Ciscoe is done writing a weekly column for Pacific NW magazine, but our commitment to gardening continues, with two local experts sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm.
Welcome to GROW, a weekly dose of garden inspiration and information brought to you by Colin McCrate and Lorene Edwards Forkner — that’s us. We thought we’d tell you a bit about our roots in the garden in a casual Q&A (so casual, we’ve posed our own questions to ourselves):
What is your horticultural background?
Lorene: I’m a self-taught, hands-in-the-dirt gardener with a passion for plants. I spent 16 years in the retail nursery trade. Along the way, I began designing gardens and coaching others who, like me, needed help turning their plant collections into a pleasing garden. These days, my time is spent writing about beautiful, nature-friendly gardens. But I still have dirty hands.
Colin: I became interested in botany while studying Environmental Science in college. For reasons that are still unclear to me, it was just easier for me to learn than other subjects. Although I now focus mostly on edible plants, my first love was deciduous trees. On a perfect day, I have time to harvest crops from the garden and climb a tree. About 10 years ago, I started a business called Seattle Urban Farm Company. We design, build and maintain edible landscapes. I wrote a few books on vegetable gardening, and now I’m gearing up to write an epic gardening column.
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Why are you excited to write for Pacific NW magazine?
Lorene: I’m thrilled to have the chance to connect with gardeners at every level of experience, from newbie planter to seasoned pro. The world needs more thoughtful gardeners. Having a garden, no matter how big or how small, puts us in a relationship with nature. Especially Colin; he hangs out in trees.
Colin: For years, I loved reading Valerie Easton’s column each Sunday. For me, it was a great source of information, and I just appreciated knowing there was a locally relevant horticultural story in the paper each week. I’m looking forward to having a deadline that forces me to get my research and writing done. Also, when Lorene writes really great articles, maybe I’ll get a small dose of reflected glory.
What kind of articles can we expect from you?
Lorene: I’m looking forward to sharing stories about beautiful public and private landscapes. I’ll introduce you to innovative local gardeners who are creating nature-friendly gardens filled with resilient plantings and beneficial wildlife, and dig up trusted resources and seasonal practices that will build your gardening know-how. And, because I still love plants, I’ll share my favorite garden players that thrive in our glorious gardening climate.
Colin: In addition to regular articles on annual and perennial edibles, I am developing a series on horticultural history. I want to take a look at the role plants have played in the Seattle region over time. I want to highlight specific plants in local parks, and hope to inspire people to get out and participate in horticultural tourism. I’m not sure if horticultural tourism is a thing. If it’s not, it should be.
Are there any gardening myths that you are especially eager to debunk?
Lorene: Tending a plot of land is so much more than just a pleasurable pastime. How we garden — what we grow, how we manage resources and where we focus our attention — matters.
Colin: First, I think we should acknowledge that most horticultural wisdom is more like a collection of anecdotes rather than anything approaching science. Therefore, like all other growers, I have opinions that have not been subjected to rigorous third-party verification. I want to encourage gardeners to heed our accumulated horticultural wisdom, but to also take the time to do their own critical analysis. There are too many “garden proverbs” that just don’t hold up in every scenario, and there is really nothing that beats personal experience. There are so many variables in a garden to attend to, so I think the most self-directed gardeners become the best ones.
Which plants in your home garden are you especially fond of?
Lorene: I call myself a “horticolorist.” Plants that are orange, rust, brown or bronze warm my heart and liven up gray days.
Colin: I am in the middle of a several-year landscape renovation at home. One of the first things we planted was a row of multigraft, espaliered apple trees on the northern fence line. Because fruit trees take so long to establish, it was a priority to get these in right away. Espaliers are great because they take up almost no space in the yard, they make nongardeners think you are a wizard and they produce a surprising amount of fruit. Also, I love Epimedium alpinum, which I planted as a ground cover underneath the apples.