After we moved to the garden in 1996, we decided to convert a portion of my father's sales field to a native garden. The field had since reverted to grass, so it was easy to start from scratch with a design that complemented the curved paths and beds already established. Our previous house was located in a native forest, and we missed the naturally occurring local species.
|A bench made from six species of native trees became the catalyst for the native garden (1997). I replaced the surrounding lawn first with hills, then seasonal water, and finally the native plants.||
|The hills in the foreground and center, and the island in the simulated glacier river were built up from soil excavated from the gravel paths. The picture was taken in 1999.||
By native, we mean native to Washington and Oregon west of the Cascade Mountains. (A more authentic native garden would include only plants from the surrounding few miles.) We are not trying to assemble a massive collection, but rather to use a few native plants that represent the region and are aesthetically compatible.
The benefits of a native garden are many. The plants are attuned to our soils and climate, they need little care, and they support native wildlife that have evolved with them. You can find more comprehensive information about regional plants from the many native plant societies.
Kinnikinnick covers part of the island, while salal and huckleberry grow in a rotted log in front of the bench. Oregon grape and vine maple grow through the openings at each end of the bench. The rest of the garden has now been planted with the specimens listed in the column at left.
The simulated glacier river (later deepened to contain water much of the year) is filled with river rock and has a snag. Another bench sits atop a hill behind the photographer, providing a view of the native garden in the foreground and a backdrop of Mount Rainier and its glaciers, which produce our local rivers.
Mount Rainier glaciers, as seen from the native garden (telephoto)
By mid-July, it is primarily glaciers that remain on the windswept mountain above timberline. Considerable snow is still visible in the foothills on its flanks.