IF SUMMER HIKES and getaways into Pacific Northwest wild lands have you botanically inspired, I’ve got just the book for you. The third edition of “Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest,” by Art Kruckeberg and Linda Chalker-Scott, published by University of Washington Press, is just out, and it’s a glorious guide to integrating native flora into our less-wild domestic landscapes.
First published in 1982 and later revised and expanded in 1996, “Gardening with Native Plants” impacted readers far beyond our immediate region. According to Richard Olmstead, who wrote the foreword for this latest edition, in promoting the use of plants adapted to local climates and soils, the book became an early voice in the sustainable gardening movement in the United States.
Kruckeberg died in 2016, but his love for the plants of our native forests and prairies, shorelines, rivers and mountains endures in his charismatic prose. The book beautifully describes nearly 1,000 trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals and grasses of our region, defined as British Columbia and Alberta, through Washington and Oregon to Northern California, and east to the Rockies.
The book opens with a look at our diverse Pacific Northwest growing environments, along with an updated discussion of garden ecology, climate change and its impact on the natural distribution of plants. Regardless of where you stand on the native/non-native continuum, I think we all can agree that cultivating resilient biodiverse landscapes that support pollinator, wildlife and human habitat is a good thing. Readers are encouraged to weigh the benefits as well as the risks of every plant they put in their garden.
A notable change in this latest edition: All reference to collecting and propagating native plants has been removed in deference to the imperiled status of many rare, threatened and endangered species. Thankfully, reputable nurseries are beefing up their offerings of native plants.
Chalker-Scott, co-author of this latest revision and an associate professor of horticulture and extension specialist at Washington State University, contributes a valuable new chapter containing thoroughly vetted, science-based information on analyzing site conditions and soil preparation, as well as information on how to select good nursery plants and proper planting techniques. In other words, how to succeed in the garden.
But most of the book is about plants, the beautiful native flora that surrounds us. Color photos and easy-to-interpret habitat icons accompanying each entry make this latest edition an essential resource that is both beautiful and hardworking. Taxonomy throughout the book has been updated to reflect the advent of molecular genetics and, as in previous editions, scientific and common names are included. In the appendix, you’ll find contact information for native-plant societies, botanical gardens and arboreta in the West; an extensive glossary and bibliography; and a list of individuals who generously donated photos to the book.
For a taste of the Northwest wild closer to home, visit the Kruckeberg Botanic Garden in Shoreline. Once the home of Art and his wife, Mareen, today the 4-acre woodland garden is filled with native plants and unusual exotics. The garden is open to the public year-round and is also home to MsK Rare and Native Plant Nursery. For more information, visit kruckeberg.org.