By Dan Lynch
So, at the editor’s request, I’m giving a gardening column a shot. And as part of that shot, I wanted to introduce myself, my gardening philosophy and what I aim to do with this column. The title for a Portland gay garden column was easy: “Gay Gardens.”
We love you Jinkx!
I grew up gardening heavily with garden-happy parents, but lost track of it in urban America as a yardless apartment dewller when I went to college. But buying my first home seven years ago brought back the spark, and I’ve gotten seriously into it ever since. This column is my attempt at the column I wish I’d had when I restarted, namely, great detailed garden advice for a novice Portland-area gardener about specific plant solutions, including where I can get them locally, horrible, horrible, stomach churning puns, and, of course, RuPaul gifs. I think that nexus is an unoccupied niche in the market.
Best climate for gardening in North America
For the most fascinating plants humankind has bred for garden cultivation, the Pacific Northwest is actually one of be best places on the entire planet for gardening. We have just enough winter to give plants that need one their dormancy, but not so cold that we can’t grow a huge array of semi-tropical plants like gingers, kiwis, palms, orchids, camellias and more. And we have mild enough summers that no plant is going to konk out midsummer from the heat. That means I get to have plants native to South Africa, the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, the Himalayas, East Asia, Australia/New Zealand, South America and most of North America thrive in my yard. (Sorry, Antarctica.)
Yeah, not quite clear on the concept of native.
Because of those mild winters, with a little extra planning and a little patience, it’s actually relatively easy to have a garden with interesting things going on 12 months a year. I’m on my second year of having 365 days of continuous outdoor blooms, and when you count deliberately planned winter interest branches and berries, there’s still plenty to see in my yard even in darkest winter. I’ll show you how, and help you get through our dreary winters as well as I do. I’ll also take the winter months to show you some great indoor houseplant ideas to keep Portland winters less dreary.
Colchicum 'Waterlily' for late fall flowers
Rare, unusual, easy
That’s not my Grindr tagline, but it is my planting philosophy. Low maintenance plants don’t have to mean plants that three quarters of your neighbors also have! They don’t have to mean the basics that are on sale at the grocery store. Consider, for instance, that plants at the grocery store are there because they are easy to grow in a year’s time in greenhouse conditions, not because they will get better year after year with minimal effort in your non-greenhouse garden.
There’s nothing better than seeing some odd little plant that you’ve never seen before turn into a big spectacular (but still odd) plant over the course of several years, and it’s my goal to help you pick those plants and succeed with them.
Optunia (Prickly Pear) in bloom
You’re going to fail. A lot. And that’s OK.
Why do plants flower so much? Well, in part, because many of the plants in our garden were bred that way over the course of centuries to have more and bigger flowers, but there are still plenty of really floriferous plants in the wild, so that’s not it.
Plants flower a lot because 99 times out of a hundred (or MORE) that flower isn’t going to result in a baby plant that will make it to adulthood. It’s a numbers game, and they’re all willing to play it. Doing your homework on what you plant, picking the right plant for the right spot and providing the right care will increase your odds, and I’ll show you how, but sometimes, well, things are just going to drop dead.
Usually with less drama though!
And some things are going to start off great in year one, but come back weaker and less impressive in subsequent seasons.
No, Milk, you know full well who we were talking about.
As the old saying goes, “Gardening is like child rearing. If something isn’t working, get rid of it quickly and move on.” It’s probably for the best that I don’t have kids, I suppose.
Lastly if you have questions, something you’d like to know more about, or the right snarky gif to insert in a future column, let me know. Follow me on my Instagram, listed to the right of the article.