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Saturday, February 9, 2013 - Page updated at 10:30 a.m.

Gardeners have a lot to look forward to, except that climate stuff

By Valerie Easton
Special to The Seattle Times

Gardening stars will shine here

The Northwest Flower & Garden Show (Feb. 20-24) is offering 90 speakers and 109 seminars this year. "It's the best lineup I've seen in the eight years I've been doing this, says seminar manager Janet Endsley. She's committed to emerging stars; 28 new speakers are on the program this year.

Highlights? Vancouver, B.C., nursery owner and show judge Tom Hobbs on "Is your Cake Baked? Mine Was! Starting Over With a Country Garden," plus new "Gardening 101" seminars and a "Garden to Table" series on the DIY Stage. Don't miss Amy Stewart introducing her new book "The Drunken Botanist." (Will she be serving mint-laced mojitos?)

Find the full schedule of talks at

Edmonds CC gets green seed money

The National Science Foundation has given a $300,000 grant to Edmonds Community College to prepare students for careers in sustainable agriculture and related environmental fields.

The foundation "saw there was lots of progressive thinking about food systems in Seattle," explains Horticulture Department chairman Tim Hohn, who will be administering the three-year windfall in collaboration with Skagit Valley College, Seattle Central Community College and Washington State University.

Watch for the development of certificate programs, student farm sites and food hubs, all centered on organically grown fruit and vegetables.

New rose promises to make a splash

It's possible to have masses of pink roses by summer if you order bare root and plant in March. The new bicolor 'Pink Splash' will lure you into creating such a scene if any rose will. These new ground-cover roses are so disease-resistant, even organic gardeners grow them. Offered for the first time this spring, 'Pink Splash' grows a couple of feet high, blooms from May through October, and is drought-tolerant once established.

Is a 2012 climate map already obsolete?

Professor Nir Krakauer of the City College of New York thinks so, even though the latest USDA Climate Zone Map came out just 14 months ago.

The map, based on average low winter temperatures, has long served as a gardener's guidebook on hardiness. This new version, published in January 2012, does show temperature zones shifting northward. But not nearly enough, according to Krakauer's calculations.

The USDA bases its zones on an average over 30 years. But winters have warmed up so much lately that such a large time span isn't indicative, according to Krakauer. He found that the lowest yearly temperatures warmed 2.5 times faster than the average temperature; winters are warming faster than summers.

You can revise the USDA map according to Krakauer's calculations at

Seattle's a Zone 8b, so I asked University of Washington meteorologist Cliff Mass what Krakauer's findings mean for Seattle gardeners. Mass says our minimum winter temperatures have been cooling, not warming, because the weather in the West is controlled by the eastern Pacific, which has cooled over the past several decades.

So for us now, the Krakauer model isn't right, says Mass, who adds that the impacts of global warming will be weaker and delayed in Western Washington compared to the rest of the country. Just one more reason to be grateful we're gardening in the Northwest.

Valerie Easton is a Seattle freelance writer. Check out her blog at

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