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COMPLEAT HOME GARDENER: Gardeners should be thankful this season

This week it is time for my annual “I sure am thankful that I garden in western Washington” column. I am as native as the sword ferns to western Washington but during the past few years we’ve been lucky enough to visit gardens and gardeners all over the world – thanks to readers of this column who join us on garden adventure trips. Let me just say that the incredible beauty to be found in these far flung countries is awesome; but let me also add that I am always thankful to return to my mossy two acres here in the shadow of Mount Rainer near Enumclaw.

This fall there are people who see signs that our world is falling apart – the world economy, terrorist threats, raw meat as a fashion statement – but at least for the week of Thanksgiving, adjust your attitude to gratitude and take note of all the wonderful things about living, and gardening, right here.

Top 10 reasons

to be Thankful

1 We don’t have to worry about malaria when we garden.

Preparing for our September trip to France I read about Louis IX and the amazing garden he built in Versailles. But France lost more than 700 souls creating those gardens. The swampy ground had to be dug and drained to install the king’s fountains, pools and water displays. They didn’t know back in the 17th century that mosquitoes brought the yellow fever that killed so many garden workers. I am thankful that Washington is free of malaria.

2 We don’t have to worry about high fashion when we garden.

There is a garden writer from New York who has been promoting a better fashion sense among gardeners. I won’t tell you her name but her rules for how to dress like a fashionista while pulling weeds simply appall me. I am thankful Seattle is the grunge capital of the world and that my neighbors accept the random, weird and downright sloppy outfits I wear when I garden. I’ve even been caught weeding in my nightgown.

3 We can use cars to drive to a nursery.

It is the simple things we forget to appreciate. This summer I visited gardens on the tiny island of Sark, part of the Channel Islands off the coast of England. This utterly charming island bans all automobiles. They get around on bikes and horse-drawn carriages. That’s great for us tourists but there are many avid gardeners on this island and they could do with a few more nurseries and more than pedal power to cart off their petal power.

4 We don’t have to replant our lawns every six months.

Ever wonder why the grass is so green on the golf courses and gardens near Palm Springs? It is because they must grow one type of lawn in the summer and then reseed and replant another type of grass seed during the winter months. They pay a price for all that sunshine down South. A limited plant palette, expensive water and the heat that makes lawns, plants and people wither.

5 I am thankful there are no hedgehogs in our hedges.

I think hedgehogs are the cutest critters in all of England. All the English gardeners think so, too. The problem is they don’t want to hurt the little guys as they mow their lawns, trim the hedgerows and whack back the weeds. Thankfully we damage slugs, not hedgehogs, with our string trimmers.

6 I am thankful that moss is now considered very hip and cool.

We first saw bins of moss for sale at nurseries in Holland, then noticed moss clumps used as centerpieces at the trendiest restaurants in Milan. I suspect Lady Gaga will be wearing a frock made of moss at the next big red carpet event. My garden is covered in moss. It grows on the plants, fills in the lawn, sprouts on our roof and all the garden ornaments. I don’t have to buy it, plant it or pamper it. But the really good news is there are now moss nurseries on the East Coast where you can purchase moss for your trendy garden. Yup, I could probably sell our moss on eBay to all those well-dressed New Yorkers.

7 I am thankful Japanese maples grow so well here.

The entire family of Japanese maples or Acer palmatums thrive in our cool, damp climate and they have got to be the world’s most beautiful tree. From the coral bark maples turning golden every fall to the brilliant red leaves of the Bloodgood Japanese maple, these trees not only look good but come in sizes and shapes to fit every garden – and they even do well in containers. The rest of the gardening world is moss green with envy.

8 I am thankful we don’t have vineyards in western Washington.

I loved the artistic winery gardens in the south of France, adore the wines and family wineries in Italy and am so impressed with the gardens and wineries near Santa Barbara that we are planning to take a group there this summer. But I am glad we can’t grow wine grapes. The pruning, the harvest, the pressing – all too much work. Just think of all the questions I would get about growing grapes. Here we can drink wine in our gardens without any pressure to grow wine in our gardens.

9 I give thanks for our many nurseries.

We have so many choices here in western Washington. Independent nurseries that specialize in ferns, bamboos or rhododendrons. Nurseries with show gardens, nurseries that offer classes, chain nurseries that buy in bulk and pass the savings on to the customer. I suspect only England can compete with our area when it comes to the number and variety of places to buy plants.

10 I’m thankful you’re reading this.

Newspapers are here to stay and by reading your local garden column I get to know the nicest people in the world – gardeners.

• • •

Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” and several other books. For book requests or answers to gardening questions, write to her at: P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw, 98022. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a personal reply.

For more gardening information, she can be reached at her Web site, www.binettigarden.com.

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