When Rick Baunach bought his second home, he found a concrete Japanese lantern in the garden, he calls this his Japanese garden seed. He became interested in Japanese gardening techniques and his love of gardening grew.
Baunach started the Whatcom County Gardener’s page on Facebook nine years ago, the page has since expanded to over 10,000 members
“People ask questions, trade plants and give away food, such as rhubarb from their harvests,” Baunach said. “I do allow people to advertise on there, no more than twice a month, for people who are landscapers or run nurseries.”
He said he prefers nurseries to department stores.
“You know Home Depot, it’s great if you’re looking for deals,” Baunach said. “It’s terrible if you’re looking for specialty plants or information.”
Baunach has been going to Garden Spot Nursery for plants and advice since it opened in the 1980s. He said he is glad it has continued to be a part of the community. The original owner Marcy Plattner retired in 2021 and handed it over to Paige Lanham. Lanham worked at the nursery for 10 years before becoming its owner.
“Local nurseries are so important because of the education they offer our community,” Lanham said. “It’s so important to protect our food security, our local wildlife and our pollinators.”
Garden Spot Nursery offers a classroom setting outside of school, Lanham said. The nursery offers workshops run by staff every Saturday, and occasionally they feature guest speakers. Classes include a seminar on pollinators, how to grow a vegetable garden and creating hypertufa planters- a type of pot made from cement that allows for slower drainage. She said that she sees herself and her employees as environmental stewards.
“With so many chemicals available at big box stores, it's so easy to go in and buy all sorts of dangerous chemicals and use them improperly,” Lanham said. “It can cause a lot of harm. In some ways, we’re the only defense between dangerous chemicals and the environment. So often plant and pest issues are really easily treated organically, and we can help people problem-solve to work with nature rather than against it.”
Micah Kruser has had his own challenges with his backyard garden. Kruser began working at Fred Meyer’s garden center when he moved to Bellingham in 2019. He started cultivating his own backyard garden in the summer of 2020.
“That quarantine summer, where most everyone was stuck inside, there wasn’t a ton to do,” Kruser said. “I started because I was interested in crops and it’s fun as well, getting to watch how the garden grows and take care of it.”
Kruser rents a home in Bellingham and had to be creative when planting. He filled a kiddie pool and two small portable planters with potting soil and planted a mix of vegetables and herbs. Last year, deer ate a substantial portion of his crop.
“That really sucked,” Kruser said. “I gotta do something, they get pretty smart. I’m not sure exactly what I’ll do yet.”
While Kruser does his own research, he also enjoys going to local nurseries to ask questions and find new plants. This year he wants to try to grow root vegetables and habanero peppers.
Lanham said that Bellingham offers unique challenges and opportunities for gardeners. Being close to the ocean and mountains create microclimates, sometimes multiple microclimates exist in one neighborhood. This allows people to experiment with different types of plants and gardening styles, including shade plants and native species. Bellingham’s climate remains mild throughout the year, the perfect opportunity for seasonal annuals.
Garden Spot Nursery is open every day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and is located at 900 Alabama St., in Bellingham.
Ani Lowe (she/they) is reporting for City Life for The Front. They enjoy going on hikes with their dog, bouldering and making art.
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