Saturday, January 20, 2018

Gardening in the Pacific Northwest - a book review

I have always said that most of my gardening knowledge has come from books, a fact that pertains to almost every other aspect in my life as well. The first thing I did after moving here was find as many gardening books as I could that related to gardening in this region. I was excited when I heard that Paul Bonine and Amy Campion were writing a gardening book. I have met both authors - Paul is the owner of Xera in Portland, a fantastic nursery that offers lots of unusual and unique plants. Amy is a writer and photographer and we both are currently serving on the HPSO Board. They are two of the smartest people I know when it comes to plants and gardening in this region.

This book is a great introduction and a must-have for recent transplants to the area (such as myself!). The first section deals with the all-important (and extremely complicated) subject of climate. There are eight climatic sub-regions in the Pacific Northwest. We live in the Willamette Valley and the weather here is far different from the entire eastern side of Washington and Oregon as well as the coast and other regions. The TV weather forecasters in Portland always give 3 separate forecast grids (Coast, Valley and Mountains). You have to understand where you are and what conditions you are working with!

"Good Garden Culture" discusses the various types of soils in the region and how to improve them as well as tips on irrigation, mulching, and dealing with plant diseases and pests.

The largest portion of the book is a plant directory (Perennials, Shrubs, Vines, Trees) that lists the best plants for the region. A photograph of every plant is included as well as a description and growing requirements. This is where the book will get you into trouble. Although I grew many of the same plants in Alabama, there are exciting temptations here like Fuchsias, Cistus (Rock Rose), Grevillea, Choisya (Mexican Orange), Ceonothus (California Lilac), Manzanita (Arctostaphylos) and the list goes on.

A final section covers design facets and features photos of many private gardens in the region.

This book is a must-have for the Pacific Northwest gardener, full of valuable advice and highly recommended.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Monday, January 8, 2018

Bright spots in January

The dark, dreary days are upon us but there are bright spots in the garden. We continue to enjoy our bird-watching hobby. For the past 3 hours, this Juvenile Cooper's Hawk has been sitting in the apple tree. I kid you not - he has not moved for 3 hours!

One of our favorite visitors to the suet feeder is this beautiful Northern Flicker. This photo was taken on Christmas Day when we had snow on the ground - 

I have been working on the terraced area on off days when the weather permits. This large sloping area will have two terraced borders and wide steps between them. After some contemplation and listening to Michael's suggestions, I decided to use railroad ties instead of rocks for the steps. I was afraid it would be too much rock and I hope that the ties will not command too much attention. I want to have grassy steps here.

Believe it or not, one of the most pressing annoyances is what to do with the grass clods that I am removing. We are not supposed to put them in our lawn recycle waste. I have them stacked everywhere and am running out of ideas of what to do with them.

There are several evergreen plants that look good in the winter garden -

False Holly (Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Goshiki’)

Pieris 'Passion Frost'

Fatsia japonica

Fatsia 'Spider's Web'

Cupressus macrocarpa ‘Wilma Goldcrest’
Euonymus albomarginatus

Bear's Breeches (Acanthus mollis) is beginning to grow

In an attempt to practice patience (something I am not good at), I have decided to leave this Cypress 'Swane's Golden' at the entrance to the driveway. It is growing but still very small. I had thought about replacing it with an already large Weeping White Spruce but they are so expensive. This poor little cypress has been moved enough already. For now, I am in favor of leaving it.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy