Automatic landscapes

September 24, 2013

By Jane Garrison

My plants talk to me, and I always answer — sometimes in no uncertain terms. I was telling them the other day, “You guys have it made. You haven’t a clue what plants are dealing with in other parts of the country.”

This summer and last winter have been really conducive to plant growth here. We had a warmer than usual winter, extra heat this summer with higher than normal humidity, and a longer than normal growing season. With a little extra water from the hose, it’s a jungle out there. Hot summer days started the first of June rather than July 5 this year, and as of this writing, the weather is continuing to delight.

I don’t have a real lawn, but we had to mow our weeds continually throughout the summer. My newly planted natives in the woods are so inundated by growth I can’t even find them. To take advantage of all that grub, the deer are showing up in “herds,” a term usually reserved for elk.

All that exuberance made me wonder if people ever get tired of it, if perhaps it is just too much. Do we fantasize about living or vacationing in places where plants struggle to stay alive, for example, in the desert, in the high mountains, or perhaps the windswept sea coast? Some ecosystems keep their appearances pruned nice and neat, all shaven and shorn. Windswept rocky or sandy beaches at the coast are like that. Alpine meadows in the Olympics and at Mount Rainier fit that description. Eastern Washington seems that way.

Maybe those landscapes make people think they are more in control of their environment without having to do so much work. Maybe that’s why retired people move to Arizona. I know several couples who moved to the eastern Rockies in Wyoming and Montana. My sister fantasizes about moving to Ocean Shores. Our old friends from Edmonds just moved to Wenatchee, where they have a swimming pool surrounded by a rock and gravel yard. It must seem like a tremendous load lifted when landscapes can prune and weed themselves automatically.

On the other hand, I don’t think I want to endure what it takes to make them that way. I’ve had my house open all summer. I don’t even need a screen or air conditioning. I don’t worry about dust, wind or venomous snakes. Where else could you partake so completely in nature’s offerings? I’m not going to let a few plants drive me elsewhere. This is the best there is. Not only do the plants have it made here, but we do too.


Jane Garrison is a local landscape architect and master gardener who gardens in glacial till on the plateau.

Get gardening

Talk with master gardeners at plant clinics from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays at the Issaquah Farmers Market until October, and this month at Squak Mt. Greenhouses & Nursery.


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