"A short list of the things I am thankful for (horticulturally speaking)," from the Whistling Gardener

The Whistling Gardener shares a short list of things he is thankful for (horticulturally speaking), including fall color and seasons, winter blooming plants, colorful foliage, spring bulbs and pansies.
The Whistling Gardener shares a list of things he is thankful for. Photo courtesy of Sunnyside Nursery.

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

Of all the gardening tools I own, I am most thankful for my handheld, gasoline powered leaf blower. Now I know that leaf blowers are the bane of many city dweller’s existence. They are noisy and kick up considerable dust and pollute the air, but boy are they slick when it comes to collecting leaves on gravel. If I had to rake by hand all the leaves that fall on my gravel here in the nursery I would have to replace a dump truck load of gravel every year and when you think of all the energy and pollution it takes to make a dump truck of gravel the leaf blower all of a sudden sounds like a pretty good way to keep the environment clean.

Let’s hear it for the guy who invented the leaf blower and the weed eater, the gas hedge trimmer, the chain saw, etc.

Fall Color and Seasons: 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 grew across the street in the back yard of Mrs. Brown, I think we have great fall color. I also think our seasons are just right, not too severe but distinct enough for us to recognize and appreciate them.

Winter blooming plants: 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 and broadleafed evergreens brighten up the gloomy gray skies of winter. Glittering golden yews, cedars, cypress and Cryptomeria. Golden yuccas and box-leafed honeysuckle, variegated hollies and Pieris. 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.

Pansies: That may sound shallow but dog-gone-it, pansies are regular little troopers that, like the energizer bunny, just keep going and going and going. Regardless of what Mother Nature dishes out, they hang in there and keep smiling all the time. They can be frozen rock hard and just as soon as it warms up they are back in business again, hardly skipping a beat. The color range is incredible and their faces are so happy they just make me smile every time I see them. Their smaller cousins the violas are just as playful and a delight to have in the garden. When it comes to durability in the garden, nothing beats a pansy. Which makes you wonder how the expression “Don’t be a pansy” ever came to be. Go figure.

Finally, I am grateful for all of you that take gardening seriously enough to patronize an independent garden center like Sunnyside Nursery. I wouldn’t be writing this column if it weren’t for readers like you. Thank you.

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


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