A GROWING CONCERN: Don’t give up gardening too soon in season

IF YOU READ my tagline at the end of every article, then you know I dream of having the Olympic Peninsula recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.”

Denoted by warm record-breaking temperatures, this summer has finally ended as autumn officially starts this week. In theory, many of you already believe summer was over the day after Labor Day.

A general sigh is given, and the rakes and tillers are pulled out, and prepared for the neat and orderly cleanup of the yard that is soon to come.

Many people talk of the memories of the summer and about all of the things they will do next year — when good weather returns. But the best days to love your garden can be now.

In an area blessed like ours with extremely moderate weather, this statement works anytime of the year.

Butchart Gardens north of Victoria, B.C., does not reduce its hours (or the admission price) after Labor Day. In fact, it cranks up plantings, tours and lectures.

If one wants to fully realize the benefits of year-round gardening and make the most of our superbly excellent weather, fall is the time to begin that process.

The biggest thing you must do is readjust your mindset (and of course plant ornamental kale and cabbage).

If you can come to view autumn and even winter as great opportunities to include plants the likes of holly, heather, viola, artemisia, sedum, grasses, sage, rosemary, ivy, veronica and pansies (to name but a few) then you will come to create a seamless year-round garden of immense beauty.

Your own thoughts and ideas on blending textures and heights with bloom and color will create wonderful ornamental beds.

Time of renewal

Autumn will not be the time of raking and composting, but rather a different phase of that continual process.

Into this line of reasoning, let me inject my own thoughts and reality.

I know this is the best place to grow ornamentals in all of North America.

If you have flowers and plants around your house, you know this, too.

I also know that every town, home, corporate office and park looks great during the summer.

It is the time everyone believes they can — and almost must — plant flowers.

But most everyone also believes now is the time to give it up, slash-and-burn, and re-budget for next year.

Every place can be Flower City USA from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but very few can even get into the playoffs from September to April.

I also believe a consistent message, loaded with facts and helpful hands can inspire folks to give it a go.

I believe that message, multiplied by numerous individual actions, can encourage businesses and neighbors alike to plant flowers and other ornamentals (think kale and cabbage).

For me, it is the “Christmas light syndrome.”

One neighbor puts up a great light show, talks with the neighbors, shares helpful hints and sources, and wham, the next year a few more houses are lit. You’re the boss!

No one knows your color preferences, styles and desires like you.

No one knows the nuances of your yard, the subtle temperature changes, the shade and sun Lines or the moisture capabilities of your ground.

You are the Master Gardener of your yard.

Fall is the time of year to declare the beginning.

This would be stressed strongly in the next few weeks — how the performance of your plants next year is based largely on the actions you do from now until January.

Every time of year is the time to go to the plant store, and no more so then now.

This concludes the long promotional ad for ornamental kale, cabbage, pansy and other fall plantings.

Now go down the garden store, select enough plants of various sizes, shapes and leaf colors, and then, if your thought of design, plant these babies.

Come March, people will still be asking you for your “secret.”

With this, enjoy the reality that you created a year-round flower spot on the North Olympic Peninsula, “Flower Peninsula USA.”

And of course … stay well all!


Andrew May is a freelance writer and ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email news@peninsuladailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

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