Cover Story Northwest People Plant Life On Fitness Northwest Living Taste Now & Then


Best of the Crop
From practical guidance to personal inspiration, this group's got it

"Urban Sanctuaries" by Stephen Anderton shows modern, stylish ideas for truly small gardens.
Reviewing books is a favorite task, but being selective is tough this fall. My desk overflows with good choices.

Since picking the best plants is perhaps even more difficult than winnowing out the finest books, you can turn for help to British Columbia nurseryman Michael Lascelle's new book, "A Grower's Choice: Professional Tips on Plant Selection and Care for the Pacific Northwest" (Vancouver, B.C., Raincoast Books, $21.95). The photos aren't anything special, but the concise plant descriptions are knowledgeable, coming from nursery managers and commercial growers who have had plenty of opportunity to see these plants perform. Since the book is new, the plants listed are ones you'll see in nurseries now and in the next couple of years. Especially useful are the chapters on vegetables, herbs and fruits, as well as the sections on specialty plants and University of British Columbia introductions.

Lascelle's book can help you make choices, but then how to track down the plant when ready to buy? Not by e-mailing me, please! I receive dozens of requests every week on where to find plants I mention in my columns, and some I haven't ever heard of. Trust me, I usually don't know, and couldn't recommend one nursery over another if I did.

It is worth purchasing a copy of "The Pacific Northwest Plant Locator 2000-2001," by Susan Hill and Susan Narizny, which gives Washington, Oregon and Idaho sources for thousands of different plants. Look up clematis and find hundreds of different kinds, and at least an equal number of daylilies. This book is easy to use, reliable and up-to-date. It's a bargain at $20 (think of the research to pull it all together) and can be ordered from Black-Eyed Susan Press, PMB 227, 6327-C S.W. Capitol Highway, Portland, OR, 97201, or by e-mail at

How about some inspiration? I'm always a sucker for beautiful offerings such as "Urban Sanctuaries: Peaceful Havens for the City Gardener," by Stephen Anderton (Timber Press, $29.95). It is refreshing, particularly in a book first published in England, to see ideas for truly small gardens rather than small estates. These are stylish gardens, with as much emphasis on materials and decoration as on plants. But what makes the book special, and perhaps ultimately useful, is that these are personal gardens that reveal the soul, or at least the taste, of the owners. There is great care, originality and detail on display. Maybe that is what a sanctuary garden really is — a place that reflects one's own nature sufficiently to soothe, nourish and provide a backdrop for reflection.

Now In Bloom
Iris foetidissima has lavender or yellow flowers in June, and 2-foot-high architectural foliage all summer, but its bright orange seeds are its most distinctive feature. In autumn, the pods burst open revealing vivid pomegranate-like seeds, which droop from the spiky stems in glistening bundles.
Dan Pearson, the hottest new British garden designer, lectured in Seattle in July, and I was impressed with his ability to translate complex ideas about natural forms, light and even geography into understandable gardening concepts. The good news is that he is as adept at writing as he is at lecturing, and his new book, "The Garden: A Year at Home Farm" (Time Life Books, $29.95), is compelling on many levels. This book is the story of Pearson's first client and the four-acre Northamptonshire garden (70 miles north of London) on which they've collaborated since 1987. The "before" photos of run-down barns and the derelict house, let alone ragged fields and bare earth, emphasize the visual impact of Nicola Brown's "after" photos of flowery meadows and bountiful vegetable gardens.

Lest this all sound too Beatrix Potter-ish, the text of the book is mostly practical. Pearson has been spending several days a week for nearly 15 years working in this garden. He makes it clear that naturalistic gardens are anything but, and require skilled intervention at just the right times. Pearson's pragmatism and history with the garden is neatly enveloped in a lyrical evocation of the seasons, as well as his appreciation of how gardens grow and change with the people who envision and care for them.

Society Plant Sale

The Northwest Horticultural Society celebrates the fall planting season with its annual sale at the Center for Urban Horticulture (3501 N.E. 41st St.), Sept. 14 from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. and Sept. 15 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. More than 30 local growers will be there staffing tables filled with perennials, trees, shrubs, vines and groundcovers ideal for Northwest gardens. For information, call the society at 206-527-1794.

Valerie Easton is a horticultural librarian and writes about plants and gardens for Pacific Northwest magazine. She is the co-author of "Artists in Their Gardens" from Sasquatch Books. Her e-mail address is

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