Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

Pacific Northwest

August, 2007
Regional Report


Native Plants in the Coastal Garden
Fifteen years ago I decided to devote half of my property to gardening with natives, which I defined as anything that grew in North America. After all, I figured, why limit my palette? I soon found out! Our cool, wet summers didn't suit alpine or meadow species, and I lost practically every plant within a year. I might have done better, or at least realized what I was up against, had I read Native Plants in the Coastal Garden, by April Pettinger and Brenda Costanzo (Timber Press, 2003; $19.95). Gardeners beginning their own native plant adventures now have the benefit of a nicely illustrated package that provides all the basics for transforming any garden into a naturalistic paradise.

In this newly revised and updated edition, Pettinger and Costanzo begin with an introduction to our region's climatic and floristic diversity, go on to stress the importance of site analysis, and then carefully explain the interaction plants have with one another to achieve a successful balance in plant communities.

The bulk of the book is devoted to detailed descriptions of hundreds of native plants, including perennials and annuals, trees and shrubs, grasses and sedges. Sample site plans, along with a regional resource guide, make this book a valuable addition to any reference shelf.

Favorite or New Plant

Japanese Barberry
I'm always on the prowl for foliage that acts as a counterpoint to flowers, or even replaces them. At the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle, I found a striking combination -- two cultivars of the Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii). The foliage of 'Rosy Glow', a deep, intense burgundy mottled with pink, makes a perfect backdrop for the radiant gold leaves of 'Aurea'. This wonderful color contrast lasts all season long.

These two barberries can set each other off nicely in low shrub borders or massed in groups. Both are spreading and compact in habit. Japanese barberry is widely adapted but is most at home in full sun and in soil that is on the dry side.


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