Gardening in the Pacific Northwest: The Complete Homeowner's Guide includes information on...
- Our Climate (it's complicated — the information in this section alone is worth the cover price)
- Good Garden Culture (soil, fertilizer, irrigation and mulch)
- Diseases, Pests and Solutions
- Plant Picks: What Thrives Here (so many, and with great photos)
- Design, Northwest Garden Style (our unique style and garden types)
Illustrating that Northwest Garden Style...
|From NW Garden Style — the garden of Vanessa Gardener Nagel|
|From NW Garden Style — the garden of Scott Weber|
The book's introduction sets the tone perfectly:
"Pacific Northwesterners are passionate gardeners — perhaps because we live in a land of unlimited planting possibilities. Our spectacular natural landscape and benign climate beckon us outdoors to cultivate and create. For the purpose of this guide, the Pacific Northwest includes the geographical regions of Oregon, Washington, and southwest British Columbia, on both sides of the Cascade Mountains. West of the Cascades, moderate temperatures allow us to succeed with a vast array of plants from all over the world. East of the mountains, a more arid continental climate produces larger swings in temperature , but this area offers no less interesting gardening."
They had me right there — did you catch that? The authors state right up front that the Pacific Northwest isn't defined as just the I-5 corridor (Western Oregon, Washington and British Columbia). As someone who grew up in Eastern Washington I get so frustrated when I read things like "the Pacific Northwest had a white Christmas for the first time in years"... just because it snowed in Seattle, Tacoma and Portland on the holiday this year. Eastern Washington and Oregon are a huge part of the PNW and no strangers to snow and cold temperatures, throughout the winter.
In the book's first chapter the eight climatic sub-regions that make up the Pacific Northwest are identified and roughly 13 or so pages are dedicated to covering them in detail.
|Broadleaf evergreens are especially vulnerable when a superfreeze srikes|
The book is filled with gorgeous photos, there's not a page that doesn't have at least one. The two below, from the "Good Garden Culture" section, introduce the topic of irrigation zones and illustrate the luxury of gardening in my PNW sub-region — Portland Metro, within the Willamette Valley. The first photo shows mesic plants, those that require regular water during our dry summers.
The second is of a garden featuring well draining soil planted with xeric plants (grown in dry zones) while plants that need summer irrigation are grouped together in another section. That's logical gardening!
The meat of the book (over 200 pages) is devoted to plant recommendations...
"This guide provides Pacific Northwest gardeners with a broad range of plants that are likely to succeed here. You'll find sections on perennials, shrubs, vines, and trees — the essential components of a garden. Selections in each category are chosen to provide the maximum amount of diversity, adaptation, and interest. Diversity is the heart of the modern garden; it ignites our passion for plants and fills us with wonder at their many forms."
|Grevillea victoriae, a recommended shrub native to high elevations in Australia|
Each plant listing shares detailed cultural information which includes the PNW sub-region that particular plant should thrive in, as well as a helpful description with ideas for placement in the garden, care instructions and other tidbits that only come with first hand experience.
|Arctostaphylos 'Austin Griffiths' — from the section on shrubs, and hey...that's my garden!|
I was thrilled to see this encouraging blurb adjacent to the listing for Agave havardiana:
"Agaves have exploded in popularity in the Pacific Northwest, and now even formerly obscure species are widely available thanks to tissue culture...In gardens west of the Cascasdes, the most successful agave species and cultivars are hardy to cold into the single digits. They're best planted on well-drained sloped and tilted so water doesn't collect in their crowns. They require no supplemental water. East of the Cascades, there are more than a half a dozen that will thrive — they need only to be planted by adventuresome gardeners." That's a challenge to you adventuresome gardeners — get out there and plant an Agave!
|The garden of Eric Peterson and Robert Brigham, photo from a small section on container gardening|
The book benefits greatly from Paul Bonine's experience as a nursery owner (he is co-owner of Xera Plants) and lifelong resident of the PNW. In a interesting contrast Amy Campion is a relative newcomer to the region, having moved here five years ago. I asked about her experience gardening in the PNW and what she's discovered. Here's her thoughtful reply...
"I spent most of my adult gardening life in the Cincinnati area (zone 6). When I moved to Portland in 2013, I had never even visited the Pacific Northwest. Before I came here, I asked the owner of the nursery I worked at what the plants were like in the Pacific Northwest. He replied, "They're pretty much the same as here." When I got here, I was blown away by brilliant blue ceanothus, monkey puzzle trees, windmill palms, tetrapanax, and countless other plants I had never seen before--many of which I couldn't identify. Apparently, my boss had only toured the Willamette Valley wholesale nurseries, where most of the plants are grown specifically for shipping out East. He had never really explored the amazing public and private gardens of our region and appreciated the incredible diversity contained within them.
When I began gardening here, I realized that not just the plants were different from what I had known. Obviously, the winters (and summers) were milder than in Cincinnati, but also the soil was leaner and MUCH more acidic, the humidity was lower, and the total lack of rain in the summer came as a surprise. I wish I could have had this book when I started out here. I had quite a few failures, because I didn't truly understand the growing conditions in my new home and because I quickly grew tired of irrigating water-demanding plants. The book would have steered me toward choices that were naturally well suited to my conditions.
Working on this book was a privilege. Editing Paul Bonine's text was a great learning experience for me, and taking the photos was a wonderful excuse to see more of our region's beautiful gardens. Paul is one of the Pacific Northwest's most knowledgeable plantsmen, and I'm thrilled that gardeners here will be able to learn from one of the best."
Bonus! If you're in the PNW you've got a couple of opportunities to hear Paul and Amy speak at upcoming events...
First is the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon's winter program "Gardening in the Pacific Northwest: What's trending" on Sunday, January 21st. The cost is just $10 for members and $20 for non members — however as a special promotion if you become a HPSO member by January 19th you'll receive free admission to the program. More info and registration here.
On February 4th (from 1pm - 3pm) Garden Fever will host their 14th annual Spring Book Soiree with Tom Fisher of Timber Press as well as Paul and Amy. More info here.
Paul and Amy will also be giving two lectures at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show in Seattle: "Pint-sized Plants for Pacific Northwest Gardens" on Thursday, Feb 8 at 11:15 pm in the Hood Room and "Great Plants Adapted to Pacific Northwest Climates" on Friday, Feb 9 at 11:45 am in the Rainier Room. More info here.
If you garden in the PNW do yourself a favor and buy this book, it will become a trusted resource — I am sure of it!
Note: I received an advance review copy of Gardening in the Pacific Northwest from Timber Press. I was not required to write a review, favorable or otherwise. All opinions expressed here are my own. Also note: I am friends with the authors, Paul Bonine and Amy Campion. However our friendship did not color what I wrote. If their book was garbage (which it clearly is not) would have not written about it. All photos credit to Amy Campion.
© 2009-2018 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.