Best book on Pacific NW gardening
October 5, 2019 7:21 PM   Subscribe

If I want to purchase the best, most comprehensive book on gardening in the Pacific Northwest, what should it be?

New to owning a big yard with a lot of plants and trees and shrubs that I don't know anything about. I already own Steve Solomon's "Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades" and The Sunset Western Garden Book of Edibles, and have some prior vegetable gardening experience, so I am least concerned with information in that regard. (There are some areas we hope to eventually terrace for vegetable beds but that's in the future and not my current focus.)

I want info on trees, plants, shrubs, ferns, flowers, etc., as well as basic info about maintaining all this stuff from year to year. Do I need to mulch? What the hell is mulching? How do I start a compost bin? What do I plant where, and how do I design it all? Why didn't I think about how many goddamn leaves all these goddamn trees drop before I moved in? I am especially interested in native plants that thrive here and don't need a ton of looking after once they're planted. What would your book recommendation for me be? Thanks!
posted by skycrashesdown to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Kruckeberg’s Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest for that part of the question. For the rest, you'll need to look at it for a year or so thinkingly before you know what kind of garden you want. Ann Lovejoy’s books on design aren’t new but she covered several styles of garden and I have found them v helpful.

You can’t make a durable garden in a hurry, so you don’t have to, so ... enjoy the slow? When you work for Mother Nature you get paid by Father Time.
posted by clew at 8:13 PM on October 5, 2019 [4 favorites]

Also, the library is great for garden books, if like me you read ten before finding one you want your own copy of.
posted by clew at 8:15 PM on October 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

I would also suggest hooking up with Seattle Tilth, um now Tilth Alliance. They offer loads of good resources, and classes, and really know a lot about gardening in the Seattle area. Mostly focused in edibles, but loads of good information.
posted by dbmcd at 8:20 PM on October 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Swansons Nursery has a ton of good workshops and other resources.
posted by k8t at 8:23 PM on October 5, 2019

Also, you should visit the huge garden the Kruckebergs bequeathed!
posted by clew at 8:32 PM on October 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: (Note: I’m not in Seattle, I just included it in the tags because I figured the question might be useful for Seattle folks.)
posted by skycrashesdown at 8:33 PM on October 5, 2019

You should contact The Garden Hotline for your questions. Housed in the same building as Tilth Alliance, the Garden Hotline is staffed by horticulturalists who will answer all your plant questions by phone or email. Funded by the City of Seattle and King Co, because it is cheaper to teach folks how and when to use pesticides than it is to clean up Puget Sound after they are used. Http://
posted by Arctostaphylos at 8:47 PM on October 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

It's an oldie, but Judy Newton's Gardening in Vancouver (BC) is one I've referred to often. Even though we are 200 miles further north of Seattle, it's the same region.
posted by Zedcaster at 9:03 PM on October 5, 2019

Seconding Maritime Northwest Garden Guide, published by Tilth Alliance.
posted by aw jeez at 12:36 AM on October 7, 2019

Do I need to mulch? What the hell is mulching? How do I start a compost bin? What do I plant where, and how do I design it all? Why didn't I think about how many goddamn leaves all these goddamn trees drop before I moved in?

Imagining the autumn backyard that inspired these questions -- Trees generally like having the mulch-blanket of their own dropped leaves or needles on their roots, returning the nutrients they couldn't pull back, BUT grass hates being covered by leaves all winter. So minimal mulching is to rake leaves off your grass and paths to under the nearest tree, though not piled up touching the trunk. If leaves blow around, crisscross dropped or pruned small branches on top. If you still have leaves, pile them onto annual beds-to-be, or into any declevity that isn't an actual streambed. If you STILL have leaves get a couple yards of wire fencing from a hardware store (tell them you're making a leaf bin) and bend them into a circle as a leaf bin. Tuck bins around your woods as needed. Then just ignore the piles for a year or three, they will turn into the most delightful planting material.

If you want to compost your food scraps without attracting too many wild animals, I have found nothing better than digging a pit in the ground that I layer scraps and a lot of pit-soil into; or a pair of tumble composters (one accepting current scraps and some of last year's leaves; the other finishing up). Dig a pit somewhere you'll want to plant a tree in a couple years, by which time it will have turned into loose rich soil.

Now you're deciding where you want to put a tree in a couple years -- this is not something you should rush because it depends exquisitely on the site itself, and on your tastes. Look at everything for at least a year, what's sunny, which spot sprouts first, which dries out, which views long and small you love or want to exaggerate. Look at other people's gardens and at beautiful spots in local woods. Take sketches and photographs and write poems. Visit harvest fairs and taste all the fruit to dream of future trees. Keep the aggressive vines cut back or pulled up -- English ivy, blackberries, silverlace, bindweed -- you'll be doing that forever.

The Ann Lovejoy idea that might comfort you with all these goddamn trees is a gentle transition from the most managed part of your garden, through pruned woods, through lightly pruned woods, back to a minimally managed forest. The borders move in and out with your time and energy. Handbook of Northwest Gardening is maintenance-minded, Organic Garden Design School IIRC is gorgeously illustrated and more ambitious.
posted by clew at 11:21 AM on October 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

The Sunset Western Garden Book is an excellent reference for plant selection. It is very detailed about growing zones/local climate variation all along the west coast.
posted by Sublimity at 2:33 PM on October 7, 2019

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