Q: This seems to a different sort of winter, with moderate temperatures. Does that present opportunities for coastal gardeners?
A: Coastal gardeners can take advantage of those moderate temperatures, particularly home gardeners using greenhouses, hoop houses or window boxes, but I would still pay close attention to frost this early in the year. Also, it has been my experience that these mild winters prevent a garden pest die-off so l plan to be more vigilant in spring when we start our vegetable garden, and to keep an eye out for chewing insects and slugs.
Q: What’s the most recent gardening book you’ve read that you would recommend?
A: While I wouldn’t call it so much a “gardening book,” my go-to guide at the park is Jim Pojar and Andy MacKinnon’s “Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast,” Lone Pine Publishing, 1994. Just last week I had a discussion with a visitor about the different lichens and moss found at Lewis and Clark National Historical Park. My Pojar and MacKinnon definitely informs me and helps me sound informed!
I also am a great fan of plant collector and author Dan Hinkley and keep a couple of old Heronswood Garden catalogs around for inspiration and quick reading.
Q: What is your favorite plant?
A: That’s hard because we can grow so much here. I would have to say that I am a big fan these days of hardy and disease-resistant plants. I’ve been growing a big herb bed for a couple of summers now, and have enjoyed having a mix of flowering herbs that attract pollinators, and savory herbs that taste good in our food. I’ve also made a concerted effort to have different varieties of catmint for their beautiful flowers, as well as a reward for our two hardworking mousers.
Q: What is your most significant coastal gardening failure?
A: About 10 years ago, my friends and I swapped plant starts that have since grown out of control. One is curly germander, a tough little herb that deer hate, but also appears to be impossible to curb. The other voracious grower in my ornamental beds is Crane’s Bill geranium. With its pale pink flowers and ability to fill in blank spaces, Crane’s Bill seemed like such a good idea. What was I thinking?!!!
Q: What part of your personality is reflected in your garden?
A: My practice to “collect” stories and memories informs how I have gardened. For instance, there’s a Japanese maple that a family friend gave us when our son Ben was born. Now 19 years later the tree has withstood a move, and anchors our front yard with interesting color, intricate branching and the capacity to survive our clumsy pruning attempts with patience and grace. We have another tree in our front yard, a Cercidiphyllum or Katsura, with heart shaped leaves that smell like brown sugar in fall. Friends gave us the tree when our daughter Jenna came into the world. After 15 years, it’s tall, dramatic and spectacular year-round.
Cathy Peterson is a Master Gardener and the education program coordinator at Lewis and Clark National Historical Park. She formerly wrote a gardening column for The Daily Astorian.