A misty fog sweeps in from Puget Sound enshrouding plants with a cool fall blanket. Established shrubs and perennials rarely need watering even at the height of the summer season.
Sounds like garden paradise doesn’t it? It is.
Regular visitors to this blog know my dear friend, Wanda F., as my second garden mentor. When she told me over a year ago that she’d bought a house in Washington State, I broke down and cried, knowing that there was no one else locally who loved plants as much as I did. I’ve missed her terribly.
So . . . .
Because we were already traveling to the Garden Writers Symposium in Portland, Oregon, only one state away from Washington, HH and I decided to make a stop at her house along the way. I thought Anacortes was near Seattle, but, instead, it was like driving from Tulsa to Oklahoma City (about ninety miles and an hour and a half each way.) Anacortes is on Fidalgo Island which I now know is part of the San Juan Island chain.
Wanda’s house is at the top of a green granite hill, and her soil is rocky and highly acidic. The above photo is from the middle of the garden looking up toward the back of the house. The hill is covered in Heaths, Heathers and Hebes. While we were there, days were generally overcast with morning fog. A chilly mist covered the hills, and I’ve never been so cold in early fall.
There is a local place where people take their garden refuse to be composted. The finished compost I saw was a rich, dark, airy substance which seems to have a lot of woody matter in it. This fabulous stuff, layered on top of the rocky soil provides nearly remarkable drainage and produces Fuschias like this one.
Both Washington and Oregon seem to be the land of the Fuschias. They are so common here and so easy to grow that people think nothing of them. I don’t know the name of this cultivar, but it was just one of many.
For me, Washington State and Oregon will always be about Fuschias, Japanese maples and blackberries. With weather I can only describe as Irish soft, all three grow in abundance. Blackberries are actually a stubborn weed here, but the fruit from the wild ones is fantastic. I’ve eaten blackberries everyday since my plane landed in Seattle, and that includes Oregon too. Although I can’t grow Fuschias well, I can grow Japanese maples and blackberries. Wanda has at least ten Japanese maples on her small hillside. I took photos of several. Just gaze in wonder at the size of them. Check out the lateral branch on this red cultivar. Again, it wasn’t labeled, so I don’t know which dissected leaf variety it is.
Here’s the other thing I noticed about Wanda’s new garden. She still grows a few of the plants she brought from Oklahoma. Included are Salvia ‘Victoria Blue,’ Chinese Foxglove, Rehmannia elata, and Sedum ‘Autumn Joy.’ However, all of these plants look very different in her Washington garden than they do in my garden or her former one in Oklahoma. The Rehmannia is growing upright instead of trailing on the ground. The Salvia is an extremely intense blue, and the Sedum also looks very different. We spent a lot of our time in the garden remarking about these changes in growth habit.
We finally decided that it must be a combination of the soil, temperature and rainfall which made the plants behave differently. For example, I don’t get warm fuzzies about ‘Autumn Joy.’ In my garden, it grows and flops over about the time it is supposed to bloom. Hers is standing completely upright without any staking or cutting back. As to the Rehmannia, I think the stems of hers are much sturdier than mine even though the plant was mailed directly from my garden to hers. Perhaps, it is because she can grow it in the sun. As to the intense blue of the Salvia, I can only guess at the difference in soil acidity. I’m not certain of anything except that it was good to be with old friends, and it’s always good to see what is growing in gardens across the country. Makes you realize that regional information is usually best.