Yellow Island:

Creating a NW Native Landscape

Apr 21, 2016 | AUTHOR: Paul R Broadhurst

A spring trip to the flowery grasslands of Yellow Island Preserve in the San Juan Islands provided an opportunity to engage the owners of A Shoreline Re-Imagined and their family with an endangered and very beautiful NW native landscape. This memorable experience helped to inspire subsequent design work and gave the owners’ landscape a certain ‘resonance.’

Thus, at home a sunny stylized meadow becomes host to a variety of native plants found on the island. Camassia in variety (Camassia quamash, c. leichtlinii sps. suksdorfii, alba & ‘San Juan Form’) stud the loose grassy texture of Roemer’s fescue. At the margins are Menzies’ larkspur (Delphinium menziesii), shooting star and Iris tenax. Lower still are wild stonecrops (Sedum oreganum and spathulifollum).

How can a personal landscape, often located in an urban area with clear boundaries, transcend these boundaries and connect with the distinctive natural environment of a region? Using natives is clearly one of the answers, and a natural and easy fit – quite literally. But I’m no purist about their use. My tastes are eclectic and home landscapes must perform well. To this end, I supplement with what I call well adapted non-natives. This combination can work well in the altered environments of our cities and suburbs.

Adapting these principles I can visualize it now, possibly a planting for that shady corner of your garden. Starting with a cluster of native vine maples and a screening ‘fan’ of wild huckleberries with an understory of sword ferns and Vancouveria hexandra then add a Kirengeshoma from Japan for good measure. Passing by this every morning to hurtle oneself into the day creates an opportunity to pause, maybe reminding us of hikes in the woods and quietly anchoring us to our region – Cascadia.

Paul R. Broadhurst

Yellow Island Preserve is owned and managed by the Nature Conservancy, a private non-profit conservation organization. The plants mentioned here are often found in the native section of good retail nurseries. Remember that the market place responds to demand – be demanding!

Photo Credits: Neil R. Morrison
All photographs shot on location at Yellow Island Preserve, WA.