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.
The page highlights plants and landscapes that make the Salish Sea unique. Our region is home to well over 8 million people, and growing fast. We risk loosing our heritage plants and landscapes to development, invasive weeds and ignorance if we don’t work to preserve rare ecosystems and share knowledge of things that are unique to the area.
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 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the region is divided between two powerful nation-states whose industrial and financial interests have mostly superseded local consideration for preservation or environmental stewardship.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, 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 an Oak Savanna with the city essentially superimposed over it. A portion of the mighty Garry Oaks are relatively intact, but the delicate native rain shadow understory grasses, perennials, forbs and spring ephemerals are mostly obliterated. Fortunately remnant populations are still growing in select areas like Beacon Hill Park, Government House’s oak savannah and Mount Douglas.
Similar Oak habitats can be found dotted elsewhere around the region. The largest extent aside from the Victoria/Saanish Peninsula populations are found in South Tacoma and the greater Olympia area in gravely glacial outwash soils.