By Design

The accidental gardener



WHAT: Garden Design with Blaine C.O.R.E.
WHEN: Feb. 23 and 27
WHERE: Blaine Library, 610 3rd St.
COST: Free

WHAT: Pruning for Aesthetics
WHEN: 11am Sat., March 9
WHERE: Christianson’s Nursery, Mount Vernon
COST: Fees are $8

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Each spring, I’m amazed anew at the sheer amount of green things budding on limbs and poking out of the thawing soil in my front and backyard.

I’m vaguely referring to the miracle of nature and the cyclical joy the eventual warming of the seasons brings, but a large part of the wonder is that I don’t remember planting even half of what’s in the ground and am agog that what is growing often turns out to be aesthetically appealing.

I may have a couple of forgetful green thumbs, but during nearly two decades of gardening in the Pacific Northwest, I’ve picked up a few lessons—and been taught a few things—about how to make the yard a welcoming place where people want to congregate.

This is probably a no-brainer, but if you must have a lawn—something my resident landscaper and I have been working diligently to shrink for many years—a mowing mulcher does double duty. It makes the yard instantly look a whole lot more put-together, and special blades return grass and leaf clippings back to the soil. Mulching the grass makes lawns healthier, and keeps the refuse out of landfills and organic waste disposal sites. It also makes for easier cleanup when the calendar shifts to fall (no rakes required).

I’ve also learned about the importance of integrating native plants into the mix. Early in my York neighborhood residency, a friend who was renting my basement apartment gifted the yard with a plethora of native trees from a nursery she was working at and, nearly 20 years later, the Indian plums are one of the first places where backyard blooms can be spotted and the hot-pink blossoms of the flowering currants are known to attract hummingbirds as well as humans.

If you’re keen on integrating wildlife into your own garden oasis, removing known invasive species and replacing them with comparable native or noninvasive species is something that can be done slowly, and with regard to how it will affect animals seeking shelter or sustenance. If that’s an element of gardening that interests you, lay off the pesticides and seek out natural pest management solutions.

I mentioned it in these pages a couple of weeks ago, but it’s worth repeating that Blaine C.O.R.E. (Community Orchards for Resources and Education) will be hosting free “Garden Design” classes Feb. 23 and 27 at the Blaine Library, where they’ll focus on topics such as the best placement of fruit-bearing trees, bushes and vines and what factors are involved when locating vegetable gardens. They’ll also review how to assess the overall yard—including hardscape assessments, best materials, integration with the home and/or views, sunlight observations, airflow and other major landscape considerations.

A “Pruning for Aesthetics” course on Sat., March 9 at Christianson’s Nursery in Mount Vernon will also make it clear that science and art can go hand in hand. There, ornamental horticulturalist Hans Wressnigg will talk about how to approach your pruning with a clear vision for your garden by sharing his techniques on canopy thinning and growth management. Apparently, your trees and shrubs will be in much better hands if your pruning efforts are grounded in the knowledge of basic biological and physiological responses.

Of course you can always wing it and hope that everything you plant will magically transform your yard into a masterpiece of color and scent, learning as you go. That method has been working for me for a while, but maybe this is the spring I’ll figure out what I planted last year (and the year before). But probably not.

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