This is the time of the year when I sit at my computer wishing for something relevant enough for you to read, especially in the busy season to come into my head.  I feel like Pooh Bear – “think, think, think’.  I am sorry to have to report that our West Regional Meeting scheduled in April at the peak for woodies blooming at Narrow Gauge Farm in Chicago Park, California failed to attract more than 10 sign-ups.  Alan Tangren, our host, and I regretfully had to cancel the meeting.  I had the opportunity to visit Alan’s farm, about 3 weeks before the event for an advertising strategy session and I have to admit, it has been a long time since I had such a delightful and perfect spring afternoon.  Alan, my husband Kevin and I had a great little lunch at the Happy Apple café and then Alan took us on a tour of the farm.  We were there right at height of peach bloom and the pruning crew was finishing up pruning of the peaches.  Out in the orchard the ground and the trees were covered with pink blossoms.                                   

It was an amazing sight as Alan pointed to the rocky outcropping above the orchard where the resident bear lives and occasionally raids the bee hives (the poor honey bees, as if they didn’t have enough problems).  We then toured a great young collection of woodies that Alan has been planting over the last several years.  I must admit though I have never thought of myself putting any woodies in, Alan’s farm did pique my interest and I plan on working more on the idea now that it is in my head.                        

In the West this season it has been quite dry; one of the driest springs on record.  While dry is what Nevada is all about, it was very strange not to get germination of even any spring weeds, at least in areas where there was no irrigation. I know what you are thinking—it would be a blessing not to have any weeds.  But let me tell you if it were to happen to you, I assure you would be feeling quite strange.  In our area we had quite a cold winter but it was dry also.  This weather pattern led to a couple of issues.  It was so cold that irrigation lines were frozen a good portion of the winter and when they started to thaw we had several breaks in the irrigation infrastructure.  As they say, this left us high and dry for much longer than we would have liked.        

At first I thought we came through mostly unscathed, but we did lose quite a few perennials as I continue to find out.  We are generally considered Zone 5 growing area.  I grow a number of herbs to use to make fresh herb and flower wreaths.  I lost all oregano, English thyme, lemon thyme, culinary sage was mostly lost, lavender was hit hard.  I also lost Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’, feverfew, Centranthus ruberScabiosa fama and all my yarrow.  While I don’t use yarrow to any great extent, I like to keep a border row in of because of the beneficial insects it attracts.  For the last few seasons I have had snapdragons overwinter to get a nice early season cutting before they finally give up and the new transplants are producing.  Not so this season, all varieties were lost.  A fair amount of garden phlox was lost, but this I think was due more to heavy grazing from rabbits (my other ‘issue’ this season).  Where is a good coyote when you need one?              

Perennials you may be interested in that made it through such conditions:  Baptisia australis, ‘Dazzling Blue’ Caspia statice, Dicentra spectabilis (this was surprising to me), Campanula, both persicifolia and cup and saucer, delphiniums—the Guardian series came through pretty good.   Heleniums did fine as did veronica, solidasters, and sedums.
It is always good to push the growing zones a bit to try new things, but it also helpful to have that list of  the ‘tougher than nails’ plants that get you through the tough times.   
I hope you all can get to a Regional Meeting—yes, you can make time and yes, you can find the money.  I promise you, it will be time well spent, guaranteed.  If any members from any region have suggestions for a meeting site or format, I haven’t given up on planning another West Regional Meeting for 2008.  I would love to hear your thoughts on getting a great turnout so we can get together and talk flowers.