor forcing, buy bulbs of freesias, hyacinths, and paperwhite narcissus.
Wildflowers. Scatter wildflower seeds in weed-free beds. West of the Cascades, you'll see seedlings by January and get first bloom in early spring.
Winter-blooming shrubs. Sasanqua camellias bloom from now through spring; 'Yuletide' is one of the best. Also look for Erica x darleyensis 'Kramer's Red', Sarcococca, strawberry tree, and witch hazel.
Maintain tools. Before you put your tools away for the winter, rub down wood handles with linseed oil, sharpen or replace blades, and oil moving parts. In spring, everything will be ready to use.
Mow one last time. Cut the grass on a dry day at midmonth; you shouldn't have to mow again until spring.
Protect dahlias and fuchsias. West of the Cascades, dahlia tubers and hybrid fuchsias can survive a mild winter in well-drained soil if you cover them with 4 inches of straw. They may not make it if the winter is harsh. If you don't want to take the risk, remove them from the ground as described at far left.