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August 31, 2012


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Some people would like to turn back time. Making Seattle into a native landscape just isn't going to happen. It's too late. Ban noxious plants. That would be a very good thing.


So I asked my partner about the ordinance, and he shook his head and laughed. "Really?" he said. "Really?!"

He thinks Seattle is trying to reinvent the wheel. Instead of forcing everyone to get the city's approval before planting a garden, the city should do what Portland did 10 years ago and draw up a list of plants that nurseries are forbidden to sell.

He points out that most annuals would be forbidden under the ordinance, and so would ordinary lawns because grass is not native to the Pacific NW. Much of what he planted around here isn't native to the Pacific NW, but is native to maritime climates, and does really well here.

My conclusion is that I'm not the only one who doesn't know a tulip from a sequoia. The city's planning department doesn't know what it's talking about either. The difference is that I don't try to tell other people what they can and cannot do.


This is the very first I have heard of this. Saw it in a link from the Seattle Times web site.

I don't know a sequoia from a tulip, or that's my standing joke. But my partner does. He's a major green thumb, and he has overseen the complete renewal of our yard.

When we met, he looked at everything and said, "You really need help." No kidding, I replied. Not only are we a great fit as people, but the divine roll of the dice brought me a gardener. Could I be any luckier?

"What do you want in the garden?" he asked.

I told him it was a fair question, but that I couldn't respond in any detail. So I gave goals:

1. I have lived in various places in the country, and wherever I've lived I always wanted to really get to know the area. So the garden should be a Pacific Northwest garden, not a garden with exotic plants that will grow here but aren't part of the landscape here.

2. I want it to look good.

3. I want it to be fragrant.

4. I want vines on the trellises on the fence that surrounds the garden.

5. I want to grow our own salads.

Since then, I've spent many thousands of dollars. I feel like I should own stock at Swanson's, which is a fantastic nursery. The gardens get a constant stream of compliments from people in the neighborhood. This year we had a huge salad crop: different varieties of lettuce, bitter greens, beans, spices, edible flowers, potatoes, and (thanks to strategic cutting of a couple of trees and construction of a raised bed in a sunny area) a patch that now contains more than 100 tomatoes.

Are Japanese maples "native?" How about violas, pansies, lettuce, and my favorite spice, Italian parsley? How about the Asian pear tree, and the multigrafted apple and cherry trees? The nasturitiums?

And would I have had to get the city's permission every time we went to the nursery to get more plants? Hire a landscape architect to draw up plans? Where's the spontaneity? Where's the fun of finding something that you want to put in the garden, and then putting it in?

I'm going to ask my partner whether our gardens meet the proposed ordinance's requirements. I suspect they do, but I find the whole idea to be incredibly obnoxious and even dictatorial in a petty sort of way. As far as I'm concerned, this is evidence that the City of Seattle's planning department is tremendously overstaffed and needs to be cut in half.

These people obviously have way, way too much time on their hands if they are actually wanting to require every gardener to get the city's approval before planting their own garden. It truly boggles my mind that they'd ever dare to do something like this.


agenda 21

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Bayview Farm and Garden

Far Reaches Farm

Swansons Nursery

B&D Lilies

Renee's Garden

Dig Nursery

New Book: Petal & Twig

  • Petal & Twig Made The New York Times!
    From Anne Raver's review: "Valerie Easton, a Seattle-based garden writer, discusses the art of growing and arranging cut flowers in “Petal and Twig: Seasonal Bouquets With Blossoms, Branches and Grasses From Your Garden” (Sasquatch Books; $16.95). Written as an informal diary, with photographs of arrangements from her own garden, and tips on cutting and keeping flowers fresh, the book inspires ideas not only on what to grow but on how to combine (or not) those beauties inside. See review here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/29/garden/new-books-on-growing-and-arranging-flowers.html?scp=1&sq=petal%20&%20twig%20anne%20raver&st=cse
  • The first reviews on the new book are in! From Publisher's Weekly:
  • "Open your eyes and keep it simple: those are two lessons Easton passes on from her own 40 years in the garden. When selecting and arranging flowers for bouquets, you needn’t spend a bundle buying a bundle of imported flowers.....The result will be unique, local, imaginative, and inexpensive. Color photos throughout illustrate and inspire."

In the News

  • Montreal Blogger Reviews "A Pattern Garden"
    I was so pleased to find that "A Pattern Garden" is still being reviewed...check out Allan Becker's generous review on his Garden Guru blog.. I felt like Allan really understood what I was working towards in that book....he writes...."There is a delightful abstract quality to this publication. In it, the author takes good garden design to a higher, more spiritual level. Instead of discussing the aesthetic and scientific elements of design, as so many traditional garden design books do, she focuses on the role played in garden design by archetypal ideas - a.k.a. patterns - that reference the longings of human beings. These pleasure and comfort-rooted ideas are those that inspire designers to create gardens that are satisfying beyond their beauty." see more at http://allanbecker-gardenguru.squarespace.com/journal/valerie-easton
  • Planting art
    Check out this interview with Val in the Chicago Tribune on using art in the garden...

The New Low Maintenance Garden

  • Reviews Are In....
    "Over the years, countless books have espoused a low-maintenance approach to gardening. None have been as engaging, practical, or inspiring as this latest of Easton's contributions to the gardener's bookshelf,"
    - Pacific Horticulture magazine, Jan/Feb/Mar 2010

    "A handy guide to a garden you can raise without a corresponding increase in your blood pressure..handsome and informative...."
    - Metropolitan Home, Dec. 2009

    "This book is an invaluable addition to the garden library – destined to be a classic for many years to come."
    - Garden Design Online

Photo Credits

  • The banner and portrait photos were taken by Jacqueline Koch; all other photos by Val Easton unless otherwise credited.


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