the hyphens that define my life

In the Zone September 7, 2013

Today I went to the Friends of Manito Plant Sale.

manito plant sale 

Manito Park is one of the nation’s most beautiful parks and it happens to be a half mile from my front door.  The Friends of Manito are responsible for the spectacular gardens at the park, so when I saw that they were having a plant sale this weekend, I had to go.

The weather was cool, in the high 60’s, when I set out this morning at 9 AM.  The skies were overcast but rain wasn’t in the forecast until late this afternoon.  I really had no business attending the sale as our timeline for the front and back yard projects doesn’t begin until Spring.  I had to seize the opportunity.

A live band greeted my arrival at the sale, then BAM, sensory overload.  Tables spread out from one end of the parking lot to the next and wrapped back around to the front, filled with every type of plant, grass and flower imaginable.  Conveniently and smartly, the Friends of Manito provided shopping carts to load up the potted plants.  I bypassed the entire section of houseplants because my house is nowhere near ready for plant decor yet.

Bypassing house plants was the only time I exercised self-control.  I bought raspberry, blackberry and blueberry bushes, some with berries ready to ripen.  I have a berry patch planned for my front yard next year, but the time is now.  Our backyard is completely unlanscaped with the exception of 2 tall pines, a mountain ash and an original fountain that needs work.  The fences along the property line are low on the east side and the neighbor is against putting in a higher fence, wanting vines and other flora to green screen between the two properties.  Our westerly neighbors have a tall fence with nice architectural detail. 

To accommodate our east side neighbors, my husband and I planned to plant tall shrubs, again, in the spring.  Since I was at the sale and spring will eventually come, I bought a BUNCH of shrubs.  Several butterfly bushes, a mountain variation of hibiscus’, bee balms, hydrangeas, and a variegated elderberry.  I added a couple of dinnerplate peonies (dinnerplate size flowers!!), coneflowers,  Denver and Marmalade Rudbeckia variations of black-eyed susans.

When I was deciding which elderberry to purchase, an elderly gentleman pointed out that, whatever I do, don’t buy zone 5 plants. “Spokane,” he said “is really a zone 3 or 4 and plants from these zones thrive best.”  “Oh, thanks,” I said, totally confused.

Before I left the house, I consulted Sunset Magazines Western Gardening Book, one of the premier resources for western gardening.  Sunset’s book told me that Spokane is in zone 2, the second coldest climate in the west.  Let me inform you that zone 1 is the top of the rocky mountains, the top of the Sierra Nevada mountains and the top of all local mountains.  Brrr.  This zone, it turns out, is only specific to the Western Gardening Book and the plants it references within. 

To bring some clarity to the situation, and relieve the stress from my brain at the thought of changing out all of the plants I already selected, I consulted with a couple of Friends of Manito working the sale.  The Friends all concurred that Spokane is Zone 5 and all plantings at Manito Park are Zone 5.  Phew.  Living only a few blocks from the park, my zone 5 plant selections were safe. 

Aside from the momentary zone delirium, I was so happy, in my element, looking at plants, touching their leaves, smelling their flowers.  At checkout, I became a card-carrying member of  the Friends of Manito and look forward to participating in upcoming meetings and events.  Washington State University’s Master Gardener program had a table set up and I look forward to engaging with them soon too.

After paying for my plants, I asked the cashier if I could leave my cart behind the checkout table while I pulled my car into the loading zone.  Many people were doing the same and it was no issue that I followed suit.  When I came back with my car, my cart was gone.  I asked the checker if he knew what happened, but he didn’t know and was stunned.  I was on the verge of tears.  Tears!  I was so sad my plants were gone, not that they couldn’t be replaced, just that they were mine for a fleeting bit of time, then gone.  Sadness.

Two women walked up and said, we grabbed the wrong cart.  They had my cart!  My plants were back!  I quickly loaded up my car and brought my treasures home.  The boys unloaded the car and my husband and I plotted and planned our plantings for tomorrow.  The rain fell at 5 PM just as we were done for the day.  The photo of my plants may not look like much but they have huge growth potential, the bushes will grow up to 8 feet tall, and the elderberry can be 13 feet tall.

manito carload

In case you’re wondering, we’re in the zone, and that would be zone 5.  Know your zone!


Northwest Edition July 29, 2013

Today’s mail brought my new issue of Sunset Magazine, the Northwest Edition. I feel like I’ve finally arrived. Sure we have lived in Spokane for 5 weeks but, in print, it feels official. Officially, I’m still sore from all of the gardening and yard work we tackled yesterday. I couldn’t lift my arms enough to type a blog post. All 5 of us mowing, raking, hacking, sawing, blowing and planting. With yard work done, we are beginning to look like the Northwest Edition too.

We met several of our neighbors in the midst of our sweaty, dusty, dirty efforts. Our sidewalk is a direct path to Manito Park and with cooler temperatures this weekend, everyone was out and about. We met people close by and those that live further away, all neighbors one and the same. Everyone incredibly nice and thrilled to have us on the block.

I have started planning my garden, in both the front and back yards for next year. I will have at least a 300 s.f. raised bed vegetable garden, a berry patch, a dahlia garden and, well, that’s all I have planned…so far. I planted 8 lavender plants this weekend that is my official lavender farm. I may add a few more plants, but this is a good, fabulously smelling start.

The Northwest Edition of my garden is challenging. We’re in a new zone with new soil and, gasp, weather. I have to pay attention to frost dates! I have to winterize!

The Washington State University Spokane County Master Gardener Program is an excellent online and physical resource providing everything a newbie like me needs to develop a fantastic vegetable garden as well as identify native plants. Browsing through the Extension Program, I learned that I – yes me – could become a Master Gardener. The requirements are straightforward, 64 hours of class time, passing grades on quizzes and tests and a minimum of 40 hours of volunteer time. I wonder if I get a badge that reads “Beth – Master Gardener”. Ooooh! Destiny.

Patience, grasshopper. First I must build the garden and experience the successes, miseries and tragedies of gardening in the Inland Northwest. According to the Northwest Checklist in my August 2013 issue of Sunset magazine, I need to:

1. Shop for spring bulbs as they are cheaper this time of year (I always love a bargain),

2. Plant Autumn Crocus, bulb to flower in 3 weeks. (Oooh! I can start now? Of course.)

There is information for those “West of the Cascades” aka Seattle, and prep, maintenance and protection projects that don’t apply to my garden yet. The checklist will be filed in my gardening folder already filled with advice and guidance, dream gardens and ideas.

Once I regain the full range of motion in my arms, I’ll get started on an autumn flower container garden for front porch color. I have nothing but time. Except for the time already allotted to family and work. My DIY furniture refinishing and upholstery projects fall next in line. You know I need my 8 hours each night too. Someway, somehow, I have all month, I will do my best to find some solace in my Northwest Edition of my yard.