S.A.D.?? Look at our native plants!

I CAN FEEL IT. Seasonal Affective Disorder is setting in. These two sunny days are a temporary respite from the dark. The dark rain. The dark election. The dark afternoons. It’s all getting to me!

Now that the wind and rain have blown the bright yellow leaves off the Big-Leaf Maples (Acer macrophyllum), there is nothing to trick my brain into thinking that the summer light is still here. We have entered the days dreaded by erstwhile Californians — days when the only color you see is the green-and-black of forest rising around.

We are surrounded by evergreen trees, shadowing our winter lives.

Cheer up! That is the way our Western Washington forests should look! A resident of Forks (on the Olympic Peninsula), which annually receives an ungodly 120 inches of rainfall, gave me a hot tip: the Rain Forest is most beautiful when it’s raining! Need open skies? Go for a tromp in a swamp! Need dry weather? During a downpour, stand with your back against a big old Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata). (Am I sounding so chirpy that you want to slap me? Sorry—two days of sun and I go giddy…)

If the only thing consoling you is the thought of that extra hour of sleep you’ll get on Saturday night, take a look around. Fringecup (Tellima grandiflora) still looks happy, with its deep green ruffled leaves. It hunkers down and stays green during mild winters especially when under the shelter of tall evergreens. Since it readily self-seeds, it acts as a semi-evergreen groundcover, sprouting 3-foot tall stems of cute yellow spring flowers.

And look at all our festive evergreen Sword Ferns (Polystichum munitum)! They look elegant and maaaavelous all year. And as previous years’ fronds gradually melt into the ground, they form a protective “skirt” – high-fashion winter shelter for amphibians such as ensatinas and salamanders, and invertebrates—insects, centipedes, beetles.

So quit huddling in your house and get outside!

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