A Guide To Gardening In The Northwest

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The Northwestern United States gardening region is defined by the US Department of Agriculture as:

  • Oregon
  • Washington
  • Idaho
  • Montana
  • Wyoming

A diverse zone, it includes garden zones 3 through 9, with winter lows down to an average of 15 degrees Fahrenheit in Billings, Montana, to an average low of 36 degrees in Seattle, Washington.Gardeners along the Pacific states of Oregon and Washington have mostly temperate weather marked by heavy rain and many overcast days. The inland states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming have harsh winters, with cold wind and heavy snowfall.

Suitable plants can be quite different from one Northwestern state to the next, but in general, plants that thrive here tolerate moderately to extremely cold weather, and high annual rainfall levels.Here are some plant suggestions in each category of garden greenery that will do well in the Northwest region.

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Roses

With the rainy weather and cold temperatures throughout most of the Northwest, roses are prone to fungal diseases such as black spot and mildew. Stick with varieties that are disease resistant for a beautiful rose garden through the spring and summer.

  • Just Joey - A hybrid tea that has strong fragrance, beautiful apricot color, disease resistance and compact form, Just Joey is a great choice for your Northwest garden.
  • Queen Elizabeth - A grandiflora with bubblegum pink, large blossoms, Queen Elizabeth does not have a strong scent, but provides beautiful cut flowers and disease resistance.
  • Fourth of July - This climbing rose has red and white striped flowers with open, ruffled petals, and spicy fragrance.
  • Whisper - A pure creamy white hybrid tea rose, Whisper is very disease resistant. Blooms are large, but not fragrant.
  • Carefree Delight - Pink flowers with cream centers cover this shrub rose through spring and summer. No fragrance, but highly disease resistant.

Trees

  • Katsura - A medium size tree, reaching up to 40 feet high. The leaves turn to copper in the fall, and have a sweet, pleasant aroma.
  • White Himalayan Birch - A beautiful birch with white bark, and bright green leaves that turn yellow in the fall. Grows up to 50 feet high.
  • Japanese Snowbell - Pure white flowers cover the tree late spring through early summer, followed by attractive, ornamental fruit. Grows to 25 feet.
  • Quaking Aspen - With attractive, smooth bark that ranges from white to olive green, quaking aspen also offers vivid fall colors and soars to a height of 70 feet.
  • Rocky Mountain Juniper - This native tree has a pyramid shape, and usually remains below 30 feet tall. Evergreen leaves and berry-like, gummy blue cones add to the tree's interest.

Lawns

A mixture of grass seeds will do best in the Northwest. Perennial ryegrass is good for a tough lawn that will be used for play and sports, fescues are more delicate and provide lush green color with a finer texture.

The acidic soil that is common in the Northwest isn't ideal for grass, and encourages the growth of moss and lichens. Testing your soil will determine the need to add lime or nutrients for healthy lawn growth.

  • Spring is the best time to apply pre-emergent herbicides to prevent weeds from sprouting.
  • Fertilize your lawn in the spring when your grass is high enough for the first mowing of the season.
  • If grubs are attacking your lawn, apply control products in early June to kill the pests before they do much damage.
  • Mow your grass often enough to keep it from growing beyond 3 inches high for the healthiest lawn.

Shrubs

Shrubs are the work horses of the garden, providing form and structure, blocking out unwanted views, offering attractive shapes, foliage and flowers, and creating boundary lines and privacy.

  • Beautyberry - Pink berries in spring followed by bright purple berries in the summer make Beautyberry a stunning addition to your garden. Birds love the berries too.
  • Abelia 'Edward Goucher' - With its arching, graceful stems bearing pink flowers at the tips, Abelia is a dainty shrub that is loved by butterflies and hummingbirds.
  • Hydrangea - Staples of the old fashioned garden, balls of pink, blue or white flowers cover the hydrangea for months starting in early summer.
  • Lilac - The white or purple flowers of the lilac fill the air with the heady scent. The branches are good for cutting, and attract butterflies.
  • Red Chokeberry - White flowers in spring are followed by bright red berries, with leaves turning crimson or purple in autumn. The berries last through much of the winter, adding a nice touch of color to your garden even after the leaves are gone.

Perennials

Year after year, perennials provide color to your garden, bursting with flowers that can attract butterflies, bees and hummingbirds to your yard. Choose perennials that are easy to care for, and can survive the wet conditions and cold winters of the Northwest garden.

  • Shasta Daisy - The simple, cheerful white flowers of the Shasta Daisy are old-fashioned delights, and staples of the cottage or cutting garden. They attract butterflies all summer long.
  • Lupine - Another old-fashioned favorite, lupine comes in a variety of colors ranging from blue, purple and pink to red, orange and yellow.
  • Agastache - Blue spikes of flowers shoot up from Agastache for months at a time. Bees and butterflies will come to visit your garden to enjoy this flower.
  • Oriental Lily - The striking pinks, whites, yellows and reds of the Oriental Lily will attract attention to your flowerbeds. Many lilies have variegated blossoms, with contrasting colored throats.

Whether you live in the rainy areas of the Pacific Coast Northwest, or the cold winter inland states of Montana, Idaho or Wyoming, you can fill your Northwest garden with colorful flowers, beautiful shrubs and striking trees by selecting plants hardy in your gardening zone.

Last Updated: September 22, 2011
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About Michelle Ullman Michelle Ullman has lived and gardened in Southern California since childhood. A freelance writer, she covers topics ranging from gardening to home improvement to health issues. She also has experience as a catalog copywriter and poet. Michelle has trained and worked as a respiratory therapist and surgical technologist, but prefers to spend her time gardening, and walking with her dog. Michelle holds a Bachelor's Degree from Redlands University in Business Management. 

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