A book with a special love for the Northwest
Coming up this Sunday at the HPSO Winter Program, Xera Plants co-owner Paul Bonine and writer/photographer Amy Campion will discuss their favorite plants and what's trending in Pacific NW gardens. If you are in the Portland area this weekend, register (here) and see them on January 21st.
"The news" is their delightful new book Gardening in the Pacific Northwest: the Complete Homeowner's Guide (Timberpress, 2017). I've been reading it cover to cover (it’s one of those kinds of books!), and I'm eager to hear them share their plant opinions & stories at this weekend’s talk.
Their book is full of cool plants, and they've included the gardening background one needs for growing (and experiencing) our very specific corner of the globe—our soils, our sun, our climate, our challenges. Multiple sub-regions are laid out, covering all of Oregon, Washington, and southwest British Columbia, from ocean to high desert. The high desert plants could be fitting as far east as Denver, and the chapter on our weather patterns is particularly enlightening, told from a gardener's perspective.
In their huge plant profile section they‘ve curated a selection of everything from classics to less-common species that deserve to be more widely planted, and why. They write on new plants with the qualities that should make them future stars. It is perhaps these cutting edge plants that are most exciting to me, because I trust the source, and I know I won't have to experiment with all manner of interesting-looking things before I find the good ones. But I also feel quite happy to see "old friends" (plants) that are loved by the authors as much as they are by me.
Many native plants that can adapt to residential gardens are covered as well. I can think of no other general reference that reports on them quite like this—mixed in with coverage of other ornamentals, and specifically tailored to our region—our gardens, our homes.
One of my favorite things is a certain tone to the writing, which I might describe as regional pride, or a sense of place, or a special love for this piece of earth that I too love dearly. As a native myself, I can tell Bonine** grew up here. Who else would say of Arctostaphylos: “No longer limited to growing where we camp and ski, manzanitas have been invited into our gardens..."? Or who but a native would call our common Madrone tree “a symbol of the Pacific Northwest”? (I had not thought of it that way, but I am proud to say that it is true.)
**Bonine is the native Oregonian of the two authors, and they describe in the introduction that the information, stories and opinions are mainly Paul's. As a founder of Xera Plants, he is also one of the PNW's most innovative nurserymen, and quite a talented writer. Amy Campion brings awesome writing chops as well and all the luscious photography.
One final note: it is best to take this book as Bonine's knowledge and experience and valued opinions, as opposed to a definitive guide. There are imperfections here, which threw me at first, because of the tag line. But I understand what they mean by that better now, and take the book for what it is. This is a book with zero pretension (in the content), just good, solid, direct experience with what they are talking about.
This weekend's event details:
Hardy Plant Society of Oregon
Winter Program: "Gardening in the Pacific Northwest: What's trending"
with Paul Bonine and Amy Campion
Sunday, Jan 21 at Portland State University, Hoffman Hall
UPDATE: Program may be SOLD OUT.