skagit garden almanac

part instruction, part aide-memoire, part skagit lore


september 1, 2020

‘All at once, summer collapsed into fall.’

Oscar Wilde

Well, not completely collapsed, but I can smell it in the air – more of a feeling of fall than the outward signs. Summer blooms are still in full swing and the weather is crisp in the morning and warm in the afternoon – the perfect combination to inspire a gardener to mulch and deadhead.

The coming of fall makes one think of trees and the turning of leaves. I would like to dedicate the month of September to featuring some of our tree species here at the Skagit Hydroelectric Project, both in Newhalem and Diablo. This is a two-fold project…first since my weakest skill is tree identification, I will have to bring my “A” game, and second is the opportunity to share some of Skagit’s best resources and wonders…our trees.

Acer rubrum, Red Maple – Diablo, WA

september 2, 2020

“It has been said that trees are imperfect men, and seem to bemoan their imprisonment rooted in the ground. But they never seem so to me. I never saw a discontented tree.  They grip the ground as though they liked it, and though fast rooted they travel about as far as we do.  They go wandering forth in all directions with every wind, going and coming like ourselves, traveling with us around the sun two million miles a day, and through space heaven knows how fast and far!”

John Muir

Today the tree ID was easy since I planted this fir two years ago behind the store. It is an Abies koreana ‘Hortsmann’s Silberlock’, Korean Fir. It is an evergreen conifer of great beauty and grace with a compact pyramid and attractive dark green needles that curl upwards. It is a slow grower, about 5-7 inches a year and at maturity will be 20-30 feet tall and 10-20 feet wide.

I selected this particular tree for its easy care, disease resistance, and tolerance to heat and cold climate – even the deer wont bother it! But I also wanted this tree to be visual delight. Close to the entrance of main street and near a popular rest and picnic area the fir will be a screen for the back entrance to the store and enhance the park aesthetics for years to come.

photo l. fowler

september 3, 2020

“Cronin reached into his vest pocket for a ribbon he rarely used, tore off a long strip, and wrapped it around the base o the Douglas fir’s trunk. The tape wasn’t pink or orange or red but green, and along its length were the words “LEAVE TREE.”

Harley Rustad, Big Lonely Doug: The Story of one of Canada’s Last Great Trees 

If you have not read The Big Lonely Doug, by Harley Rustad – put it on your list! https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/38903644 that is a link to Goodreads and a review of the book.

So back to the Skagit….It would be impossible not to spot a Douglas Fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii, in Newhalem and Diablo and of course surrounding both communities in the North Cascade National Park and Forest. The problem is not seeing a Doug it is really seeing one. Often when something is common we overlook its finer qualities like strength and structure, the long green spiral arranged needles, and of course the little ‘mouse tail’ cones. Douglas fir provide essential habitat for wildlife and shelter the under-story trees and plants. They provide cover on a hot day and buffer the winds flying down the Gorge canyon. I think it frames our landscape -setting the stage and then keeping watch over all the players below. Standing guard, a sentinel.


august 4, 2020

“After all, I don’t see why I am always asking for private, individual, selfish miracles when every year there are miracles like white dogwood.”

Anne Morrow Lindbergh

This dogwood is kind of a miracle. After all it is regrowth from the parent tree stump, cut many years ago when it became to large for the wedge of ground allotted it, between concrete and asphalt. I’m sure it conflicted with both foot and vehicle traffic on the east side of the Railroad Bridge to the Gorge Powerhouse. But it blooms every year and I find it a comfort each time I cross the bridge to my greenhouse complex. Bright and hopeful in the sun against a backdrop of steel and concrete, and the awesome might of electric power – the dogwood of offers a white miracle floating gently and reminding us that the true power lies in natures ability to persist and survive.

photo l. fowler

august 5, 2020

“If you are at the Katsura and you don’t notice the sweet scent it gives off, Wait for a minute of so. Even a gentle breeze can disperse the fragrance, but it will return if you linger long enough.”

Bloedel Reserve Plant Life: Katsura Tree
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