Giving thanks for all Western Washington has to offer gardeners

November 27, 2013 

One of the things Puget Sound gardening expert Marianne Binetti is thankful for: locally grown, fresh -- and sometimes still alive -- Christmas trees.

STEVE BLOOM — The Olympian Buy Photo

Time for the annual Thanksgiving column so gardeners in Western Washington can once again be grateful for our mild climate, abundant rainfall and beautiful gardens. This year you’ll also get to be thankful for the garden chores you don’t have to do this week:

Be thankful you don’t have to go outside and prune your roses.

Roses can be pruned back anytime from February until March so don’t fret if you haven’t yet gotten snippy with them. While you’re thinking of roses, be thankful you don’t have to battle June bugs as they do in the South or cover your rose plants with ugly plastic foam cones or hay piles to protect them from the snow as they do in the North.

Be thankful you don’t have to mow and trim the lawn.

Lawn rangers have permission to mow, trim and edge the lawn any time of the year that the ground is not frozen or so wet that it feels mucky. We have just enough cold weather to keep most lawns dormant until April so homeowners get a break from mowing — without a winter of snowing. In Chicago, they just change lawn mowers for snowblowers. At least umbrellas are easier to operate.

Be thankful you don’t have to prune your fruit trees.

Apple trees, plum trees and cherries produce fruit without annual pruning. If you want to prune to shape the tree or to increase fruit production, then go ahead. We have a choice about pruning in our state.

In Hawaii and Florida, they must hack back the explosion of plant growth all year long because the plants never go dormant. Plus, in the tropics, you must watch out for giant reptiles with sharp teeth and poisonous fangs. At least our slugs are easy to stomp.

Be thankful we can enjoy locally grown Christmas trees and deck the halls with local boughs of holly and local swags of cedar.

In warmer climates, the Christmas trees sit on paved lots, dropping needles as they gasp in the heat. Fake tinsel trees stand in for our native evergreens but without the natural fragrance of pine and cedar. Communities in California pay to bring in piles of snow so local kids have a chance to wear mittens. Pity the poor Santa dressed in fur from head to foot. In our climate, a fallen branch from a fir tree can be poked into an empty pot and displayed outdoors for months — needles still intact.

Be thankful we have real mountains.

In Western Washington, our dramatic snow-capped mountains make the perfect backdrop for any photo. I am so embarrassed for those poor folks in other parts of the world that call their modest green hills “mountains.” Only in Switzerland did the local mountain range earn my respect, but they can’t grow rhododendrons, Japanese maples and fuchsias in Switzerland the way we can.

Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of several books. Reach her at binettigarden.com.

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