Gardening in the Pac NW
Mon, 17 Oct 2005 10:23:56 PDT
All this talk on gardening in the Pacific Northwest (specifically Seattle, Washington), and what the challenges might be, yet there's been no mention of the greatest challenge likely to be encountered, namely slugs. In 1982 I moved from my home in Massachusetts (northeastern USA) to the Seattle area, where I lived and gardened for 4 years. When I moved there, I mailed approximately 3000 plants to myself in my home in Bellevue, Washington.... just a few miles from Seattle. I was not prepared for the constant onslaught of giant banana slugs, without exaggeration as big as cigars, and seemingly as numerous as blades of grass (slight exaggeration) that can easily devastate emerging shoots and small plants, or any non-woody plant. I found many gardeners in the area (I belonged to the American Rock Garden Society, now the North American Rock Garden Society) to be rather evasive or coy on the subject, never speaking much about slugs, and saying things like "oh... you have slugs?" in feigned disbelief when I attempted to discuss the situation. It's a well kept secret. 
To the credit of some fantastically skilled plantspeople in the area, they developed regimes of slug protection strategies. One of the very best growers in the area, maintained a swath on non-planted area, that separated her yard and garden from in routine overgrown ravine beyond, which was religiously doused with Deadline (a goupy gray mud-like metaldehyde chemical that "melts" the slugs), in what was a 4' wide slug death zone. I tried many techniques too, including growing many plants in pots, and those pots put on top of the carport roof. But I became tired of hauling water up a ladder everyday, and besides, the slug eggs are easy to miss, hiding amongst the plants and the pots drainage holes, that I still had slugs even up on the flat roof. 
There were certain plants that slugs favored, which made those items difficult to grow (small Campanulas, forget about it!). But on the other hand, the climate is mild enough, easily 3 temperature zones milder than where I came from in New England, that I could grow a greater diversity of plants in Seattle. However some plants that were perfectly easy and hardy in New England, became a challenge to grow in Seattle for a variety of reasons, but lack of drying cold and dormancy is one reason, and with the long fall-winter-spring season of rather constant dampness, plants suffered from rotting and foliar diseases. To a large degree, I was able to compensate for these challeges, growing a number of choice plants in raised sand beds. I even grew and flowered Fritillaria pudica and Lewisia rediviva outside, exposed to the rain, which everyone assured me couldn't be done without overhead protection from excess rain. Of course, in Seattle, one can probably grow most of the geophytes so often discussed on this forum, species and entire genera that I can only imagine growing here (back in New England) with the aid of a heated greenhouse. 
Seattle is a vital city with some great gardens and gardeners. I still pine for the fabulous Rhododendrons one can grow there. The proximity to amazing habitats, from the high reaches of Mt. Rainier and the Cascades, to the fantastic sagebrush areas of eastern Washington (this is where I "botanized" most often) or the drier mountain ranges beyond the Cascades (such as the Wenatchee Mts), offer an unparalleled diversity of habitat and fantastic plants. 
Mark McDonough        
Pepperell, Massachusetts, United States  
"New England", near New Hampshire  
USDA Zone 5
alliums, bulbs, penstemons, hardy hibiscus, 
western american alpines, iris, plants of all 

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