Wednesday, July 26, 2006

High On Dry

The new issue of Horticulture Magazine has an interesting article about a lady in Washington state who turned her front yard into plant-land. What was really fascinating was the true point of the article: plantings for dry climates.

I was like "WTF? Washington state is dry?" But apparently, outside of Seattle, they get less than 1" of rain during the summer. That's a head-scratcher, isn't it?

There are some truly drool-worthy pictures too, the kind that send me off to the nursery in a plant-buying frenzy...which is what I did today at lunch. I loaded up on perennial herbs, sedums, an Achillea 'Paprika', a Penstemon 'Huskers Red', a 'Mordens Pink' loosestrife, a couple of ornamental grasses, a couple of artemesia, and a really cool-looking green santolina.

Lastly, I am suffering with "phormium phetish" at the moment. Unfortunately, few of the nurseries around here carry phormiums (i.e. New Zealand flax), and when they do, they're $50. The best online source seems to be Heronswood.

A guy at the nursery talked me into a Dianella tasmanica, which he called Tasmanian flax or a Variegated Flax Lily. The foliage was nice, and a bit softer than some phormiums, so I took it.


Unknown said...

I loved that article, too! I would have to have some areas of "calm" to counteract all of the exciting combinations she had in her garden, but I want to try some eye-popping combos in a few key places.

Oh, and I hear you on the phormium envy...

Tim said...

I can’t speak for Washington State, but we’re due north of there, on Gabriola Island in the Strait of Georgia. Gabriola is one of the Southern Gulf Islands off the coast of British Columbia, Canada. My name is Tim, my life partner is Sara, and we do our gardening together. Sara’s main responsibility is the flowers, while I tend the vegetables.

Although, whenever we drive down to Seattle, there seems to be heavy rain on the road. This might have something to do with our timing. We usually go down in November to take our kids shopping at Top Ten Toys or Science, Art, and More. Incredibly intelligent playthings/learning tools at these two stores, for parents who are looking for such things.

We get less rain than Vancouver and our last few summers have been dryer than usual. Global warming has reared its ugly head, even on Gabriola. We had to install an underground sprinkler system, not only to keep our garden beds well watered, but also to keep our lawn areas from turning yellow.

Water supply is a problem on any island, and watering restrictions do apply when the demand is great. We’re not at the cactus stage quite just yet, but British Columbia does have desert areas and rattlesnakes, believe it or not. One summer we toured the Okanagan wineries, and took photos of the desertscape around Lake Okanagan (home of the illustrious Ogopogo, BC’s version of the Lock Ness monster).

You mention Phormium tenax, or New Zealand flax. As you know, it prefers a deep soil that never dries out. My wife is from New Zealand, and we used to go periodically to visit family, before the kids were born. Now our budget is blown on Game Boys and DVD’s and faster and faster laptops and MP3 players. So it goes.

Watering is not the only problem for gardeners. All too often, they forget that plants require quality food to flourish. Compost and manure by themselves are just not good enough, IMO. We use 100% organic nutrients, made by a BC company called Advanced Nutrients.

Our favorites are Iguana Juice Grow and Bloom and Mother Earth Blended Organic Super Tea. Please visit out blogsite in order to view photos of the results. Sara’s blooms are magnificent and my vegetables have been known to win ribbons at the local fair.

I was intrigued by your mention of Achillea “Paprika,” since I happen to hail from Hungary. I looked it up in our big “Perennials” book and judging from the picture, the only link it has to the spice Paprika is its color. But it does have a lovely cluster of brick colored flowers. The species Achiella is native to Spain, Italy, Romania, and Turkey, and grows as far away as the Himalayas.

Judging from the pictures, I seem to remember having grown some Achillea ptarmica at one time, but it must have gotten lost in the shuffle. It’s no longer with us.

Sara’s flower garden includes Delphiniums, Calendula, Double Purple Cone Flower, Golden Splendor Lilian Trumpet, Shasta Daisies, and a Border Beauty Butterfly Bush. This Bush and the Trumpet are growing like there’s no tomorrow. We’ll have to do some brutal pruning on the Butterfly next spring, while the Trumpet is above my head, and I’m five eleven. We had to stake it to keep it from braking.

TK said...

Hi Tam!

There was just a story this morning on Morning Weekend Edition on NPR about dry gardens in London! Cheers!