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Tonie Fitzgerald

Winter 2003

Pacific Northwest sagebrush steppe

Though it is the most widespread of plant ecosystems in eastern Washington, covering 24,000 square miles, the sagebrush-steppe is probably the least understood, and therefore the least appreciated, especially among gardeners. By nature, gardeners like to make things grow, and by the looks of things, not much grows in that desert-like region, except sagebrush. But the sagebrush-steppe region is home to some of most adaptive and intriguing plants on earth, and gardeners can learn much here to apply to eco-friendly rock gardens and xeriscapes.

The region is most strongly defined by its dryness. Lying entirely east of the Cascade Mountains, it receives only eight to12 … » More …

Spring 2003

Living and gardening in the Pacific Northwest – Spring 2003

Some gardeners work to change conditions in their yard to create havens of greenery and blooms with plants that wouldn’t grow there otherwise. They amend the soil to suit plants’ needs, they water a lot during the summer, and they give added protection to non-hardy plants.

More and more gardeners today are saying “No!” to extra tasks, choosing to work with nature instead of against it. They are using nature as a model in creating yards and gardens that reflect the natural beauty of the place where they live. They’re determining the aspects their yards share with surrounding natural areas-sun, shade, rocks, slopes-and they’re choosing … » More …

Winter 2002

Living and gardening in the Pacific Northwest

In Washington State, it has been over 200 years since indigenous peoples described where they lived as “the place where camas blooms” or “the place where wild onions nod.” In other parts of the country, it has been even longer.

Where Native Americans lived-and the plants and animals that lived there-determined if they lived. Survival required intimate contact with the natural world. Without guidebooks, maps or Internet access, they knew weather patterns, ocean tides, hydrology, topography, and the life cycles and habits of plant and animals in the places they lived. They had a very strong “sense of place.”

Now, most Americans are able to … » More …

Summer 2004

Gardening on the Palouse

The area known to practically every Washingtonian as “the Palouse” is one of six large grassland communities in North America. The Palouse stretches from just south of Spokane to the Snake River valley, near Moscow and Pullman. Today, it is a fertile farmland, covered in wheat and other grain crops. But prior to the 1870s and the arrival of “new-world” settlers, these rolling hills were blanketed in perennial bunchgrasses and forbs, which had dominated the landscape for five million years. Those native plants are now found only in tiny pockets around old cemeteries, along creeks, and in other unplowable places.

Some gardeners in the area … » More …

Fall 2005

Bounty on the bluff

The small farming community of Green Bluff lies nestled in the foothills of Mt. Spokane. Its bucolic setting belies the fact that it’s just 15 miles north of Spokane. Take a meandering drive around “the Bluff,” and you’ll pass by dozens of family farms, each with its own roadside fruit stand. Stop at any one for fresh fruit and locally made jam, wine, cider, pie, and other harvest bounty.

Green Bluff has been a production area for fruit, berries, and vegetables since the early 1900s. Back then, farmers could ship their produce from a nearby rail station to customers clear back in Eastern cities. Many … » More …