Gardening in the New Normal

While the unprecedented heat wave that brought triple-digit temperatures to the Pacific Northwest has passed, it has left its mark on the region’s trees and plants. Fir trees with brown patches, rhododendrons with scorched leaves and grass the color of straw dot the landscape. Since we should expect wetter winters and drier summers in the future, it’s a good time to reconsider how we garden.

In Gardening for Summer-Dry Climates, Nora Harlow provides suggestions and solutions specific to Pacific Northwest gardeners. A large portion of the book is devoted to plants that can withstand hot, dry summers; and to preventative measures, such as ways to harvest rainwater and landscaping that minimizes the risk of forest fires, making this a must-read for serious gardeners.

Olivier Filippi, known in France as the “dry gardening guru,” brings his expertise to Planting Design for Dry Gardens. Instead of water-hogging lawns that require constant maintenance, Filippi provides gardeners with alternatives such as ground covers and flowering meadows, ornamental grasses and shrubs, and gravel gardens that simultaneously highlight attractive, drought-resistant plants while keeping weeds at bay.

Xeriscaping — gardening or landscaping that reduces or eliminates the need to irrigate plants — has been widely practiced in desert and Mediterranean-type climates; as Pacific Northwest summers get drier and hotter, it’s a practice worth considering. In The Water-Saving Garden, Texas-based Pam Penick suggests drought-tolerant plants that are showstoppers along with practical solutions like grading soil and embracing pots and containers. In the section “Oasis or Mirage? Creating the illusion of water in the garden,” Penick “squeezes water from stone” with ideas for using glass and other materials to enhance your garden in surprising ways.

~posted by Frank

Pandemic Garden Reset!

Did you pick up a new hobby last year? At the start of the pandemic, many of us dived into bread-baking, knitting, music-making, or any number of social-distance friendly hobbies. Mine was panic-gardening. I say panic-gardening because I started by haphazardly pulling out a small patch of lawn and throwing down whatever random seeds and plant starts my local nursery had leftover to see what would take. Needless to say, you won’t find my method of gardening in any recommended books or blogs on this subject…

In the end, the small harvest of lettuce, carrots, and tomatoes that I got was still enough to hook me on gardening. This year, I’m hoping to return to my garden patch with a lot more forethought and planning. I’m currently writing this blog as our city is blanketed by snow, so though it might seem early to be thinking about Spring, it’s actually the perfect time to get started on plants with a longer “days to maturity” period—like onions.

As I started reading up on this subject, I realized quickly that to start gardening as a novice is to be met with a million decisions: Should you start seeds indoors or sow directly? When should you plant seeds? What plants are best suited to our cloudy and wet springs? How important is your soil’s pH level? The world of gardening books is vast and initially overwhelming but here are a few books that have helped me make more sense of the basics:

The New Gardener’s Handbook: Everything You Need to Know to Grow A Beautiful and Bountiful Garden by Daryl Beyers is an all-purpose guide to growing that serves as a refresher for basic plant science, like the parts of the plants,  types of roots, etc… It also walks you through steps of plant care that beginners might overlook, like how to prune your crop or collect seeds for next year.  But gardening isn’t just about maximizing your yields or growing the biggest pumpkin you can.

Continue reading “Pandemic Garden Reset!”

Pollinator Project


Finding solace in natural surroundings, and caring about wildlife even the urban creatures around grew stronger than ever while socially distancing. But, I haven’t read as much. On the days I have off, I have volunteered at a local park to plant off trail for pollinators and birds, to water the plants, and to try and keep dogs and people off of the seedlings and plants.

Lorquin’s Admiral butterfly

If you would like to help in a similar way Green Seattle Partnership is one way to go.  It helps to know your native plants so you know which ones not to trample on or pull up. To become a Forest Steward you need to take a class, which happens during the Fall. I found 5-6 species of butterflies at this park this summer; this one is called Lorquin’s Admiral. Continue reading “Pollinator Project”

Plant Bulbs and Dream of Summer

Last week I was in the garden, drenched with rain, digging in the mud with rapidly freezing fingers, and feeling suddenly hopeful. I was planting allium bulbs, and thinking about when, months from now, they would bloom. The Summer days would be long, the weather would be warm, and perhaps we’d have friends over to sit in the garden and watch the bees at work. One more Summer still, and perhaps these blooms will smile upon a populous garden party, social but not at all distanced.

As Fall darkens toward Winter, planting Spring and Summer bulbs gives us something to look forward to. It’s not too late – and many stores will be Continue reading “Plant Bulbs and Dream of Summer”

Slowing Down

For me March was always the kick off to camping season. Finding a cabin early in the season then in April heading to our family campsite on the Olympic Peninsula for opening day of fishing; May and June to Eastern Washington before it gets too hot and that itch to go and explore is still there. To combat that sense of go, go, go I walk since it’s now my only form of escape. What I noticed this time around, since I have the time and don’t feel a need to rush, I actually pay more attention to my surroundings.

Still image from 10 Parks That Changed AmericaI found a pocket park near my house. A tribute to fallen motorcyclists with trees and placards honoring those who had passed. Walking through slowly I read all the names and couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen it before. Maybe because it was next to a busy street and so more of a place we pass then visit, but not that day. Continue reading “Slowing Down”