Plants are one area where it makes sense to 'Buy Local'
by Christie Mackison, co-owner and designer at Shooting Star Nursery
(this article is originally published in Southern Oregon Magazine)
One of the things I like best about gardening and plants is what a localized pursuit it is and at the same time enhanced by global influences. You need to truly understand your garden’s microclimate for plant success. It also helps to have a sense of what local or native plants do well in your area. But at the same time we have the entire globe at our disposal when it comes time to choose what we put in our garden. Many of our favorite common garden plants come from Asia (Rhodies, Hydrangeas), the Mediterranean (Cistus, Rosemary), or even the Himalayas (Deodar Cedar). So where to begin?
First, observe and understand your area’s climate and then on a smaller scale your garden’s microclimate (that includes sun/wind exposure and soil type). Most of the Rogue Valley is USDA Zone 8a, I like to verge towards Zone 7b to be on the safe side. We have a long dry season with temps reaching into the 100’s. We have a shorter rainy season than the typical Pacific Northwest but it is still concentrated in late fall-spring. So our goal is finding plants that can withstand winter wet/summer dry cycles and occasional extreme temps of single digits to triple digits.
That tag on the Hydrangea that you just bought from the box store says it will take full sun. But now you know- not in our drier/hotter climate. Even though Oregon is a huge producer of nursery plants, most plant tags and most plants coming straight off a delivery truck are produced for an east coast market. So put your filters on and make sure you are buying for your climate- not just the pretty new plant that is being marketed across the country.
So here is where you can get local. Start with your local nursery that is ideally growing plants themselves- the plants are acclimated to the climate and the nursery makes choices on what to grow based on what will do well here.
We still have the world to choose plant species from but we choose from areas that have a similar climate- like the Mediterranean, and we can choose native plants from our unique area. Keep in mind we are more similar to northern California for natives than the Pacific Northwest. Plants are one area where it especially makes sense to ‘shop local’.