The horticultural booth at the Clallam County Fair.

The horticultural booth at the Clallam County Fair.

A GROWING CONCERN: Horticultural heaven on the North Olympic Peninsula

Our weather is ideal for a whole host of plants.

THERE IS NO question in my mind that the Norman Rockwell’s Americana is alive and well here in Clallam County and on the entire Olympic Peninsula — and I say this with all surety because I just completed four glorious days in a booth at the Clallam County Fair.

Yes, I know Aug. 18 (record-breaking heat with 92 degrees at the fair) and Aug. 19 were brutally warm (only for those of you from here; the rest of us transplants joked about the lack of humidity) and Aug. 21 was windy, yet the throngs paraded past, slushies in hand, stuffed animals under their arms and scones, elephant ears and fair bracelets in tow.

In and out they went all day long to see the “blue-ribbon” pie, the rodeo, watch the demolition derby, see the little piglets and participate in the 4-H auction, with the carnival area being zipped around, spun and whirled with parents pushing strollers and sporting new tattoos.

But what was amazing was just how many of you came up and not only admired the “display garden” I had but told stories of your own inspiration created at home in your yards.

And that is what is amazing about here, our home, the Olympic Peninsula.

Please, never forget our weather here is ideal and like no other place in the world.

It was 92 degrees for us, swelteringly hot, yet that night, the mercury dipped to 62 degrees.

If you had your windows open at 2 a.m., you woke up cold and had to snuggle into bed a little tighter.

And so, too, does “heat stress” occur in plants at night during the “dark phase” of photosynthesis when soil temperatures get close to 78 to 80 degrees.

That never happens here.

Look, even two weeks ago and again this past week, when we had 90 plus degree daytime weather—we had cool nights.

Even in record-breaking heat, I could amass a faux garden laid atop the parched, dry fairground grass where these plants actually flourished in the heat (and a hose was available a mere 12 feet away, being used three times a day).

Along with dahlias, cannas, junipers, spruce, firs, large decorative pots, moss, a smoke tree and sedum were also hidden a turtle shell, some stumps, boom chains, shells, antlers and metal antique gears, various-sized local rocks and twisted driftwood.

And that’s what was great.

So many of you fairgoers expressed how you used an old dingy wheelbarrow and even an old bed of a pickup truck to create gardening wonders back at your homes.

You told me how you used logs, old doors, marbles, glass blocks and rocks to make your own creations.

And that is exactly it: creativity in the garden, using what you have or have collected.

I was born in Green Bay, Wis., “The Frozen Tundra.” We have no summer, just three months of really poor cross-country skiing (actually, summers are horribly humid and bug-infested).

Here, it is never hot nor cold, so please aspire to create.

Plant it and it will grow.

Buy a machete (No. 1 garden tool).

We are a great region, Norman’s America, so enjoy this unique weather and put in motion your own garden’s desire because here on the Olympic Peninsula, horticulture is heaven.

________

Andrew May is an 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@peninsula dailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

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