RIGHT ABOUT THIS time last year, the Puget Sound region experienced a “heat dome event,” when temperatures soared to record highs and stayed there for days. While heat is perhaps the most obvious marker of our changing climate, its meteorological twin, drought, presents challenges in the garden even when temps remain moderate.
It’s time to rethink landscape goals and planting strategies to accommodate what’s quickly becoming our new normal.
Jil and Howard Stenn are committed to creating beautiful gardens that conserve soil and water resources. For 30 years, Stenn Design, their landscape design and consulting firm, has tended the Waterwise Garden at Bellevue Botanical Garden (12001 Main St. in Bellevue) from design to its present maturity. Sponsored by Bellevue Utilities, the Waterwise Garden is a living laboratory and public demonstration landscape filled with planting ideas and garden practices that are inspiring and informing.
The Waterwise Garden was designed to present several growing conditions approached from the perspective of water conservation and efficiency. Planting beds basking in full sun are brimming with flowering perennials, like wand flower (Dierama pulcherrium), several hardy geraniums, Jerusalem sage (Phlomis fruticosa) and beeblossom (Gaura lindheimeri). The plants bloom throughout the dry season with little additional summer water, contradicting the idea that a waterwise garden is weak on flowers. “We’re dispelling the myth that [a drought-tolerant garden] is all lava rock and juniper,” Jil remarks. “It can be a really lush garden.”
Nearby, a kitchen garden produces bountiful crops of vegetables, herbs and fruit utilizing an efficient drip irrigation system, and it benefits from regular applications of compost and mulch. These are the perfect conditions to tuck in what Jil calls “juicy annuals,” seasonal plants that need supplemental water to thrive during the dry months. “It’s all about zoning your