Tadpole Haven Native Plant Jungle

Well, we’re almost at the Summer Solstice, and I can’t recall having Spring yet …do you?

But the plants in the nursery and along the local trails noticed Spring – they have been growing like crazy! It’s a jungle out there!

It is gratifying to see the fruits of our labors in the nursery. Many of the plants that we potted during the Winter are rooted-in and ready for homes. Plants that we fertilized are looking terrific. We mainly use Walt’s Organic Fertilizer products. Great stuff! Check out their shop in Seattle, almost under the Ballard Bridge. They carry a wide variety of organic soil amendments PLUS native plants (great in-town source for Tadpole Haven plants), vegetable starts, seeds and books.

A few of the plants that showcase the fruits of our labors are Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus), Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus) and Cascade Oregon Grape (Mahonia nervosa). All three are fruit-bearing shrubs, though it’s still too early in the season for their berries. All three form thickets. The Oregon Grape will take several years to do so, eventually forming an evergreen ground-cover layer 2-3 feet tall. Snowberry and Thimbleberry, both deciduous shrubs, spread quickly and generally range in height from 4-6 feet. Their quick thicket-forming talents make them very good at stabilizing soil on slopes and providing cover for birds and other wildlife, but less good at behaving themselves in a small garden.

Thimbleberry has big, soft, maple-like leaves; attractive white flowers (~1 1/2″ across) and tasty berries for people and other creatures. It thrives where it can get lots of light, but not a lot of intense sun.

Snowberry’s tiny pink flowers give way to pretty white berries that will often last all winter. The berries are inedible for humans; and birds prefer other berries, but will eat them when other food sources run short in winter. It will grow in shady areas (even fairly dry shade), but also does great out in the sun. I have seen it in wet places and dry places – definitely versatile.

Cascade Oregon Grape’s stalks of yellow flowers attract butterflies. The tart berries are perfectly edible and are eaten by many species of birds. It is at home in full shade to mostly sun, though in a sunny spot it may need to be watered for the first few summers. In a sunny place, its leaves sometimes turn dark red. It is a perfect choice for dry shade, along with its natural companions, Salal (Gaultheria shallon) and Sword Fern (Polystichum munitum).


To-do lists: helpful tools, they can also be overwhelming. I and other family members spent ten hours on Sunday helping my sister move into her new house adjacent to the nursery. And there is still so much to do! Standing in her pretty new living room on Monday afternoon, surrounded by stacks of boxes and upended chairs, Kay rattled off The List. I listened to her, the energy draining out of me. This is how Superman felt when handed a chunk of Kryptonite, I thought. The day before, I was actually RUNNING, hoisting things, loading and unloading three vans, a truck and a trailer. Now I was immobilized.

I managed to stumble outside to work on one of my to-do items: repair some of the ugly destruction done by the septic installer’s trackhoe at the edge of the forest. Where to start? Well, here’s a bucket of Piggyback Plants (Tolmiea menziesii) that need to be planted; maybe that’ll do it. Oh, and those four Sword Ferns (Polystichum munitum) heaped in my trunk that I meant to pot up – those would look nice. Oh, ugh, have to haul mulch.

My sister-in-law, Nancy, showed up. She was also suffering from list-induced Kryptonitis, so she half-heartedly began to help me. She dug holes for the ferns. They looked good. We wandered through the nursery, grabbing this and that. That cheered us up a bit. And how about that Red-Flowering Currant (Ribes sanguineum) that I’ve been torturing in a patio pot for the last three years? Look how pretty and happy it will be next to this mossy nurse log! Nancy’s shovel-strokes picked up steam. I hauled more mulch. After a while, the area looked pretty nice. Not the most organized way to design a landscape — it kind of designed itself.

Now a couple of Currants and a clump of seedling Red Huckleberries (Vaccinium parvifolium) soften the damage near the forest edge, and Wood Ferns (Dryopteris expansa) comfort a mangled left-behind Cascara (Rhamnus purshiana). In front of those on the edge of the new drainfield sprout Piggybacks, False Solomon’s Seal (Maianthemum racemosa), lots of Inside-Out Flower (Vancouveria hexandra), and Sword Ferns. Western Meadowrue (Thalictrum occidentale) hides the ugly green septic lid. There’s room for more, but for now, we are satisfied. The green things gave us some of their energy. Mending the damage felt good. We accomplished something.