Jill Severn's Gardening Column

Here are more ways to get your gardening fix while it's raining

Besides reading this weekly column


Last Saturday morning, I spent a blissful half hour sitting on my front porch drinking coffee, under a bright blue sky and the sun warming my face. But by 4 p.m., the sky had turned gray and the rain returned.

It sure is March.

The next day, I had the itch to plant, but it was cold, with intermittent spitting rain. So I took my restless self to a nursery.

A tour of the seed racks

Inflation has arrived at the nursery, too. So after a walk through the perennials, vegetable starts, roses, and shrubbery, I took a brief tropical vacation in a huge, humid area filled with houseplants. Then I headed for the seed racks.

Many are labeled “heirloom,” which seems to mean anything that’s been around for more than 40 or 50 years. This made me realize I am an heirloom human. Also, the heirloom label includes the notation “non-GMO,” denoting they’ve not been genetically modified. Since I’m not on Instagram or Tik-Tok, I’m pretty sure I’m non-GMO too.

Among my fellow non-GMO heirlooms, I found California poppy seeds in surprising colors other than orange. I came home with seeds purported to produce purple poppies. Seeing will be believing.

A sweet pea obsession

There weren’t nearly as many varieties of sweet peas as I had hoped, but I bought two of each, except for the knee-high ones intended for growing in pots. It seems the internet is the best source for the sweep pea connoisseur.

(If you share my sweet pea obsession, check out Roger Parson’s Sweet Peas, a very English website. He has every sweet pea under the sun and rates each variety’s fragrance on a scale of 1-to-6.)

Sales and shortages

At the grocery store, seeds are already on sale, along with dahlias, begonias, gladiolus, and some wonderful lilies. But at both the store and in online catalogues such as A Territorial Seed Company and our local Lily Pad Bulb Farm, some seeds, bulbs and plants are already sold out.

That’s bad news if you’re looking for haricot verts, a longer, more tender and slender green bean variety, but good news if it means that more people have discovered how tasty and productive they are.

 Further searching for those French green beans took me to the garden section of a major big box hardware store.

Still no French green beans there, though I bought a packet of the 15-inch-long Orient Wonder variety out of curiosity.  

I also spotted a flower that’s new to me: Five Spot, aka nemophila maculata, and also called Baby Blue Eyes. It’s a small white flower with purple tips on each of its five white petals. On the front of the seed packet it’s labeled “full sun,” but in the small print on the back it says “Does well in shade. Attracts bees and butterflies.” If you’ve grown these and have advice, please share it.

Beware of mislabeled plants

 As I browsed, I saw a sign announcing spinach plants in front of pots of young brassicas (cabbage, broccoli, or maybe brussels sprouts), and had a moment of regret for the hapless person who buys them. There were also azalea plants behind a sign announcing viburnums.

Organic purity

I did finally find the green beans I was looking for at the Eastside Urban Farm and Garden Center, which always makes me think of the comedy Portlandia. It is about as environmentally correct as it’s possible to be. That’s a quality I admire, but there are also moments when it makes me roll my blue-collar, Klamath Falls-bred eyes.

One was the moment I paid $5.85 for that packet of seeds.

Small is beautiful

If you want a head start on fresh lettuce, it’s legal to buy a few bedding plants. Smaller ones are better than the bigger ones that have been crowded in little four- or six-packs so long they are root-bound. The smaller ones are easier to transplant and quicker to recover and grow.

It’s time to plant frost-tolerant vegetables

The planting season has begun, and by the time you read this I hope to have arugula, spinach, peas and lettuce in the ground. Even if it’s raining, I’m going to suck it up and go outside and get gloriously muddy and wet.

Jill Severn writes from her home in Olympia, where she grows vegetables, flowers and a small flock of chickens. She loves conversation among gardeners. Start one by emailing her at  jill@theJOLTnews.com


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  • Drutty

    Thank you for this, so now sweet peas will replace the 2 clematis which have not survived~! As Cisco always said--"a garden is always changing"..

    Monday, March 21, 2022 Report this