Showcasing gardening with Pacific Coast native plants and Mediterranean climate appropriate ornamentals in the Salish Sea Region; including Port Angeles, Port Townsend, Victoria, Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast, Vancouver, Bellingham, Seattle, Tacoma, and all the islands.
This website highlights plants and landscapes that make the Salish Sea unique. The region is home to well over 8 million people and growing fast. Rare native plants and landscapes unique to the region are at risk of being lost to development and invasive weeds.
Vancouver, Seattle, and the region in general have a well-deserved wet reputation. The region is famous for coastal rain forests and soggy/snowy mountains. However, areas near salt water on the leeward side of the Olympics and Vancouver Island mountains are significantly drier than other areas of Western Washington and coastal BC. These rain shadow areas feature a Mediterranean climate with dry summers, mild wet winters and are home to many plants that are now rare and imperiled.
Most people are surprised to learn that the driest areas of the Olympic rain shadow region were historically host to small Opuntia fragilis (brittle prickly pear cactus) populations. Fragment populations are still present at Ebey’s Landing, near Port Townsend, Sequim, and parts of the San Juan Islands.
Unfortunately the region is divided between nation-states whose industrial and financial interests have mostly superseded local consideration for preservation or environmental stewardship. Seattle, Vancouver and Tacoma were once home to towering 300-foot Douglas-firs, but it was all clear-cut for maximum short-term profit to benefit American and Canadian businessmen. Threats today include suburban expansion, highway expansion, petroleum and coal export terminals, destruction of Victorian-era and 1920’s buildings, atlantic salmon farming, poor timber management, invasive weeds and plant pathogens/insect attacks.
Victoria was built in a rare Oak Savanna and often looks more like California oak woods than the stereotypical northwest forest. A portion of Garry Oaks are relatively intact, but the delicate native rain-shadow understory grasses, perennials, forbs and spring ephemerals are mostly obliterated. Remnant populations are still growing in select areas like Beacon Hill Park, Government House’s oak savanna, Mount Douglas and other regional parks.
Similar Oak habitats can be found dotted elsewhere around the region, notably around South Tacoma and the greater Olympia area in gravely glacial outwash soils. In South-Central Washington between Yakima and the Columbia River there’s also a rather extensive Gary Oak woodland mixed with Ponderosa Pine and Douglas-fir. Oaks are also found around Clark County and Portland and are more common into Oregon and of course California.