Planting Edmonds: Native plants suitable for your garden

Remnant of old-growth forest in South County Park.

‘Planting Edmonds’ is a monthly column written by members of Edmonds Floretum Garden Club

The city of Edmonds began as a shingle mill town on the edge of Puget Sound after a logger named George Brackett discovered the area in 1870 and began his homestead in 1876. The hills were covered with a mix of western red cedar, Douglas fir, and hemlock trees. There are remnant stands of these native trees and the native plants that create an understory today in the parks in and around the city.

Red flowering currant
(Ribes sanquienum)

In this article I want to introduce you to some of our native plants and encourage you to visit our local parks to see these plants up close. Perhaps you will be able to incorporate some native plants in your own garden.

Licorice fern (Polypodium glycyrrhiza) and Coltsfoot (Petscites)

Our Edmonds climate can support a wide variety of plants. Gardeners here can grow ornamentals of their choosing from around the world that can survive in planting zone 8b (down to 15-20 degrees F). Why then should we consider planting native plants? What are the benefits of using these plants?

Natives are used to the soil, light, and moisture conditions in our landscapes. They tolerate the wet winters and dry summers and can help stabilize slopes and absorb heavy rainfall. Native plants attract pollinators and beneficial insects as well as birds and wildlife. Natives can fit into any size garden. Even if your garden is small, ferns and smaller natives can create structure for planters.

Native forests have distinct layers of plants, which are dependent on the available sunlight. Let’s start with the canopy layer. The tallest layer here in Edmonds includes cedars, firs, hemlocks, pines, sequoias, spruce, big leaf maples and alders. Some of these trees are part of our residential landscapes by design or by proximity to parks and green spaces.

There are gardening challenges with these big trees. For example, deep shade and shallow roots with matted soil underneath make it difficult to grow shorter plants. Year-round these big trees drop branches, leaves, cones, catkins, needles, and shed old foliage (called flagging), and they produce seasonal pollen clouds! Homeowners need to be aware and watchful in their landscapes and on rooftops for the downfall. Sometimes raking these downfalls can be almost humorous—I’m thinking about Big Leaf Maple leaves! (Composting the leaves is quite another topic.)

The lower forest layers include smaller trees, shrubs, and ground covers that can tolerate shade and acidic soil. You might already recognize some of these plants, such as madrona, dogwood, red-flowering currants, vine maples, Pacific rhododendrons, Oregon grape, huckleberries, oceanspray and salal.

These native plants are easy to grow and can thrive in our residential gardens because they are well suited to our climatic conditions. Some ground level plants include native ferns such as Sword Fern, Deer Fern and Maidenhair Fern, and a variety of flowering plants. Trillium, Bleeding heart, Bunchberry, Camas, False Solomon’s seal, Kinnikinnik, Vanilla leaf, violets, ground orchids, and lilies are just a few growing in my garden. These plants bloom at different times during the year, providing color, food, and habitat for pollinators and birds.

Fawn or avalanche lily (Erythronium grandiflorum)
Trillium (Trillium ovatum) and Oregon grape (Berberis nervosa)
Streambank at Yost Park

Some native plants that are valuable to wildlife thrive along the streams in our area and have growth habits that are open-form and rather scraggly. This fountain-like habitat is not easy to fit into home landscapes, but they can work well at the edges of green spaces, especially in wet areas and on hillsides. I use several of these plants as a natural fence.

Salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis)

Indian plum, salmonberry, thimbleberry, twinberry, elderberry, snowberry and serviceberry can add interest and good wildlife habitat. Although many native plants have “berry” in their name and do produce berries, they should not be considered reliable food sources for people. Always check a responsible resource before collecting any wild berry, as there are some plants with poisonous berries.

There are many plants listed in this article, some you may recognize and others that are new to you. To see many of these native plants in natural settings, try visiting one of the 10 parks within and near Edmonds. These parks are Brackett’s Landing South, Edmonds City Park, Edmonds Marsh, Hutt Park, Maplewood Park, Meadowdale Beach Park, Pine Ridge Park, Sierra Park, South County Park and Yost Park.

Several of these parks have salmon spawning streams in them with native plants in the riparian zone. A riparian zone is the interface between land and a stream or river. Perhaps you have a stream on your property and need ideas for planting. As an Edmonds gardener, visiting these parks to see native plants that have matured in place might help you figure out which plants will work in your own landscape.

To find out more about the Edmonds Parks and their locations, the city has a fantastic webpage.

Path in Yost Park

While you visit our city parks, keep watch for invasive plants. The two most destructive invasive plants are Himalayan blackberry and English ivy, both of which are listed on the noxious plant list for Washington state. The tough, non-native blackberries overgrow every other plant and are very hard to eradicate. English ivy smothers other plants and grows up native trees, depriving them of air and light, and adding weight which could potentially cause the trees to weaken and fall. You can join volunteers on weekends to help pull ivy out of South County Park. Contact EdmondsIvyLeague@gmail.com.

English ivy (Hedera helix) engulfing a tree
Himalayan blackberry at Seaview Park

There are two other resources for seeing and identifying native plants. The Kruckeberg Botanic Garden at 20312 15th Ave. N.W. in Shoreline is a public garden that showcases many native plants in a naturalistic setting: www.kruckeberg.org. The Wildlife Habitat Native Plant Demonstration Garden at the Willow Creek Hatchery at 95 Pine St. in Edmonds grows and identifies native plants.

Where can you find native plants for sale? The Kruckeberg Botanic Garden mentioned above sells some natives. Local nurseries have sections devoted to native plants, and native plant starts are available at the Snohomish Conservation District through their annual plant sale in February.

The Salal Chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society is hosting a Native Plant Sale with online ordering and nursery pickup starting in April. Search “salal chapter native plant sale 2022.  The Snohomish Master Gardeners hold an annual sale on May 7, which offers some native plants, and our Edmonds Floretum Garden Club also has a plant sale on May 7 this year, which will offer some native plants.

Vanilla leaf (Achlys triphylla) and bleeding heart (Dicentra Formosa)

Here are some resources for more information on native plants:

  • Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest, 3rd Edition, by Arthur R. Kruckeberg and Linda Chalker-Scott is a reputable resource for using native plants in urban settings. They present 900 garden-worthy plants with photographs.
  • Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast by Jim Pojar and Andy MacKinnon, which describes 794 plants.
  • Snohomish County has a webpage for native plants that includes links to several resources for native plants and the Snohomish Native Plant Nursery List.
  • Real Gardens Grow Natives by Eileen M. Stark

— By Louise Koehn

Louise Koehn has been gardening in Edmonds for 26 years. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in both Botany and Oceanography from the University of Washington in the 70s. After working on a NOAA research ship for several years she landed in Seattle and instead of settling down, she moved to follow her husband’s career, gardening through six other states. She learned different gardening styles from each region. When she did finally settle in Edmonds, she became a Snohomish Master Gardener, and recently retired from the group after 21 years. In 2014, she joined the Edmonds Floretum Garden Club. Louise will be giving a talk on “Living With Mosses” at Floretum’s May 16 meeting. 

All photos in this article by Louise Koehn.

 

3 Replies to “Planting Edmonds: Native plants suitable for your garden”

  1. THANK YOU for a VERY informative article. I’ll have to make it a ‘required reading’ for the high school students (EWHS-Students Saving Salmon Club and Meadowdale Environmental Club) that volunteer with the Edmonds Stream Team to help restore stream and wetland habitat.

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  2. This is a terrific article with wonderful photos and resources. Thank you for mentioning the Ivy League volunteer invasive removal at Southwest County Park – every Saturday morning! Lots of fun, nice volunteers and the satisfaction of giving back to our community and environment. I appreciated the shout out for the native plant garden on Pine Street also. Very informative, the result of hundreds of volunteer hours and a restful place to wander.

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  3. Great article – very informative! And thank you for mentioning Edmonds Ivy League – we need all the hands we can get!

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