Lifestyle

COMPLEAT HOME GARDENER: There’s no place like home for gardening

By Marianne Binetti

The last week in November is the time to take stock and realize once again how thankful we should be to live and garden here in western Washington. I am fortunate to be able to travel to gardens all over the world but always return home after my adventures knowing Dorothy was right.

You don’t need to travel to find out why gardeners from New Zealand to New Hampshire wish they could garden right here – where our weather is mild, our rainfall plentiful and our access to new plants and new styles of landscape design are complemented by a fine selection of independent nurseries.

So here are seven reasons why “There’s No Place Like Home”

1. Our deer may be destructive, but they aren’t flying monkeys and they don’t take up boxing.

Gardeners in Australia claim their kangaroos jump higher than deer and can take out a home gardener with a single defensive punch. You need a lot of courage to battle kangaroos, rabbits and drought in the Outback. Costa Rican gardeners must also fight monkeys for their fruit – whether they’re flying or just hopping down from the trees. Scotland has strange creatures that appear in their lakes. At least our deer are lovely to look at.

2. We may need scarecrows, but no badger gates

In the Cotswold’s of England there are high brick walls that surround many of the finest estate gardens. This is to keep out the badgers. We don’t have to worry about badgers digging under our gates or garden walls. Badgers are large, furry and hungry mammals that wreak havoc on everything from fruit trees to perennials. Gardeners must be persistent and creative and use their brains to keep one step ahead of the badgers. Of course, in England they also have adorable hedgehogs that curl up into prickly balls when they aren’t eating slugs and insects. I would trade our deer for a few hedgehogs.

3. We have no poisonous snakes

You only have to follow the yellow brick road over the mountains to find that gardeners in parts of eastern Washington must be on the lookout for rattlesnakes. In Costa Rica there are even more poisonous snakes as well as stinging, biting and flying insects larger than even the biggest crane fly. Our black and white garter snakes are shy, eat slugs and I can tell you from experience that if you try to hold one of our snakes in your hand you may get bitten – but it doesn’t hurt and isn’t poisonous.

4. Our summer was warm, but there were no balls of fire.

This summer was one of the warmest on record and the tomatoes, squash and geraniums loved every single digit over 75 degrees. But even our record-breaking 90 degree days don’t hold a candle to the searing heat that blasts the gardens of the Greek Islands, or dries the grass on the Italian isles of Sardinia and Sicily. In Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, forest fires are a regular part of summer. Our peppers and eggplants may struggle to ripen but gardeners all over the world envy the beautiful fuchsias, rhododendrons and raspberries we can grow in western Washington. I guess water really does melt a lot of evil.

5. We can grow a lot more than poppies and sunflowers.

Fields of poppies may have led the way to the Emerald City but western Washington has so much diversity of plant material that you can find fields of lavender near Sequim, dahlias near Puyallup, daffodils in the Sumner Valley and peony and lilac farms in Enumclaw. Tuscany has it’s sunflowers and Scotland is proud of it’s thistles, but we can grow both. Our local nurseries are filled with the newest, coolest plants available to us years before they reach home gardeners in England, Italy or New Zealand. You would really have to be sleeping to miss all the new heucheras and hellebores developed, grown and sold in Western Washington.

6. We don’t have Munchkin gardens

All over Europe tiny gardens are the norm for working citizens lucky enough not to live in a small apartment. In Fiji, Costa Rica and Hawaii, gardeners must hack back the jungle constantly to keep some open space. Australia has plenty of room, but they are suffering a decades-long drought that keeps their gardens compact and their water bills high. You don’t need a garden to enjoy gardening here. Western Washington has plenty of open spaces and public places that are free and filled with flowers, lawn and trees.

But the most important reason why “There’s No Place Like Home...”

7. Our Emerald City is all around us

Look out a window and you will see emerald green grass, jewel green firs, pine and cedars, rich green moss (yes, moss is beautiful) and “going green” garden practices. You might also see majestic mountains rising from impressive foothills and more water than anyplace else in the world (OK, except for Venice, but after visiting the gardens of Venice let me tell you that the moss-filled gardens in that floating city are very, very small).

So take a moment to give thanks. A rare but real tornado may have just missed my garden in Enumclaw this year, but we don’t need ruby slippers to remind us how lucky we are.

• • •

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.

Copyright for this column owned by Marianne Binetti.

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