Then this comment showed up: “I find bamboo, as well as palms, very depressing to see in the PNW.”
What? Depressing? You find palm trees (and bamboo) depressing? How is that even possible. How can you look at a palm tree and feel anything other than happy? I mean, you know, as long as it’s happy. A palm tree planted somewhere it can’t grow and half dead… not happy. But we can grow palms here on the western half of the PNW so why the heck not do it?
|My oldest, tallest, Trachycarpus fortunei|
More folks commented… “I know what you mean! Sometimes it’s depressing and sometimes it’s just… off. Like seeing an awkward tourist amongst the locals.”
And about bamboo specifically: “Exactly… A very carefully crafted overwhelmingly Asian garden is the only place it belongs.” And… “As a screening plant, it screams “I am entirely unable to think outside the box”. Blech.”
|Another of my palms, this a Trachycarpus fortunei 'Wagnerianus'|
I was left shaking my head. A few open-minded folks tried to point out that very few of the plants we see as standards in our American (and Pacific Northwestern) gardens (hello, lilacs!!!) are truly native to the area. Most of them are tourists, “awkward” or otherwise.
A few days later Mike Darcy’s newsletter (Mike is a local gardening icon) showed up in my inbox. Within its pages were these words written by Dave Eckerdt (I visited the Eckerdt’s garden as part of the 2016 Study Weekend in Salem, OR, here), Dave summed up my feelings about what a garden can be…
“I have always wanted our garden to be a botanical museum. A collection of interesting plants from faraway places. Why grow the local stuff? How much fun can a plant be that already grows all around you? Non natives for me, Condemn the common.” He then went on to praise a native, Lonicera involucrata that he's growing, still, his point had been made.
|An Instagram post from me, from last December|
So… where do you fall on this continuum? Are there plants that grow well when planted in your climate, that you still you find so wrong, so unwelcome, that they are actually depressing? And where do palms truly belong? And before you say Southern California know that only California fan palm (Washingtonia filifera) is native to the area, the others were imported and planted out in the 1920’s and 30’s…
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