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As a Northwest gardener, what are you thankful for? - from The Whistling Gardener

Well, this week is Thanksgiving, a traditional time for Americans to take time to count their blessing and reflect on the things in their lives that they are truly thankful for. So I was thinking (in gardening terms of course) of some of the things that I really enjoy here in the great northwest. Here’s my list.
Steve Smith, The Whistling Gardener, is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville. Photo credit: Sunnyside Nursery.

This weekly column is being reproduced with the permission of Steve Smith, The Whistling Gardener, and owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville.

Well, this week is Thanksgiving, a traditional time for Americans to take time to count their blessing and reflect on the things in their lives that they are truly thankful for. So I was thinking (in gardening terms of course) of some of the things that I really enjoy here in the great northwest. Here’s my list.

Fall Color. It’s Nature’s gift to the gardener and for a boy who grew up in San Diego where the only fall color I experienced was the dirty yellow leaves of a Lombardy poplar that resided across the street in the back yard of Mrs. Brown, I think we have great fall color. (If you happen to be from the mid-west or northeast then please just humor me for now.)

Seasons. Again, having come from southern California I never experienced much in the way of seasonal changes. The palm trees looked the same in July as they did in December and the bougainvillea seemed to always be in bloom. Here in the northwest with our maritime climate our seasons are just right, not too severe but distinct enough for us to recognize and appreciate them.

Winter blooming plants. Right now, as we speak, my Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn” is in full bloom and the fragrance is glorious, reminiscent of the lilacs of spring. We are blessed with many plants that will bloom in our mild winters and carry us into the spring season. No matter what time of year it is, there is always something coming into bloom in this part of the country. It’s so easy to have year ‘round interest that there is just no excuse for a boring yard.

Colorful foliage. Colorful conifers brighten up the gloomy gray skies of winter. Glittering golden yews, cedars, cypresses and cryptomerias. Golden yuccas and box-leafed honeysuckle, variegated hollies and andromedas. Blues, bronzes, reds and oranges, every color of the rainbow is represented in the plants we can grow in this mild climate zone. The variety is astounding.

Spring bulbs. You can’t grow tulips, daffodils and the like in tropical climates unless you refrigerate them for three months first. We have just enough winter chill so that all we have to do is plant them in the fall and up they come in the spring, all on their own. Bulbs are truly a miracle of spring and there is still time to plant them.

Ornamental grasses. This group of plants interjects excitement into our gardens. It was just a few years ago that pampas grass and blue fescue were about the only choices we had for grass accents in the landscape. Now the choices are endless. Tall ones, short ones, skinny ones, fat ones, green ones, blue ones, yellow ones and red ones. Grasses for the sun and grasses for the shade, grasses for wet and grasses for dry. I am thankful for the designers and growers that have helped us rediscover grasses.

Horticultural paradise. We live in a region where despite the generally lousy soils and lack of sunshine we can grow almost anything we want to at some time of the year. So when you finish cursing the slugs, the moles, the excessively wet soils, the lack of heat and light, and the mold and mildew, take a minute to think about all the things that make this place as beautiful as it is and be thankful.

Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached online at info@sunnysidenursery.net.

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