What to do in your Nortwest garden in March


Grow camellias in Sunset climate zones 4–7. Some of the finest garden camellias are also some of the oldest. Try white ‘Alba Plena’ from 1792, a pink bloomer with white markings from 1831 called ‘Elegans’ (or Chandleri Elegans), the blush pink ‘Magnoliiflora’ from 1886, and an orangey rose-pink type called ‘Kumasaka’ that dates back to 1896.

Start cool-season veggies: seedlings of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, herbs, onion-family members (including chives), and Swiss chard; roots of asparagus and rhubarb; seeds of peas, radishes, and leaf crops such as spinach and Asian greens; and potato tubers.

Sow seeds of warm-season edibles such as cucumbers, eggplant, melons, peppers, squash, and tomatoes now so they’ll be ready to plant out in May.

Most of the spring-blooming varieties of heaths and heathers produce flowers in red, pink, white, and purple tones. For a fine-foliaged, plump, 6-foot spire, try Erica arborea alpina; for a long-flowering, 14-inch-tall ground-covering plant in magenta, use ‘Kramer’s Rote’ (also called Kramer’s Red). If you want something a little taller and wider in white, grow ‘Silberschmelze’.

Plant rich, romantic blooms like Maché ranunculus. With luscious petals that look like layers of brightly pigmented tissue paper, the 4-inch-wide blooms sit atop sturdy stems and foliage. They’re available in seven colors, including the rose and purple pictured here. Find them as blooming potted plants in 4-inch containers at nurseries this month and next. Treat Maché like an annual and remove plants when blooms fade, typically as summer arrives.


As grass starts growing this month, fill in bare spots by roughing up the soil and sowing seed. If planting a new lawn, grow from seed or sod. Use a blend of perennial ryegrass and bent grass in sun, fescue in shade. East of the Cascades, try unthirsty buffalo grass in sunny spots.

This is the best time to divide summer- and fall-flowering perennials like asters, black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), chry-san-themums, purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), and Shasta daisies for zones 4-7. Zones 1–3, divide in April. Wait until autumn to divide spring-flowering perennials.


Patrol for slugs. Kill European black slugs (these are mostly brown, but sometimes white or black) when you find them, since they love tender seedlings. Don’t kill banana slugs (usually yellow or yellow with black spots, sometimes green or white, up to 10 inches long), since these natives are most interested in mushrooms, dead plants, and leaf litter. Leopard slugs (gray with black spots) are omnivores ― which is bad when they’re eating your lettuce, but good when they’re devouring European slugs.

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