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Climatic Bait & Switch

Articles: Climatic Bait & Switch

This composition of Mexican feather grass (Nasella tenuisima) and purple pineapple lily (Eucomis) still looks good at the end of the dry season in the garden of Lauren Hall-Behrens, Portland, Or.

Yes, it rains a lot in the Pacific Northwest… except when it doesn’t. People outside the region scoff at the notion of a PNW dry garden. Trust me, in the midst of a stretch of sodden weeks (say, anytime between October and April) sometimes it’s hard to believe it ourselves.

Earlier this month, a scant two-hundredths of an inch of rain fell at Sea Tac airport; enough to break a streak of dry days and end the second longest dry period since 1951--49 straight days without precipitation. That measly measure might have been enough to thwart a new record, but it did little to quench our thirsty gardens. Since then, not a drop has fallen.

Most years, seasonal drought reliably show ups--whether temperatures rise or not--between July and September. PNW gardens, acclimated to constant moisture for most of the year, must adapt to a punishing dry spell, generally followed by the heaviest rains which typically arrive in Nov...

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