Those of us living in the greater Portland area have been aware of this development for a while, but those of you gardening in other parts of the Pacific NW might not have heard. There is a new book on the market (Timber Press) written just for us. Released just recently, it is the perfect primer for anyone who wants to garden here – or a perfect go-to reference for anyone already doing so. Written by Paul Bonine (one of the co-owners of popular local nursery Xera Plants) and Amy Campion (illustrious author of The World’s Best Gardening Blog), this book singles out the various specifics of our region, and present them in an easily understood format.
I usually tell people that in order to become a good gardener, one has to become a serial killer first – there is so much to learn, and the best way to learn is, very often, by doing. This book provides a significant shortcut to that kind of learning. Paul’s background in meteorology is evident in the first chapter, which is pretty much the Cliff Notes on our climate and its regional differences, and weather patterns. He also gives you the impact of temporary seasonal variations like El Niño and La Niña in ways easy to understand. This is huge, as (in my humble opinion) knowing your climate (or more so, NOT knowing) can wreak havoc with anyone’s good gardening intentions – especially starting out. He also talks about what is coming our way, that we don’t fully know the extent of – climate change. At this point, just about everyone – except maybe those DC dip wads – know that it is changing. Our kids will experience a vastly different world than we do. This is one of my favorite parts of this book – it teaches you enough to go into the future as prepared as you can be. This is not your ordinary gardening book. This is a call to action!
From there, they move on to other factors that may not be very glamorous but have a huge influence on success. The authors touch on good cultural practices involving soil, the chemistry of fertilizers, irrigation, mulch, and offer terrific tips to deal with adversity – clay, ice, plant diseases, pests, and so on. Why bother learning all the different things that can go wrong when, for the most part, the culprits are usually a limited number of rather common causes, often made worse by the peculiarities of our climate?
Once the basics have been covered, we’re on to the fun stuff – the plants! What follows is a carefully curated lineup of badass beauties know to work here – some natives, and some that are well adapted to our climate. The descriptions are straightforward and easy to read – sometimes even poetic – and often contain suggestions of suitable companion plants.
Throughout the book are scores of fabulous photos that illustrate the points made in the text. Together, they form a wonderful resource, that any PNW gardener – newbie or veteran – would do well to include in their reference library. So, check it out – you won’t regret it! The authors will give a talk this weekend, on Sunday, Jan. 21. There will also be signed books for sale. For more details, and to register, click the link. Hope to see you there!