One of the biggest mistakes that I’ve made as a gardener was giving away my older edition of Sunset Western Garden Book. At the time, I naively thought that the newer edition was “better.” Since then, I’ve gotten savvier. Sunset editions, always “completely updated and revised,” aren’t necessarily better in all respects. Certain cherished features may disappear to make room for the new cherished features. But the one thing that Sunset cannot be faulted on is keeping up with the times. If Mark Twain were alive today, he might have to eat his famous quote: “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”
Well, Sunset does!
And they do it because between the concern of the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) with nationwide temperature lows, and the concern of the AHS (American Horticultural Society) with nationwide temperature highs, the Western gardener got lost in the shuffle. Somewhere between the Pacific Ocean coast, the central valley, and the coastal ranges, he could be found but it took Sunset to come to the rescue! Refining the broad strokes of the USDA and the AHS, twenty four climate zones cover states west of the Rockies, Alaska, Hawaii, and even the bottom northwestern part of Canada.
This summer, I, like many others I’m sure, have been witnessing the extreme unrelenting heat most of our country has been experiencing. One morning, looking at KTVU’s national weather map, most of the country ablaze in shades of red, I was startled to see the tiny sliver of our California coast in dark green contrast. In fact, it seemed barely there when compared to the vastness of the rest of the country. I couldn’t help but think of when I had lived in San Francisco. Summer tourists would be in their Hawaiian shirts, totally flummoxed by the cold and damp that native San Franciscans shrug off as normal summer “June Gloom.” Just across the Bay Bridge, Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda, and other East Bay cities and towns, at the very same moment , were experiencing balmy warm sunshine. Less than 20 miles north Pittsburg and Brentwood might be sweltering. while towns in the central valley, would be socked in under a thick Tule fog. This is what Sunset eats for breakfast – the weather of microclimates! I, for one, take pains not to color outside the lines.
This latest edition of Sunset, while it has done its usual tinkering, has updated zoning and added sustainable gardening. In with the new edition, hang onto your old edition, and try out Sunset’s zoning feature — before that trip to the nursery.