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"Things to be Thankful For," by the Whistling Gardener

It seems like every year when I sit down to write a column on thankfulness, I keep coming back to the same things. We live in a horticultural paradise and with the exception of a few heat lovers, we can grow practically anything our little heart’s desire.
Growing fields Bailey Nursery. Photo courtesy of Sunnyside Nursery.

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

It seems like every year when I sit down to write a column on thankfulness, I keep coming back to the same things. We live in a horticultural paradise and with the exception of a few heat lovers, we can grow practically anything our little heart’s desire. 

Oh sure, some things have to be treated as annuals because our winters are too cold, but we can still enjoy them during the summer months and then replace them with winter interest plants for the rest of the year. 

Let’s give thanks for our mild maritime climate that affords us the opportunity to create lush and varied landscapes with lots of diversity and year around interest. 

Of course, none of this diversity would be possible without the hard work of the horticultural industry. Whether you purchase your gardening supplies at the local grocery store, the mega home improvement centers, or a locally owned independent garden center, all of these retailers ultimately have to get their plants from local growers who are essentially farmers of flowers and shrubs and face all the same kinds of perils and risks that food farmers have to deal with. 

Trust me, it’s not the easiest way to make a living, but as consumers we should be very thankful that there are individuals who are willing to commit their lives to this profession. 

The products they produce are food for our souls and just as essential as the meat and potatoes we stick in our mouths. Thank you to all the farmers in the world, whatever their crops happen to be.

After a scorching hot summer of triple-digit temperatures, it was refreshing to receive some much-needed rain early in the fall. I could just feel a sigh of relief from all the shrubs and lawns in my neighborhood that were so parched - I thoroughly expected them to spontaneously combust at any moment. 

I am constantly amazed at the resiliency of nature, in spite of the artificial environments we place our plants in. Let’s give thanks to their ability to thrive and tolerate our neglect and abuse. 

After spending most of 2020 working on the soil in my back yard, this year was spent planting, and oh did I ever plant. An assortment of over 300 shrubs, trees, and perennials all got plunged into the garden with some sort of order and design, although at this point I have to confess, it mostly just looks like a hodge-podge of plants. 

Next year it should start to take shape and I am sure that some things will have to be moved, a few will die on their own, more will be added, and further fine-tuning will keep me busy most of the summer. 

I am excited and thankful for what I was able to accomplish this year and I am looking forward to the next. There are still lots of plants on my “must have” list that I will somehow find a home for. Wish me luck!

Finally, in the midst of all the political and societal upheaval that we are constantly bombarded with, I am thankful for the refuge that my garden provides. The problems of the world are huge and at times seem unsolvable. When I immerse myself in my yard it all goes away, even if it is only for a few hours. 

We should all be thankful for gardens, whether public or private, large or small. Every bit of green space, natural or man-made, needs to be treasured and protected, if for no other reason than just to keep our sanity. 

Thanks to everyone who helps make the world a more beautiful place through the labor of gardening. Stay safe and keep it up!

Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville, WA, and can be reached at sunnysidenursery@msn.com.

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